Stop Yelling, I’m Sitting Right Here!

yelling-guyDo those obnoxious guys yelling on local car dealer ads actually sell more cars? I’m just asking the question, because I can’t seem to find anyone who actually likes those things. Do they think they’re being cool, or funny? I’m not a violent person, but there’s one doofus that does ads in my town, that I’d love to sock in the nose. On second thought maybe I’ll sock him twice – since they tend to run the same ridiculous ads two times during a single commercial segment (they must get a twofer). Thank all that is good, for my DVR.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be the poor guy who films and produces these things?

TV Guy: Okay so how about a fade in to…


TV Guy: Well nobody really likes being yelled at. I had one of our writers come up with a pretty funny piece, people like funny…


TV Guy: Um… Are you going to yell “wammbo” at the end of the commercial?


TV Guy: Burt, just start filming. Jimmy the Idiot here obviously knows what he’s doing…

So what does this have to do with your home-business…?

Mainly this – just because something’s always been done that way, or that’s what everyone else is doing, is not a good reason to do it. Chances are, it’s just the opposite – to really succeed you have to set yourself apart. You also have to treat your customers like people, not deaf mules.

1 – Be sure you understand your audience. Selling is hard enough without having to overcome the hurdle of being perceived as an ass. Take the time to really learn about your customers and prospects – what they like, what they want, and how they prefer to be approached.

2 – Being the loudest doesn’t mean being the best. If you have something of value, and offer it in a way that respects your customer, you will never have a shortage of business. A conversation is a much better way to develop a relationship than yelling.

3 – People are way smarter than they get credit for. Our customers know what they want, and will look around until they find it. Be the one they want to do business with.

4 – Don’t over compensate. If you aren’t 100% confident and proud of what you are offering, no over-the-top exploits will make it successful. (Caveat – in the long term that is. There are those who look for short term gain at any cost. My guess is that you’re not one if them, or you would have stopped reading a long time ago :) )

What it comes down to is that there are lots of ways to run a business. Being authentic, offering something of value, and being passionate about what you are doing – to me – is the truest way to reach real success. There’s nothing quite like having customers seek you out, as opposed to annoying them until they buy or tell you to scram. By deciding to do business as a person dealing with another person, you open the door for lots of great opportunities. But if that’s not your cup of tea, there’s always…


Do Your Customers Know What the Heck You’re Talking About?

blobThink about how many times you’ve been inundated with jargon and had no idea what the other person was talking about. A techie, your mechanic, your financial advisor – it is way too common a practice to try and kill our prospects with our intelligence. You don’t like feeling stupid, and neither do your customers. So why is it that so many business people try to make themselves feel smart by tossing around words that really don’t do their customers any good?


A paradigm shift is necessary to leverage the strategic ubiquity for those asynchronous decentralized procedures which are quickly becoming an industry standard using VoIP.

Now ladies and gentlemen, is that sentence helpful at all? The fact that I strung together a bunch of words and created my own version of a nonsense verse would be obvious, if we hadn’t heard something eerily similar from the halls of corporate life.

Guilty As Charged

Working in the Web and software world for so long, I have to say I’ve been guilty of this myself. But I learned early on, that you come across as more articulate and smart if you are able to explain what you are offering in a simple, straight-forward way – without all the jargon. You also end up with more accounts and sales. As many of you may know, it’s actually much harder to describe certain things in layman’s terms. I’ve seen mechanics who could explain a rack-and-pinion system to someone who thought it was rack-and-peanut steering. I’ve met investment advisors who could explain the short-sell in such simple terms, that it would make Gordon Gekko cringe. And not to toot my own horn, but I always found my refacing cabinets analogy for new software interfaces to be very easy to understand.

What You Do – Plain and Simple

The ultimate goal is to help your customers and prospects understand what you can do for them – plain and simple. If I can’t decipher the words you’re throwing at me, I have no hope of understanding how what you’re providing is of any value. And you have no hope of walking away with my business. Think back to a time when someone made you feel really smart by explaining something you didn’t understand in terms that made sense. Is that someone you would like to do business with? Then think of the “Customer Support” person that made you feel like an idiot as they “explained” what your problem was (not their problem, your problem). Chances are, you are no longer doing business with that company or they’ve got you no matter what – they’re a monopoly, utility company, or you’re related.

So What Can You Do?

  • Start by understanding your customers. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to tailor your message to meet their needs.
  • Don’t just assume that all of your customers understand what you take for granted. For example – there are still many people who don’t know what a blog is. So before you can sell them on the benefits of blogging, you have to help them to understand what a blog is.
  • Explain your business in 10 words or less, then ask someone who doesn’t know your business to listen to the 10 word summary and explain back to you in more detail what it is they think you do.
  • Go through some of your marketing and support copy and cross out any words that seem “buzzwordy” or “jargony.” If you end up with a mostly marked up document, its time to re-think how you communicate.
  • Ask your kids to tell you what they think you do for a living. Then ask your Mom or Grandma. “Computer Guy” or “Business Woman” are not very descriptive. See if you can explain it to them so that they get it.
  • And finally, ask your customers to tell you what you do – in their own words. You may be amazed at what they say.

Communication is crucial to the success of a home-based business. Being able to clearly explain what you do will ensure that your customers can also explain it. Make it easy for your customers to refer business to you by talking like a human, not like some corporate drone. You can’t get much word-of-mouth business if the words coming out of your mouth make no sense.

About today’s cartoon – The cartoon illustrating today’s post is part of Chewing Pencils Group Drawing Project. In a wonderful instance of kismet, I got the idea for the cartoon as I was thinking of an illustration for this post. I think it captures today’s theme well, while fitting nicely into the topic of the Group Drawing Project – a Christmas themed blog cartoon.

The Power of the Niche

tip-guyA common theme you’ll hear regarding home-business success is the niche. And whether you pronounce it neesh or nich, it can be one of the most powerful words in the lexicon of the home-based business. From targeting your message, to clarifying who your customers are, defining your niche is essential to many aspects of a successful home-based venture. I hear the common arguments all the time with folks I work with – “I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself,” “my product really works well in several target markets,” “my niche is everyone with a [fill in the blank].” But by not defining a niche you can really hamstring your business – particularly when it comes to marketing.

Wendy Maynard, the Marketing Maven, has an excellent post from yesterday that really captures this idea well:

Positioning yourself in a niche is powerful.

It is a strategic process to match your expertise and passions with the people you are targeting. And it sets you apart. You are competing with a lot of noise in the marketplace to get your potential customers’ attention – and their business. If you can stand out with a unique benefit (your niche specialization), you are a lot more likely to get noticed because you are unique from your competition.

The real power comes from truly understanding your customers, as well as what you bring to the marketplace. What makes your business special, and a magnet for success, is your unique mix of talents and how you view the world. In order to truly capitalize on those gifts, you have to zero-in on those that can best benefit from what you’re offering – and provide them with the best possible product, service, or experience that you can.

The Most Important Item on a Top 5 List – #6 – Follow Up

valuable-infoPhil Gerbyshak over at Make It Great! has a terrific post on customer service today. One of the key items on his list – item 6, Follow Up – is in my opinion one of the most important. And as I noted in the comments, is the one most often overlooked. I also think it’s fitting that its number six on a “top 5″ list ;) .

The exclamation point of any contact is a call back after the sale or service is done, and find out if your customer got what they needed or if the item is working the way they expected it to, or if perhaps there is more that needs to be done. This ensures customers are delighted, and if they’re not, it gives you a chance to make it up to them, right then and there. You do want delighted customers, don’t you?

As a home-based business owner, it’s important to spend as much time keeping current clients as it is getting new ones. A simple follow-up phone call, or better yet, a hand written note, is an incredibly effective way to show your customers how important they really are. They become repeat customers and evangelists for your business. I’m guessing if you are doing what you love, from home no less, that you are pretty enthusiastic about your company. Carry that enthusiasm through after the sale to genuinely show that you value your customers. If you’re providing a great service, and something of value, it’s also a good way to hear some nice words. But even in the (hopefully) rare situation where you have an unhappy customer, it’s a way to make things right. It’s often said that a happy customer will tell a friend and an unhappy one will tell 10 (or more these days).

A perfect example is a home-based hypnotherapist I recently worked with. If she does her job well, she won’t have any repeat business (unless they have multiple issues they want to work on). In a sense, she provides a service to lose customers. Her value is making sure her customers won’t have to come back. But what she gains is an army of evangelists, promoting her great service.

So think of ways you can follow-up, and provide some additional value. Treat your customers as your most valuable asset – because that’s exactly what they are.

Increase Your Home Business Marketing Effectiveness with Personafiling

in-sightsWho are your customers? No, really. Take a minute and clearly picture your customers. If you have folks beating down your door, this should be easy. If you’re just starting out, it should be just as easy – if you’re targeting right.

I love running this exercise with folks who ask about how to market their home-based business. They talk about their marketing challenges, so I ask “who are your customers?” Usually those that are struggling get a kind of glazed over, been watching too much reality-TV look. As they scramble to come up with a good answer, I can almost always guess their response. It usually starts with “Well, everyone with…,” which is why they’re struggling. Everyone with a pulse (or without a pulse depending on your industry) is NOT a good answer, and will make the marketing process much more difficult.

Enter Personafiling

For a home-based business, one of the most important exercises you can do is to clearly define who your customers are. Even if you have a huge niche, the better you are at identifying your target market, the better chances you have of getting customers.

For a lot of home-based business owners just starting out, it can be difficult to get a clear idea of who it is you’re looking to help. Who needs you? Who needs what you’re offering? Who can you provide the most value to?

One of the most helpful tools I’ve found is something I call personafiling. It involves creating detailed personas of who you think:

  • Would gain the most from what you’re offering.
  • Has a specific need for your products or services.
  • Possesses the attributes of your ideal customer.
  • Can afford you (something a lot of folks tend to miss).

Now, marketers have been doing this in some fashion (like marketing segmentation) for a while. It’s also been done for years in the usability and design fields. The idea here is to create a persona and then flesh out a profile of the persona, to act as a template for your target customer. The difference from more traditional profiling is it:

  • Forces you to really think about who your potential customer is.
  • It puts an “individual” face on the amorphous “customer.”
  • It allows you to identify with your intended audience.
  • It’s a heck of a lot more fun than filling out some market profile form.

Personafiling How-To

There are several ways to create your personas. The simplest and most direct is to sit down with a pad of paper and just begin brainstorming or mind-mapping your personas. Think about the different aspects of your customers’ lives. Where do they work, shop, eat, live? Who do they interact with, play with, go out with? Are they married, have kids, pets, livestock? The more detailed you can get the better.

If you want more options, you might try creating personas as you would characters in a story or play. Those working in creative businesses have enjoyed using tools like Character Pro to really round out their personas. That’s probably more than most will need, but it does make things interesting.

No matter how you do it, the idea is to develop several detailed personas of who you will be working for. Those people who need what you have, and are willing to pay you for it, because it’s valuable to them, and you do it well.

Using Your Personafiles as a Gauge

When I began this site, I spent some time creating personas for who I thought my readers would be. They included dads and moms who wanted to work from home, and those who were doing it, but were looking for some help and advice. As I began to get email and feedback from readers, I took the stories people were sending, and compared them to the personas I had created prior to launch. What was interesting was how close some of the real-world stories matched those of the personas I had created. By using them as a gauge, I was able to determine how well I was servicing my intended audience.

The key to successfully marketing a home-based business is knowing who you’re marketing to. A shotgun, all or nothing approach can be very hard to make work. By clearly understanding who it is that would best benefit from what you have to offer, you can pinpoint the best way to get your message out. Helping you to find your ideal customers, who may be out there looking for you.

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