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Camouflage lipstick? Not even.

Almost every business is looking for new customers these days. It’s particularly the case in markets that serve people’s hobby, pastime or even luxury items.

Hunting and camping gear is one that comes to mind, but there are plenty of others. If you sell the various types of gear used when hunting and camping, your business probably targets men.

Every year, new hunters and campers are “created” when kids reach the age where they can hunt (usually 11-12 after taking a hunter safety course), or where their parents feel comfortable taking them camping – or allowing them to go with someone else.

That might add a fair number of new clients to your pool of prospective customers, but it doesnt add a group who are ready to spend a pile of money at your place of business. Sure, their parents might buy them some items or might “hand me down” a few items, but the serious financial impact from these new hunters and campers won’t be felt until they are employed and have some fun money.

Maybe when they reach high school age, maybe 10-15 years later, depending on the person.

There is a place where a male-oriented business can easily find a group of prospective customers who can have an immediate financial impact. The problem is that your man-oriented business may not be doing enough to attract them or may be using the wrong lingo to attract them.

It’s not really a place. They’re all around you.

With all the election season commentary about VP candidate Sarah Palin fishing, hunting, “field dressing a moose” and such, it should have become obvious in recent months.

I’m talking about adult women.

Bottom line: There are plenty of ladies out there who like to fish, hunt and camp – and that’s just a start. Don’t forget archery, target shooting and fly fishing (and there are more). Even so, that doesn’t mean that they wear camo jeans to the office, when going out with friends or when working in the yard.

Here’s one example of a business that figured out that women want gear just for them.

They’ve found or created outdoor and hunting clothing tailored for the shape of a woman. Pay careful attention to the models, the words used and the way that the site is designed. It clearly isn’t aimed at attracting male buyers. The fit is clearly for a women, not a man.

If you’re a guy, ask any woman about the differences between their clothes and yours – besides the obvious torso shape differences – and they’ll be able to reel off a list of differences that are major to them. They’ll also likely tell you that the lack of choice in some types of clothing annoys them, and that your outdoor clothes are uncomfortable, unflattering and possibly a little bit painful in some cases.

Likewise, if you look closely at the gear available for motorcyclists – particularly Harley-Davidson branded gear – you’ll find that they too have figured out that gear for women must be designed, tailored and described in ways that are going to attract a woman’s attention – and her money.

If your business is largely oriented toward men, you probably already do some business with women, but it might be simply because there isn’t a place in your market that is targeting them.

If your business – or a part of it – is carefully designed, with products, marketing, merchandising and staffing focused solely on attracting female customers, you might just be able to open up a whole new market within your existing business.

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The ladies really dig my shiny new membership card

Got a pre-election call from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the other day. It’s that time of year – my phone has been ringing off the hook with election-related calls. Yep, it came on the famous 13 call day (15 as it turned out).

The call is made under the guise of checking how you’re going to vote, but the real reason for the call is to find new members.

Anyhow, I had some ulterior motives for letting him talk, so I gave the NRA guy a minute or so just to see what he had to say (usually the call center delay is all it takes to get me to hang up). After a bit of small talk to find out where I was on gun-related issues, he said something about joining and that “your benefits include a membership card…”

That’s what he STARTED with.

Now, if you’re trying to sell someone a membership to the NRA on a cold call, is that really how you want to start a call with me? Is that the best benefit they could come up with? I know better.

  • He didn’t ask if I hunt (I haven’t in probably 30 years – Ouch, that makes me OLD!). If the answer is yes, the natural follow would be to find out more about what I hunt for.
  • He didn’t ask if I target shoot (I do, occasionally).
  • He didn’t ask if I own any guns (I don’t, got rid of a .410 shotgun a few years ago cuz I wasn’t using it) and if so, what I own and what I use them for. This would easily allow the caller to extend the conversation with questions about the history of them, where I got them, how I like them etc. Why? To develop some rapport and common ground.
  • He didn’t ask what I knew about the NRA and proceed to figure out which benefits of being a member would be important and beneficial to me – and focus on them.

If you’re cold calling (and I hope you have other, far better ways to generate leads), you have to quickly develop some rapport. Of course, the first part of that cold call is no different than your situation in an elevator, a trade show booth or when someone asks “So, what do you do?” and you *know* they could benefit from what you do or sell.

Had he asked the right questions, he would have found that I was interested in blackpowder instructor courses – because the boys in my Scout troop want to start a blackpowder shooting program. That requires professionally trained leaders. He might also have found out that I might be interested in the other training and gun safety programs they have – and perhaps that I could use a few of their experts at Scouting events now and then.

But he was too interested in selling me that shiny new membership card.  On a day with 13+ electioneering calls, that isn’t going to get me excited about staying on the phone and whipping out my credit card.

No matter what started the conversation, develop rapport. Sell benefits that make sense based on what your rapport has taught you about your prospect.


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President proof your business: Through the eyes of your clients

No matter who is elected as the next President of the United States, things are going to be different over the next 4 to 8 years. Whether Obama or McCain wins, the wind in the business community is going to shift.

Is your business sail going to be set in the right direction to catch that wind? We’re going to talk about “president-proofing” your business on and off for a while, so let’s get started with episode 1.

Whether you do business with the government or not, the change that is taking place now and the changes that will take place starting on January 20th 2009 are going to present a pile of opportunity.

Either you recognize these opportunities as early as possible and set your sail to catch the wind, or you could find yourself tacking against a storm.

Whenever there is change -of any kind – in the air, you will find it accompanied by opportunity.

The problem with these great new opportunities is that they can be frustratingly difficult to detect when you are blinded by the day to day crisis management of your business. Even if you’ve successfully implemented processes and systems in your business that funnel responsibilities to your staff and shield you from what I would call the “daily mundane crisis”, stuff happens.

A critical step in seeing through the day to day fog of business crisis is something we talked about a few weeks ago (Airplane Time). I think we hit that topic hard enough already, so I suggest you review that post as part of your efforts to President-proof your business.

So how do you see those opportunities? Open your eyes.

When I say “Open your eyes”, what I mean is that you need to look really hard at the changes likely to come from a new President and his management (aka the Cabinet and staff), much less from 400+ elected or re-elected Congressional members.

No matter how you vote, examining the middle ground of each candidate’s goals and platform is a safe bet, but is it going to result in a breakthrough for your business? I’m not so sure. On the other hand, expecting massive, immediate change isn’t a reality-based expectation either.

Presidential inertia (voluntary or otherwise) will set in at the White House, as will a realization of how things really work in Congress when you’re no longer a Senator. Even if the same party controls the White House and the Congress, it isn’t necessarily a blank check.

Don’t believe me? Look at the lack of movement that has come as a result of the almost-month-old bailout bill. Life is more complex than Washington sometimes seems to recognize.

So how do you push the envelope and come up with ideas that are going to propel you safely and profitably through 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s gauntlet of *whatever* and create that new, great new thing?

Look at your clients. Look at your market.

Don’t worry so much about how the upcoming changes – whatever they are – will affect you and your business. Look at how these changes will affect your clients and your prospects.

Do any of these changes relate even remotely to what you already do? Deal with it. Create products and services that make the impacts of these annoying little changes simply go away.

Make em scatter like cockroaches suddenly exposed to sunlight.

Put yourself in your clients’ place. Look at the new world through THEIR open eyes, not just yours. Talk to them about their anticipated concerns for the upcoming administration to confirm (or destroy) that their concerns are what you expected.

What is going to make them the most insanely annoyed, angry or crazy about the upcoming administration?

What is going to start making them lose sleep at night? What is simply going to be different, perhaps notably different for them – even if it isn’t going to make them crazy?

Create the magic wand that makes the pain go away and take insanely great care of them through “these difficult times” (whatever that’s gonna mean).

PS: While I really appreciate comments, candidate-specific responses here will be deleted. If that’s on your mind when your comment juices are flowing, you’re missing the point of this post. Read it again.

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Tuned In questions to ask about your Me Too product

In today’s guest post, Tuned In discussed a Me Too (sorta) product and the gauntlet that they put new product ideas through just a day after we discussed Me Too products here.

Their 6 simple questions should give you something to think about whenever creating a new product or service, much less modifying an existing one.