What your customers don’t know

One of the more dangerous things that can get stuck a writer’s head is the feeling (assumption) that everyone knows or has already read about what you’d like to write about. This usually happens because the writer is so familiar with the material, concept or admonition that they simply assume that everyone knows about it, or has heard it already.

The same thing happens when a business owner considers what to communicate to their prospects and clients.

I’ve heard it all before.

Ever been to an industry conference session where the speaker talked about a fundamental strategy or tactic that you’ve known (and hopefully practiced) for years (or decades)? If so, it might have bothered you that the speaker talked about it as if it was new information. It might also have made you feel as if you’d wasted your time in that session, and that everyone else in the room did too.

Did you think “Everybody knows that“?

Unless the audience was very carefully selected to eliminate all but the “newbies”, it’s a safe bet that the audience breaks down like this:

  • Some of the people in the room are so familiar with that strategy or knowledge that they could be called up to the stage to teach it at a moment’s notice.
  • Some of the people in the room learned that information for the first time.
  • Some of the people in the room had probably heard it before, perhaps decades ago, but forgot about it.
  • Some of the people in the room knew about this fundamental piece of knowledge but have since forgotten to implement it or stopped using it – probably for reasons that would be categorized as “we got busy” or “we forgot about it“.

Everybody knows that” simply isn’t true unless the audience is highly controlled.

Most of the time, there’s a good reason to cover foundational material. Even if the fundamentals of whatever you do haven’t changed, something about how they’re applied probably has changed. Even if they haven’t, a reminder about the things “everyone knows” is usually productive to some of your clientele.

If you first learned whatever you do for a living 10 or 20 years ago, some of the fundamentals have probably changed. There are some fields where this isn’t true, but that doesn’t mean that changes haven’t happened.

Your customers’ knowledge is no different

Your prospects and clients are all on a different place on their lifecycle as a prospect or client with you. This is one of the reasons why you may have read or heard from myself and others that you should segment your message.

When I say “your message”, I mean the things you talk about in your newsletters, emails, website, direct marketing, video, sales pitch and so on.

As an example, someone who has owned two Class A RVs is likely going to be interested in a different conversation than someone in the process of selecting their first bumper pull camper trailer.

Despite that, if you have regular communications of general information to your clients (and surely you do), fundamental topics like changes in waste disposal and easier ways to winterize are always going to be in context – assuming you send the winterizing information in the month or so before your clients’ first freeze.

The key to getting the right info to the right people is to segment the audience (and thus the information), while not forgetting fundamentals that everyone can use a refresher on now and then.

Segmenting fundamentals

So how would you segment the educational marketing messages you provide to clients and prospects? How about new prospects, new clients and old hands?

For prospects, a “How to buy” series of information is a highly useful, low pressure way to identify the differences between yourself and the rest of your market, without naming anyone. “This is what we do and this is why we feel it’s important, be sure and ask these questions” is a powerful way to set the tone for the purchase process.

For new clients, provide a jump start. This will also give them a “this is reality” view of what ownership is like that can defuse a naturally occurring case of buyer’s remorse.

For old hands, discuss the questions that cause you to say “Hang on, let me go ask someone in the back“.

Speaking of fundamentals, that’s what this was all about.

What Jack said.

Recently, I’ve been having an ongoing discussion with a business owner who is finding cracks in their business.

A lot of what we’ve been talking about is foundational.

Not because the business owner isn’t smart, but because it makes no sense to talk about the complexities of a bottom of the ninth inning squeeze bunt if you’re struggling to get to first base.

A few of those foundational thoughts:

  • Every business owner is good at something. Likewise, every business owner is bad at something. Be sure to delegate the latter, focusing on your strengths.
  • from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch – “Pick a general direction and then implement like hell.”
  • Take a look at the fat part of the bell curve of your market. How is your business serving that market right now? Honestly.
  • From 2002-2007, a rapidly expanding economy allowed businesses to rest on their laurels or “Just show up”. In 2008, we paid dearly for our sloth (and a few other things). For many, 2009 was like a long night spent hugging the porcelain. 2010-2019 are in no mood for “just showing up”. So don’t just show up. What Jack said (above).
  • My dad told me forever (and repeatedly), “Be a good listener”, a lesson that took a long time for me to fully understand. Tom Peters talks about how doctors listen for an average of 18 seconds before interrupting the patient. Don’t be a doctor, at least in that respect, they can even get sued by The Medical Negligence Experts because of these actions. Listen.
  • Call 2 customers a day and ask them what you could do to make your business more valuable to them.
  • A last minute comment from today’s GapingVoid cartoon, where Hugh nails it with this: “If you want to be more successful, you have to take a leadership position on something that matters.”

Finally, none of this matters without execution. Get off your duff and make something happen. Like Jack said.

Fundamental excuses for Memphis and your business

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photo credit: *sean

Runner up Memphis Tigers lost last night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game to Kansas, 75-68 in overtime.

Because of a single free throw.

All season long, Memphis head coach John Calipari has been making excuses about his team’s poor free throw shooting. All season long, Calipari appeared to discount, if not blow off, the importance of the fundamental flaw in the Tigers’ basketball weaponry, saying things like “We find other ways to win” and “We would always come through when the stakes were highest.”

But they didn’t.

Memphis’ performance in shooting free throws – what anyone would consider a fundamental basketball achievement of a good team, much less a championship team, ranked them 339th out of 341 NCAA teams by making only 59% of their free throws.

In that category they aren’t second in the nation. They are SECOND TO LAST in the nation.

And that’s why Kansas coach Bill Self had them foul the crud out of Memphis in the final two minutes – because he knew that their fundamental weakness was the ability to make free throws. Any coach in the same position would have done what Self did. Force the opponent to their weakest position.

After the loss in the championship final, Memphis’ star freshman guard Derrick Rose echoed his coach’s excuse, saying that if they had done other things prior to the end of the game, they would have won anyhow. Yet Rose’s team had done those things already – they had a 9 point lead with 2 minutes remaining.

Noting of course, that Rose’s missed free throw at the end of the game allowed Kansas’ Mario Chalmers to tie the game with 2 seconds left on a dramatic 3-pointer. Rose’s spectacular 2nd half performance is what had them up by 9 in the second half, but he clearly is drinking the coach’s Kool-Aid about the theory that free throw shooting isn’t important to them. He still doesn’t get it.

Free throws are one of those “other things” that champions do to win. Part of being in the top 2% of any group is doing the things that no one else does.

Fundamentals.

“It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow, that we had it in our grasp,” Calipari said after the game.

What would hit your business like a ton of bricks?

What fundamentals do you discount? Where does your strongest competitor lack excellence in fundamentals? What fundamental skill can you pay more attention to and raise the performance of yourself and your company?