Unless you have an unusually large proboscis, there are only two ways you can see the nose in front of your face. One is through close examination (usually in a mirror). The other is through information provided by others, who actually can see your nose quite plainly.

The position of your business in the marketplace on any one day is a lot like your nose – it’s difficult for you to see how it looks unless you either take pains to examine it yourself or gather information provided by others. 

On Close Examination

As a marketing consultant with 20+ years’ experience, I am usually called in when a business owner believes he or she could and should be doing better.  This is the “looking in the mirror” phase where the business owner is thinking:  I know I have a solid business, I’m working hard, and I should be making more money. In fact, I think I should be making – let me see – 20% more money! 

Or maybe they are thinking they just need to get a better type of client.  The type with – you guessed it – more money! If you think this only happens to solopreneurs, think again. It happens to anyone who relies on their ability to see their nose in a mirror (or their bottom line in a spreadsheet), without regard to other information. 

When I first opened the doors of my business, like many new consultants, I was happy to answer questions on the phone and gave away enough free consulting to run Google. Fortunately, I learned that the kind of information people need to transform their businesses has great value, and I began requiring potential clients to put some skin in the game.  If they really wanted to talk to me, I sent them a Marketing Analysis Questionnaire. Many of them were never heard from again. But if they took the time to think through the questions, that process was often an education in itself.  

Among other questions, the Marketing Analysis asked if the business utilized a lead tracking system, however simple. A business owner who later became one of my favorite clients wanted to know if that was a trick question. It wasn’t.

Looking in the mirror to assess the state of a business allows the owner to see something, but they can’t see nearly enough.  

Information Provided by Others 

You might not always like what someone tells you about how your nose looks, but the information is useful if you want to remove an unsightly bump you hadn’t noticed.   

Today, business owners have extraordinary tools to gather outside information about how well their business is positioned in the marketplace.   From Google Analytics to online surveys to free CRM tools, there is no reason for any business owner to be in the dark about how his or her business is doing. Begin by asking the people who know your business best… 

  1. Let Your Clients Tell You! 

 Talk to your clients directly or through surveys. You may already know the answers but ask the questions anyway and keep track of the answers. This information is pure gold:

  • Why did they choose to work with you?  (They knew you? Trusted you?)
  • How did they find you? (Word of mouth? Search engine?)
  • Do they remember the keywords they used to search for you?
  • Have they recommended you to others? What did they say?
  • Do they see their relationship with you as a partnership
  • If they had it to do over again, would they choose you again?
  • If you feel comfortable talking about money / prices / fees, try to find out how they feel about your fees. A new client may appreciate being asked about their budget and what they are able to pay. If it is not a good fit, that’s the time to find out.

2. But Are Your Clients the “right” Clients? 

You should have a list of your clients in a spreadsheet (or better yet, a CRM). Add another worksheet and create columns to help you assess each client in terms of their value to you.

• If you had it to do over again, would YOU choose that client again (Y/N) because they:

o Are profitable?

o Pay their bills on time?

o Are a pleasure to work with?

o Are a good fit for your product or service offering?

o Are ambassadors and bring you more business?

Sort your spreadsheet, keeping the YES clients at the top. Those are clients you want to keep and would choose again. Use them to begin developing a persona. Sort by:

Gender | Marital status | Age group | Geographic location, if relevant | Income status | Interests / hobbies if you know them | Education | Favorite sports team | And anything else you can think of to differentiate the members of your audience. 

• Identify a sample persona, such as a dog loving female, 30 or over, college graduate, with an income of $100,000 a year or more. Married or divorced, living on the West Coast.  That information, if accurate, can drive advertising, mailings, keywords, and more because you know who you’re talking to!

o The use of LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing) means that content is not the only king. Context may be equally important as Google attempts to gain insight into the context or intent behind a search query. 

Begin Targeting and Tracking 

One of the most controversial rules in football has to do with “targeting.” The term describes a play in which a defenseless opponent is hit above the shoulders.  The penalties for targeting are severe. 

Fortunately, your ability to identify and “target” the right kind of client for you does not come with a penalty. Instead, it is likely to help you gain the success you’ve been hoping for.  Once you’ve identified the client that’s right for you, you can begin tracking some of the most important information for your business:

Are new leads coming in?

 • From the web? 

• From social media? 

• From word of mouth?

• ARE YOU KEEPING TRACK?

How many of them are you converting to new clients? 

• What’s your conversion rate for the web?

• For social media?

• Are you keeping track of how many and why you succeed with some and not others?

 If you reduce all this to the most obvious level, anyone would know that you don’t run an ad for Elder Care or Depends in a teen magazine; however, that is exactly the game. Who needs the product or service? Where do you find them? Who can afford it? How can you reach them – or better still, how can they reach you?

In Marketing, there are no trick questions. And every answer matters. 

Let’s talk about mirrors – and better ways to gather information! 

Barbara