Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve decided to forsake the fluorescent-lit world of grocery stores, Costco and the like, and instead have elected to feed yourself and your family from the bounty of God’s green earth, without any food stamps, coupons, resellers, distributors, packagers, corporate boardrooms or franchisees getting in the middle of the process.
Your friends think you’re crazy, your spouse is considering divorce, the larder is empty and the kids are hungry.
Welcome to small business ownership.
At any rate, you’ve elected to seek out fresh fish for dinner. And not just any fish — you’re going for rainbow trout. Easy to clean, flavorful and will fit into the single cast-iron skillet you held back when you sent everything else to Goodwill and moved into that little cabin in the woods.
No other fish will do.
You have a few different options:
1) You can park yourself in a deck chair on the nearest sidewalk with a sign that says “I want rainbow trout” and wait for one to show up.
This is you if all you’ve done is build a website for your business. You’ve made a sign. Congratulations. Now pack up your deck chair and go home. No fish today.
2) You can go to a lake and stand waist-deep in the water and wait for a rainbow trout to swim into your net.
This is you if you’re showing up at conferences, or street fairs, or Facebook groups, and standing around with a sign saying “We Sell Stuff” and hoping someone in the vicinity might miraculously make the connection between what you sell and what they need and decide to strike up a conversation. Prospects who need your solution might not even be there, and if they are you’re certainly not offering any reason for them to engage with you.
3) You can find a lake with 30 different species of fish, and fish for all of them at once with a universal lure that incorporates everything that appeals to any of them.
This is you if you’re trying to sell to women 24-64, or small business owners, or companies with over 1,000 employees.
This is all of us desperately hoping that if we can just cram every possible feature, benefit and message into a package then *everyone* will be able to find *something* that interests them.
Wake up! There is no universal lure.
All your prospects will see is someone trying to be everything to everyone — and failing to show you understand them or their needs.
6) You can fish for rainbow trout.
Study the ideal food sources for rainbow trout, create a lure specifically to imitate the characteristics of those food sources, research the lake with the largest population of rainbows, study the topography of the lake bed and the water temperature, understand the conditions under which rainbow trout are most likely to feed, and drop your perfect lure in the water at exactly the right spot at exactly the right time.
Now we’re talking! This is you if you understand the customers you want to serve — not just by their membership in a large group (women, small business owners, large companies) but by understanding what they’re struggling with, and why, and how they describe that challenge, and what they think might solve it (even if they’re wrong) and the conditions under which they are most likely to purchase, and where other options have failed them.
Start catching YOUR rainbow trout.
Does this final approach take more work? Of course! But that work ensures that you’re connecting with the right people where they are, using their own language, and offering a helpful solution to a problem that resonates with them.
It means you’re not wasting your time fishing in a lake with no fish, or feverishly trying to cram 300 features into a lure that sends every species skittering away into the depths.
Are you standing on the corner waiting for a fish to show up?
Are you fishing in the wrong lake?
Are you spending money on bait that isn’t right for the fish you want?