5 Common Business Questions And What You Should Be Asking Instead
These are the business questions I get asked everywhere I go. Are they yours? (Photo by Armosa Studios)
How much time have you spent learning the ins & outs of online business?
Go ahead. Take a stab at it.
10 hours? 100 hours? 1,000 hours? More?
This is not a post about how you need to put in your 10,000 hours to finally be a success.
It’s a post about how all that knowledge can’t answer the really important questions that will actually propel your business forward.
You see, after our last launch of Quiet Power Strategy: The Foundation, we did some research. Many of the people who said they were interested didn’t join us for 2 main reasons:
- They had already taken a lot of courses, had tons of knowledge, and were trying to apply that before they took any other courses.
- They weren’t sure if it would work for their specific business.
I totally get both of those objections. On the surface, they make a lot of sense. Maybe you’ve run into similar objections for your own products?
But if you dig a little deeper, I believe there is a fundamental problem that brings these concerns to the surface.
What is it?
People are asking the wrong kinds of questions and looking for the wrong kind of information.
If you fall into the first objection territory, it means you’ve been focused on gathering information to create your tasks lists for running your business. You believe the more information you have on running your business, the more effective you’ll be.
If you fall into the second objection territory, it means you’re looking for a specific way to make your business work. You believe that a solution that’s tailored made for your unique structure, industry, or proclivities exists and that when you find it everything will fall into place. Correct information, correct next steps.
Information can’t save you or your business unless it has a strategy behind it.
Now, that’s not to say information isn’t powerful. But information can only be powerful when it is applied toward achieving a specific goal.
What I see is a whole lot of business owners going around trying to execute on what they’ve learned with no plan or strategy. So it fails. So they go back for more information—that proverbial missing piece.
And, you guessed it, a nasty cycle is formed. One where you’re spending all your money and time acquiring new information that is hypothetically useful but ill-matched to your strategy or lack thereof.
Here’s what one of my business thinking mentors, Nilofer Merchant, had to say on a similar subject:
“Perhaps people fixate on execution (‘doing what’s required’) instead of finishing up strategy (‘choosing the direction’) because it’s easier to see progress during execution than during strategy formation and development.”
Does that sound about right?
You keep going back for information because information tends to give you a relatively tidy to-do list. You complete the tasks and that means you’re hopefully doing something right.
It is not nearly so neat and tidy to sit with big questions about the direction of your business, how you’ll achieve your goals, and how you’ll compete in the marketplace.
I know, I’ve spent the last 2 months in this place. It’s messy and hard. It really isn’t any easier for the pros, other than we have better tools and processes.
But you need to. It’s the difference between short-term success and long-term frustration and long-term success and short-term frustration.
To demonstrate how business owners that find long-term success ask different questions, I’ve made a list of 5 common questions. Then, I’ve provided an alternative question and guidelines for wrestling with the answers.
That way you get double your money back on this blog post! You get your question answered plus a better question to ask so you can make better use of the information you have.
Ready to get started? Here we go.
What do I need to do to spread the word about my business?
If I wanted a lot of cheap clicks to my blog, I could make you a list of 30 ways to spread the word about your business. I could list every social media platform, I could throw in some local marketing tactics for good measure, and then I could share some advanced maneuvers.
And, if you were overwhelmed, slightly confused, and wondering how you were going to find the time for all that at the end of the post, you’d be in good company.
Instead of asking What, try asking How.
How do you want to connect with the right people?
Forget about learning specific tactics for awhile and consider the type of relationship you want to have with your clients. Think about how you want them to feel. Factor in how you’re best able to help them get results.
Then write down a description of what that connection looks like.
I want to create long-term relationships with smart business owners who value independence, thinking for themselves, and prioritizing long-term success. I want to connect with them in ways that get them thinking and leading instead of following.
That’s how I would describe the way I want to connect with my right people (you in?). Since I know that, I don’t waste time learning about marketing tactics that don’t fit that description. The things I do to “spread the word” about my business and what I have to offer are very limited (that’s good!) because of that description so I can focus on just those few things.
Any time a new tactic comes along that everyone’s buzzing about, I can quickly make a decision about whether it fits that description or not.
What should I sell?
Well, if you’ve been paying attention to anything lately you know that the answer is an online course, right? Wrong.
No one can tell you what to sell. What’s worse is that if you’re focused on the “what” of what you’re selling, it means you’ve likely lost focus of the “who” of who you’re selling to.
Great, innovative, cult-status products (like the ones you want to create, right?) aren’t born from blueprints. They’re a process of careful design and evolution.
Design starts with knowing what the people you’re designing for what to accomplish. It doesn’t start with a form in mind.
So again, the better question to ask is not a What question, it’s a How question.
How could my customers get the best results?
We like to say: function before format. You need to know how the product is going to work, what it’s going to do before you can determine the form for delivering that result.
One of the things our clients want to do is navigate business transitions and bust through ceilings (revenue, energetic, operational, etc…) in their businesses. Often that means creating a plan for doubling their revenue, transitioning to an agency model, or building leveraged-income products.
Lately, I’ve been focused on how we could do this more easily, more conveniently, and more inexpensively for our clients. I’ve also been thinking about how traditional course delivery has failed them in this area.
Answering the question, “How could my customers get the best results?” has allowed me to pioneer a brand-new model and format for our signature program. The details aren’t quite ready yet—but if you want to know more about it, you can sign up here.
This is where real innovation is born. Not just innovation for innovation’s sake—innovation for business sake. Innovation that is people-focused and prioritizes function before format sells extremely well.
If you want to know what to sell, the only person you can ask is yourself.
Who should I hire?
I get it: you’re overworked and out of energy. If I could just tell you who to hire, then maybe you’d be less overworked and have a little more energy.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a very good question, either.
In this case, Who is masquerading as our What, but the How question is still the real answer.
How could others create value for my business & my customers?
Lately, I’ve been focused on getting my clients who are building teams to forget delegation. Seriously!
Okay, delegation certainly has a role and there is always something on your plate that could be done better by someone else. However, delegation is a super base level tactic when it comes to getting help growing your business.
If you really want dynamic team members who contribute to the growth of your business—people who add to your bottom line instead of just your expenses—you need to think in terms of value contribution.
People who create value for your business don’t just do the things you’re already doing. They create better experiences for customers, they solve problems for customers, they enhance customers’ ability to get results.
In my business, my whole team is creating value for our customers outside of what I delegate to them. For instance, I hired Breanne Dyck to consult on operations last year. By creating more robust onboarding systems, smart systems for delivery content, and better ways to track user behavior, we’re able to create better customer experiences.
That’s also decreased the percentage of people who need help from our support team—which is essential to our ability to scale.
Instead of thinking of what role you should hire for, consider how you could enhance your customer experiences and business capabilities.
What technology should I use?
Last week I did a webinar with LeadPages—they create software that makes it easy to grow your list—and next month I’m hosting a webinar with ConvertKit. I love apps and technology and I’m lucky to have friends who develop it.
But that means I hear this question quite often.
Here’s how to change this What question into a How question.
How can I use technology to create the best experience & results for the people I want to work with?
The reason this question works so well is because the answer is essentially a shopping guide for the technology that’s going to work best for you.
Let me give you an example: I was a devoted MailChimp user for years. All the years, really. I knew I had outgrown them but I didn’t leave because I loved them so much. (I still recommend them for many business owners, by the way.)
As my email list grew and grew, it became harder and harder to manage to send the right campaigns to the right people. The question, “How could I use technology to create the best experience for my readers?” became ever more important.
The answer to the question is that if I could use technology to better understand what my audience wanted to read, what problems they were facing, and what offers they might be most interested in, I could create an amazing experience for them.
So when Nathan Barry called me up to talk about ConvertKit and explained how he designed the software to do exactly that, I was hooked.
It took time to set up and I’m still getting the hang of creating those experiences. But, I love it!
Focus on how technology could improve experiences or results for your customers (and you too!). And then go looking for something that does specifically that. You don’t need to compare what everyone else is using—the best solution for you might be something you’ve never heard of.
What content should I create?
Alright, last question. You want to know what to put in your blog posts, emails, podcasts, videos, and Facebook updates to get more attention and more sales.
Again, totally understandable. Content marketing is super important, right?
Unfortunately, there’s no prescription for content. If you look at the prescription content that’s out there, it’s super boring. You don’t want to bore your customers into buying from you, do you?
Someone somewhere recently was talking about the difference between content marketing with information and content marketing with insight. Oh, how I wish I remembered who it was so I could properly credit them.
For the people I often work with, I’d throw in another category: content marketing with inspiration.
For business purposes, insight will when over information or inspiration any day. Information is a commodity. Charlie Gilkey said at the Quiet Power Strategy Summit: “If you try to sell information, Wikipedia will win every time.” Inspiration is increasingly a commodity as well.
So your imperative for content marketing is to provide insight into your potential customers’ challenges or goals.
How do you do that? Answer this better question.
How can I provide insight into my customers’ situation so that they become more prepared to buy?
Sure, I might be stretching it a bit on the How part here, but you get the idea.
An example of this is in action is this very blog post. I could easily have written this post with a number of resources (my own or others) with the “answers” to the 5 most common business questions. It would have gotten links and traffic.
But instead, I wanted to shed some light on why these questions don’t help you grow your business, how they keep you stuck and dependent on others.
Because I want to connect with smart, independent folks (see Better Question #1), it’s important for me to show you that distinction. If you love this post, there’s a good chance we’d work well together and that you’d dig my methodology for thinking about and planning for your business.
If you don’t dig it, you probably aren’t reading this far. I’m totally okay with that.
If you’d prefer answers to all the What questions, there are plenty of people who will sell that to you. I won’t. Sure, I’ll give you some options and I’ll tell you what I think but I’d much rather help you think through the problem for yourself. I want to help you make independent, strategic decisions about where your business is headed.
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