“There are the people who stay stuck and the people that leap.”
Deirdre Walsh, one of the brilliant business owners in a group I’m currently running, knows this about the people who come to her for integrative health coaching.
My challenge to her and the rest of the group? Construct your business in a way that caters to “leapers.”
What’s the difference between a stucker and a leaper?
Stuckers are the customers who buy from your business and show up for the jam session but rarely act on the ideas, they keep the jewelry in the box, or they add your book to their overflowing shelf of unread books.
They’re genuinely interested in what your business has to offer. They buy into your vision. But that’s where it stops.
For whatever reason, they’re not really ready for the bigger picture. They like to look but they’re not interested in the follow through.
And you know what? That’s just fine!
Here’s the thing: Stuckers aren’t good for business. Not because they’re bad customers or because they take up your time, but because they don’t give back. They don’t create the ripple effects that allow your business to grow and evolve.
On the other hand, leapers are the people who bring energy and enthusiasm to the consumer-producer relationship and create a return on their investment. They are quick to make changes, they update their wardrobe to match the jewelry, they tear into your book and take notes. They get results. Their investment is as much in themselves as it is in your product.
What’s more, they tell their friends. Their lives become an example of the good your business creates. They stick around for the long haul. They’re repeat buyers and repeat referrers.
Leapers renew your entrepreneurial energy. Stuckers drain it.
We’re all a little stuck.
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The best way to get in touch with who the stuckers are in your potential clientele is to get in touch with your own inner stuck.
Is there some aspect of your life on which you just haven’t taken action past lip service? I’m betting there is. Maybe you bought that juicer but you never use it. Maybe you bought that killer dress but you haven’t made an opportunity to wear it. Maybe you bought that gym membership but you just don’t make time to go.
What holds you back? Keeps you stuck? Bottom line: it’s almost always about priorities. And secondly, it’s about support.
Leapers put a priority on the work they’re doing with your business or the product they’ve buying. They have an emotional connection to it long before they buy. They have envisioned the outcome of the purchase and have already begun making changes or adapting to their post-purchase lives.
Stuckers have other priorities. Plain and simple. Their desire is spread thin and something else in their lives is receiving top priority.
Leapers also have support. Whether it’s self-support or an accountability network or just a pat on the back from a friend, they know their decision is made in relation to a greater (supportive) context.
Stuckers are going it on their own. They’re not necessarily functioning in a hostile context but they don’t have the inner or outer care that makes change a reality. They put more responsibility on the product or service than they do on themselves.
Of course, what the leapers and stuckers look like and how they present themselves varies for every business. While you may not always be able to distinguish one from another, you can study former clients and customers to see what they have in common.
Identify 5-10 customers who have leapt–taken the advice, changed their habits, achieved personal success, etc…–then identify 5-10 customers who have stuck. Consider the differences in:
- how they contacted you to buy
- why they bought
- how quickly they bought
- how they expressed their needs/desires
- what their reaction was to the product
- what their outcomes/results have been
Notice any patterns?
I don’t have all the answers. It’s different for every business. But if you’re interested in really understanding the social dynamic of your business–and, I believe, you absolutely should be–it’s important to bring attention to the subtle differences between your leapers and your stuckers.
What does this have to do with actually selling products?
Stuckers can drain the life-force out of a relationship-driven business.
You–as a business owner, maker, thinker, designer, coach–genuinely care about the outcomes your customers realize through your products. If you, or your team, are regularly coming into contact with customers who aren’t getting the results you envision, you’ll begin to question your product. And rightly so.
However, if you notice that those not achieving your shared vision are stuckers, you can go on fulfilling the needs of your leapers.
It’s not that you need to turn every stucker away. Instead, your business can create leveraged offers that allow stuckers to get what they want without taking up a disproportional amount of your resources. Leapers can have access to higher level, deeper relationship offers.
Your business model–and the way it is marketed–should be built to satisfy stuckers at the lower end and direct leapers toward the higher end. It’s better for your revenue, it’s better for your Most Valued Customers, and it’s better for the people your MVCs will come into contact with.
Tell me about your own experience with leapers, stuckers, or leaping/sticking yourself: tweet me.
It’s not often I ask you to think smaller. Today is one of those days.
You have read everywhere, and rightly so, that one of the chief ways get traction for your brand is to sell people on your purpose, your larger vision. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I don’t even like breaking out this axiom of enlightened business anymore because it’s become cliche and misused.
Yes, your vision & purpose is key to the success of your brand, but it is not a substitute for clear statements of value. You don’t get off the hook for being clear about what your product does, how it is used, and what the expected outcomes of use are because your purpose is so grand.
A particular area in which I see this plaguing business owners is in what I will call the “transformational service sector.” Think coaches of almost every kind and consultants of every ilk. That includes many of you reading.
And even if it doesn’t, keep reading. Winky face.
Sharing your vision for your customers and the purpose of your work is directional. It helps to catch them up in the flow of your work. But it doesn’t trigger their desire to buy.
People buy when they’re ready. They need to be both ready to buy into your vision and actively looking for a solution to a stumbling block on the path to that vision.
Your job isn’t to provide a straight, newly paved highway to dream life. It’s to anticipate the happy detours and not-so-happy ice storms they’ll have along the way and guide them through. When they’re ready for a happy detour, metaphorically speaking, they’ll be looking for museums to visit, places to eat, and spots to explore. When they run into the not-so-happy ice storms, they’ll be looking for shelter, tire chains, or a tow truck.
If you’re especially observant of your customers, you know exactly when the detours come and when the ice storms will hit. You can then show up when they stop and say…
“Hey! I know you and I know where you’re going. Let me help you with this.”
“This” is what you’re actually selling. And it’s what people actually buy.
Here’s a more concrete example. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve been doing some “research” on online dating strategy. One of the books I’m reading is by the founder of a company called eFlirt Expert. They offer services to help people looking for love online be more efficient and effective.
What they don’t do is try to sell anyone on the idea that buying from them will result in the perfect match or finding a soul mate. Instead, they’ve identified tasks that online daters need help with on the path to doing just that, such as picking which sites to use, building your profile for you, replying to the messages you get, or giving your profile a makeover.
Here’s what that looks like for the customer. He decides he’s had enough of bad blind dates and the bar scene. He’s ready to give the online world a go. First, he has to decide which site to use. Panic (hopefully mild!) ensues. He uses eFlirt Expert’s free dating site evaluation service. Bingo, he signs up for the recommended sites.
Then he starts building his profile and starts searching the site. He doesn’t the get the response he wants immediately. So he remembers that online dating company and goes to see what they have to offer (of course, he’s probably getting an email right about this time to remind him of what they can do for him). Profile building! Yes, that’s what he needs.
With a shiny new profile, he’s getting lots of messages from great potential matches. He wants to make sure he’s answering them properly. So he goes back to that company and signs up for email reply services. If all goes well, he’ll be dating away in no time and, hopefully, finding a relationship.
You tell me. Which is more compelling?
An offer to coach you through the dating process to find your one true love? or
3 distinct offers that deliver 3 specific outcomes?
Boom, as they say.
Before you give me a million and one excuses about why this isn’t a good model for your business, let me give you three questions you will be able to answer that prove otherwise:
- What questions do your clients commonly come to you with in the process of serving them?
- What tasks do your clients commonly need to complete in the process of achieving their goals?
- What frustrations do your clients commonly feel during the process of making progress?
Within the answers to those questions are the seeds of specific service offerings, leveraged programs or products, lead generation tools, blog posts, emails, even Facebook updates or tweets. They’re sign posts on the journey from the moment of readiness to the fulfillment of your shared vision.
Each answer is a potential place to enter the market.
One of the reasons my book, The Art of Earning, has sold so well is that it answers a question that all of my clients have had at one point or another. The Art of Growth is positioned to do the same thing by answering the question, “How can I create a bigger impact with my business but put less energy into it?” Our bestselling products at Kick Start Labs, Website Kick Start and Sales Page Kick Start, address two tasks every entrepreneur in the digital space need to complete: building a website and writing a sales page.
The more specific a task I can help my customers complete, the more likely they are to know that they want it. Not only that, the more likely they are to want it on their own terms, meaning I need to do less to push the product. They will search it out.
That’s not to say that an all-inclusive package can’t be a great product. But it’s not likely to be an easy sell. The thing is, most customers simply don’t believe your 12-week course or your VIP day will put them on the fast-track to achieving your shared vision. Let’s be honest: I don’t care how good you are at what you do and how ready your customers are for change, transformational services–from the technical to the metaphysical–simply take time, growth, and natural progression.
Any one product or service is one step in the right direction. Not a teleporter.
You can build a solid business model on breaking that journey into its natural pieces. Or you can struggle to sell something so grand it’s literally unbelievable.
Hold onto your vision. Sell the steps to it.
Want a framework for breaking your big ideas into smaller ones that really sell & get better results?
The Customer Perspective Process walks you through exactly that. You’ll learn how to breakdown the many tasks, milestones, and questions your customers will have on their way to reaching your shared vision.
Click here to learn more about The Customer Perspective Process virtual boot camp from Kick Start Labs.
Who powers your business? It’s easy to imagine that it’s powered by you: your passion, your ambition, your expertise. But a more sustainable power source for your business is the person who makes it work: your customer.
While your business is an act of self-expression and guided by your unique vision, it exists in partnership with your Most Valued Customers.
When your business draws energy from those partners, it doesn’t require your constant support as owner. You can empower your team to draw inspiration from your customers. You can create tools that allow your customers to help themselves. The list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, it’s rare that you’ll see good advice on understanding who those people really are. Most teaching about your right customers is:
- Business-Centric – Your customers really do have lives outside of waiting for your company’s next offer.
- Lack Synthesis – What are you going to do with the fact that your customers read Sunset Magazine, shop at REI, and buy a lot of Colombia clothing?
- Don’t Provide for Deep Empathy – The way your customers think and feel, along with the mindset and internal scripts that guide them, is the real key to effective communication.
Now that I’ve told you what’s missing from the usual advice around finding your “ideal customer,” let’s reconstruct some fresh ideas about who these people are and how they can power your business.
First, as far as I’m concerned, you and your customer play equal parts in attracting each other. Just like you can’t stalk the subject of your more carnal desire to the point of loving you, you can’t just chase after customers if they’re not interested in what you’re offering.
You have to respect that there are customers who might meet the profile of the customer you have in mind as ideal but they may not be interested in or ready for what your business has to offer. Your job is to not only create
a profile an understanding that guides you to the best people but one that guides people who are ready and willing to your business.
That may mean you need to alter who you think you’re meant to serve. It may mean the people you’ve been chasing are all wrong for you. Or it may mean that you need to shift your mindset away from “stalking and converting” to “romancing and wooing.”
Next, the work you do around better understanding your customers needs to be Customer-Centric, not Business-Centric. A typical business-centric survey question is, “What features would you like to see the next time we update this product?” or “What topics would you like us to cover on the blog?” Your business is top of mind for you so it’s understandable that it’s the easiest way to approach understanding your customers.
However, your customers will give you much more useful information if you imagine your business doesn’t exist. Weird, I know. This approach works whether you’re sourcing information directly from your customers or whether you’re sourcing the information from your own brain. Focus on your customers needs, questions, and desires. Think about their problems in terms of stumbling blocks or barriers. Consider the jobs (social, functional, and emotional) they need to get done on a daily basis.
Try questions like this:
- What frustrates you most about trying to…?”
- What skills do you believe would improve your ability to…?”
- How do you normally spend your weekends? Why?”
- If you could wave your magic wand and change 1 thing about…, what would it be?
Try to maintain as little bias and as much genuine curiosity as possible. There’s a time for sourcing your expertise, but it’s not now. Don’t worry about your relationship to the potential customer (trust me, they’re not), worry about your customer’s relationship to themselves, their time, their energy, their families, and their communities.
Once you’ve gathered that kind of unbiased information and you’ve examined your customers’ whole lives, it’s time to synthesize.
I have two commandments for this step. First, ask “Why?” And second, trust yourself.
The key to synthesizing the customer-centric information you gather is to always be looking for the motivation, values, or beliefs that swim underneath it. That’s what makes up the mindset–or worldview–that causes your customer to act the way she does, including acting to purchase something or share it with her friends on Facebook.
Each time you ask “Why?” and dig a little deeper, you reach more useful information. While knowing that your customers read Sunset magazine, shop at REI, and wear Columbia could help you place an ad or style your photos, asking “Why?” can lead you to more insightful information. You’ll learn that they appreciate an adventurous yet laid back lifestyle, value the environment, and have an appreciation for passion & expertise.
As I said, the trick here is to trust yourself. You don’t need to ask your customers directly why they like what they like or do what they do, though that can be helpful (it can also be unhelpful). Instead, ask yourself why your customers like what they like or do what they do. And trust that the answers you provide are true.
The thing is, we all gather information more information about people than we realize. We are constantly making inferences from what people say or do. We are receiving unspoken cues all the time. We’re social creatures and it’s how we survive social situations without getting punched in the face.
Unfortunately, most people turn that off when they think about their customers. They go cold and forget to check in with their social brain to uncover the information that is hiding just below the surface. But, as soon as you allow yourself to ask “Why?” and then trust the information you receive from the resources of your psyche, that information will come flooding to the surface.
My final point is on creating deep empathy for your customers. Dan Pink calls empathy, “a stunning act of imaginative derring-do.” It’s as close as I’ll ever get to reading someone’s mind, though that’s a comment I often receive.
Deep empathy isn’t just what you know about your customer. It’s literally being able to step inside his or her life from afar and use the same thought patterns & emotions that guide her actions. It’s anticipating what will resonate with her on the deepest levels.
Creating deep empathy for your customers means that you have access to their inner most feelings and mindsets. When you have that access, you can create the frameworks that allow you to be of greatest service. You can stop treating (or marketing to) surface level needs and start addressing their core desires. You can help them move past the barriers that stand between them and what you offer (i.e. buy).
Again, the action you need to take here is to unlock your social brain. Instead of focusing on concrete details, allow yourself to probe the feelings of your customer. Given all what you know about her experiences, how would you feel if you were her? What true desires would you hide from the world if you were her?
How do the answers to those questions change how you approach your brand, your marketing, your sales process, and your product development?
Remember, the goal with creating a deep understanding of your customers is not to convert people who are uninterested in what you do. The goal is to attract the people who are already searching for what you offer and guide them gently and sincerely to what they seek.
If everything your business does–from a lowly tweet to a signature product to a rebranding campaign–is powered by a deep understanding of your customers, it becomes easy for your customers to buy and for your business to serve them. That ease is the key to sustainable, enjoyable growth. And it’s powerful.
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Last week, I did an Insight Intensive with Nancy Sherr–a gorgeous and dynamic coach guiding women through transitions and towards a zestful life. I read the copy on her site, I watched her introductory video. I could tell she knew her customer. And suddenly, I did too.
I could imagine all the women who had put so much energy into being the perfect wives to their influential and powerful husbands only to have their 20 year marriages end in divorce. I could see all the women who had put their whole hearts into being perfect mothers only to wonder what to do with their whole hearts when the kids left the nest empty. I could picture all the women who had set aside every shred of their femininity to compete in a masculine world only to feel cold & distant upon retirement or layoff.
Nancy’s work naturally picks up where these transitions leave off. It’s the clearest opportunity and the one that most easily lends itself to an offer. But that’s only one opportunity for her to serve her best clients. She could imagine only serving them at this juncture in time. She could see her clients as static.
Or she could choose to imagine the lives ahead of them. She could choose to hold a vision for her clients as they pursue their zestful lives. And she could choose to create products that serve that growing & evolving vision.
Much of the problem with the way most businesses have chosen to see their ideal client is that it stops at “now.”
You can have one distinct ideal client profile. But that profile doesn’t have to only exist at the point of pain, frustration, or need. No, that profile–that person–has a history. She has unique experiences that have shaped who she is at this moment. She also has a future. She has hopes, dreams, and the day-by-day reality of moving through time.
Innovative businesses hold a vision for their customers. Innovative businesses use their unique insight into their customers’ day-to-day lives to see what tomorrow will look like and create the solutions that meet them at tomorrow and beyond.
“What business a company is in depends, in large part, not on existing customers but who tomorrow’s customers will—and should—be.”
— Michael Schrage, Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?
That is not to say that who your customer is changes. But it is to say that your customers are changing. You have the opportunity to continue to serve them as they progress.
Or you can take a myopic perspective and only sell to them “now.”
Consider the newspapers. Newspaper companies think they’re in the “newspaper” business. So it’s difficult for them to innovate outside the product that people have always wanted from them. They think their customers buy newspapers.
But that’s not at all what their customers buy. Their customers buy “news.” That’s a fundamentally different way to look at the value provided.
So their customers have become people who seldom read things on recycled wood pulp anymore. News customers engage smartphones, tablets, laptops, social media platforms, and countless other sources of news.
The “newspaper” business might be dying but the “news” business–at least the market and demand for news–has never been greater. If newspaper companies forgot the paper part, what innovative solutions could they come up with to not only meet their customers with the reality of today but to lead them to the promise of tomorrow?
What about your industry? Do people actually buy “coaching?” What do they buy instead? Are people actually buying “website design?” What solution are they really seeking? Do your customers care that you’re a wellness coach? What personal change are they willing to put money on?
Knowing the business that you’re really in helps you to see how your customers grow and change beyond the 1-point product or service you’re selling now.
Your customers’ needs change. Their desires evolve. The way they want to interact with you and your community transforms. The way they want to be communicated with shifts.
This can be scary. But it’s really an opportunity.
As your understanding of your customer-through-time evolves, you will see that there are truly countless opportunities for you to meet their changing needs. There are desires & needs that naturally rise to the surface as the people you serve grow. Those desires & needs translate to offers & opportunities, each with its own set of constraints and objectives.
Each time you identify one of these needs, you have the opportunity to layer the messaging, community, and revenue for that new offer on top of your existing offers. And that can lead to big returns in each department.
Seeing your ideal customer as a living, breathing, growing human being means you can see your business as a living, growing, thriving organism instead of a one-trick pony.
Ready to chart the course for your customer’s journey and a path of growth for your business?
Understanding how your customers grow & change, as well as the ups & downs they’ll have along the way, is a big part of The Customer Perspective Process. You’ll learn to apply your customer’s journey to your business model development, content strategy, and strategic partnership strategy.
Click here to learn about The Customer Perspective Process virtual boot camp from Kick Start Labs.
When community invests in an idea, it also co-owns its success.
– Nilofer Merchant, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era
Your business is not yours alone. Welcome to the brave new world of co-creation and co-ownership. Here, individualism coexists with collectivism. Here, the results of your ambition rely on your ability to create the network that allows you to succeed.
So the question is: are you creating a customer network that is ready to co-create your vision?
There is a piece of “popular” business advice that asserts that “you should teach what you know to people who are a few steps behind you.”
For instance, if you’ve worked through a big personal transformation, you can become a life coach & help others through their own personal transformations. If you’re a blogger, you can help others set up their own blogs. If you write books, you can teach beginning authors how to get published.
Makers, keep reading, I’m not going to let you off the hook.
Hey, this isn’t a bad idea. In fact, this is probably a decent way to get started serving others and making money doing it. You’ve honed in on a specific problem that you can solve and you’re willing to put a price tag on it. Sure, go for it.
But where will you go next?
You can keep serving these clients, incrementally increasing the sophistication of what you’re offering. As you solve new problems for yourself, you can turn those solutions into products and services.
It makes a lot of sense and it can work. Just like monetization.
But will you be satisfied?
I like a challenge. I love the thrill of unleashing my great work for clients who scare the pants off of me. My work gets better & better in environments of great uncertainty.
Having a client that challenges me doesn’t mean that my back is against a wall, it means that my eyes are open to the full array of possibilities before us both. I’m not relying on personal experience or a single formula for my success. It’s an opportunity ripe for never-tried-before ideas and mutual magic-making.
By honoring their experiences, their knowledge, and their trust in our work, we can create something brand new. Together.
I used to feel threatened by the brilliance of my clients. I worried that I failed them when they had an idea or a revelation that wasn’t directly prompted by …me. And then I realized that our very connection was what made that possible. When working with clients that challenge me, I don’t have to be the end-all-be-all in business strategy.
No, it’s my job to co-create the space for our mutual success.
I can be the catalyst. Our work together is the entry point. It isn’t confined to my knowledge & expertise; it’s open to collaboration.
When you & your clients are co-owners of collaborative success, you both are creating something more meaningful than livelihood or results. You are creating movements, future opportunities, and networked transformation. The effects are more wide-reaching, the value is more long-lasting. The possibly of up-ending the status quo is much greater.
But will I rise to the occasion?
Look, it’s easier to cultivate a social network of people who want to be like you. To do what you’ve done. To grasp a little piece of your success. But the rewards of creating network connections to those who are ready to co-own your success are vast.
It can be the difference between slogging by doing something that once thrilled you and forging a new path to a more lucrative future, both financially & meaningfully.
- Are you cultivating a network of yes-people? Or are you gathering a select tribe of idea-challengers?
- Are you going with what you know? Or are you seeking out opportunities for growth?
- Are you seeking out reinforcement of your own experiences? Or are you creating a hub for shared intelligence?
“… attracting and seducing consumers with a relevant, helpful, and unique point of view works better than shoving more messages into the already loud marketplace.”
— Nilofer Merchant, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era
But how will I find these people?
Here’s a common exercise I do with clients who are ready to make this jump:
Look around your network right now. Make a list of 5 people with a “relevant, helpful, and unique point of view” who are connected to you in some (even tenuous) way who could benefit from your time, talent, and skills.
- How would working for them be different than working with the clients or customers you currently have?
- What conversations or projects would get their attention?
- If you were working for/with them, what changes would you make to the day-to-day operations of your business?
- What problems or desires would you be working on?
- How would your message be different if it was crafted for them and not the mass market?
“Attracting and seducing” the clients that will take your business to the next level begins with everyday changes in behavior. If you don’t adjust your routines, expectations, and message to be especially for them before you attract them, you’ll never have the opportunity to co-create your next-level business with them.
The answers to the above questions are your first steps. Those answers will guide you towards making the changes today that will breed success tomorrow. Those answers will help you step into the attitude of success before it’s even created.
Essentially, you’re inviting your future customers to co-own your success before they’ve even invested in your world.
And that’s why those kind of customers are powerful. And why that’s the kind of people you want to be in business with.
— PS —
I wrote this post with service providers in mind. But product creators & makers, you don’t get off so easy. I see so many makers limiting their visions to a customer who doesn’t fully appreciate what they do. And it shows. What happens if you challenge yourself to create your product for a more challenging set of customers? What would need to change about how your make, market, and sell your creation? How could your product fulfill the ultimate fantasy of a very special network?
Are the customer you’re courting ready to co-own your success?
— PPS —
If this is the kind of leap you’re looking to take in your business before the end of the year, I invite you to join me, Adam King, and a small group of dedicated business owners for Make Your Mark. It’s a 12-week, intensive business coaching program designed to allow you take on challenging, satisfying work that creates loads of personal wealth.
And it’s the only opportunity to coach long-term with me with Fall. There are a limited number of spots on the team – and they’re going quickly! Click here to learn more.