One year in high school I watched the Super Bowl with a few friends. During halftime, we hurried to the pizza place on the corner and tried to get a large cheese pizza before the 3rd quarter began. Despite their booked capacity on a day where half the country was consuming pizza (and alcohol), they made us one. When you’re too young to have a beer during the Super Bowl, a last-minute pizza can be your golden goose.
Was the pizza fantastic? Was the game memorable? No and double no. But I’ll always remember how someone made it very easy to get me something I really wanted…or perhaps needed at the time.
Can you provide that as an entrepreneur?
Find that niche and cater to customers in that moment?
Can you be a customer’s savior in that short window, where they crave something and are more than willing to swipe that plastic for it? That’s how you’ll win over the masses.
There’s another, more blunt way to approach business. Which headache can you alleviate? In high school I wanted a pizza; someone saved me the trouble of making it from scratch. Today if I want groceries, select grocery chains can deliver them. Online tax preparation, dry cleaning, career advice … it’s all available. If you’re positioned at the right time to make a sale, then a competitor will gladly take your piece of the market and send you a cheap bottle of wine on your birthday.
Why is your business better at providing that product or service?
Succeeding not only involves the what, but also the why. Why should customers buy into YOU as an entrepreneur? They want to know your story and purpose.
This isn’t a cue to craft some mumbo-jumbo…be authentic from the beginning. I’d much rather hear about people who create startups because they left a crappy job in the private sector, or because they earned a college degree that became a paperweight. Those are the stories that mean something. Initial failure, uncertainty, 2nd chances. None of us are perfect, so we can’t fool customers with fabricated perfection.
Which story sounds better?
- I was walking through the woods, and then this unique idea to create a better brand suddenly hit me.
- I used to work in real estate, but grew tired of the open houses and cancellations. Most nights I stayed up for hours brainstorming a new path. Finally I quit my job and formed my own startup.
Option A is fairytale land. Option B shows how anyone can hustle, accomplish a goal, and earn respect.
These days you have to slow down your customer’s need to search for 100 things. Encourage them to learn about you, listen to you, and trust you. There are so many websites and advertisements out there but most only want the quick sale. Once they get that purchase confirmation, they treat customers like an afterthought. How would you feel if you purchased a new vehicle, and the salesperson didn’t recognize you the next day?
Now back to that headache concept; you fight to win that customer’s attention. You assure them that what you’re offering isn’t exactly a magic pill, but it’ll do the job. You’re the better entrepreneur because you’re both authentic and reliable.
Tread Beyond Your Core Values
We hear it all the time:
“Stick to your core values”
“Your company can’t do everything”
“Master one thing and go from there”
Guess what…the Digital Age is all about relationships. We connect to piles upon piles of people through social media. As much as we hold our phones, that low-level phone radiation hurts us, but we don’t care. Those relationships and online bonds perpetually captivate us. Since that’s the status quo, why not be 100% transparent with your audience?
If Emily and Mark design custom hats, is it wrong to chat with their customers about fantasy football? Is it wrong to discuss finances and the college education system in the United States? We obviously don’t expect Emily and Mark to encourage sports betting or create a new school.
But banter outside of their core values (hat designing, fashion, etc.) shows they’re not one dimensional. Emily and Mark actually have opinions about several things and appreciate the open dialogue. This attracts a wider audience, which increases the chances of landing that extra sale anyway. Win-win.
Another scenario…Christine wants to start her own real estate business. Should she only attend real estate seminars, or do youth soccer parents and grad students also think about houses? When real estate agents show homes, housing isn’t the only conversational topic.
Yes, there are some topics that we should steer clear of for the sake of our brands. I’m inclined to bite my tongue when it comes to gun laws and the national budget. Still, an off-topic discussion about pb & j won’t be the silver bullet that takes down my business.
We talk about numbers and putting ourselves out there, but core values are a double-edged sword. On the plus side they keep us focused. I don’t want my accountant moonlighting as an MMA fighter and forgetting how to record a ledger (due to a concussion).
On the downside, it’s a limited marketing strategy. Chatting it up with segments A, B, and C will open up more doors then simply pursuing segment A. Come on folks; data might show that millennials purchase more items online and use dozens of apps. Still, many grandparents own an iPad.
There’s no exact blueprint for being an entrepreneur. Failure, a glimpse of success, more failure, rinse and repeat. Despite all avenues, it’s important to maintain a fierce presence. I shouldn’t only know that you exist, but also be convinced that you can solve my problem for a reasonable price. And if you’re on social media (who isn’t during these exciting times), then you should be more than a one trick pony. It’s not a crime for chefs to like both waffles and corvettes.
If you’re gonna be an entrepreneur, then commit to these 3 things.