In 14 years of self-employment, I’ve learned a number of things. Here’s a lesson that’s crucial – serving the right market is essential to any lasting success.
Of course, “serving the right market” means serving people who are a match for you and your unique business. If you’re a solo professional like me, then you are your business. That makes finding the right match all the more personal and important.
So, who do I most want to serve, and how will I help them? That was the first question I asked before launching my business as a mentor to solo professionals.
To begin answering that question I created a brief market-defining story. This story was a basic sketch of the type of person I’d be serving, their situation, and the benefits they’d experience as we started working together.
Here’s what I wrote:
“Kris has been working as a self-employed consultant since 2011. Although her income meets the immediate needs of her family, her business is a lot less profitable and fulfilling than she hoped it would be when she started working for herself.
Kris is determined to do better. She believes that improving her sales strategy might solve her problem – but she doesn’t have a background in sales or a firm grasp of what steps to take.
In her search for better sales ideas, Kris downloads my free LinkedIn guide. Shortly afterward, she reaches out to me to get some personalized sales and business guidance. By the end of our first conversation, Kris starts to see a clear path to a more profitable and fulfilling business life. She feels more energized and optimistic than she has in years.”
This story helped me to create a useful context for myself. My sales and marketing efforts were now focused on “Kris” and her situation – not on a textbook concept of a target market. Based on that distinction, I was able to connect with the right prospective clients in a more personal and direct way. That’s a competitive advantage that doesn’t require a big marketing budget.
Having a market-defining story in mind also makes a big difference as I plan for the upcoming year. Why? Top business planning expert, Tim Berry, sums it up better than I can in his outstanding book, The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan. He writes: “Telling your market story isn’t about doing formal market research, or gathering the supporting information you’ll need to include in a plan for investors, or professors, or in some cases for the bank, your boss, partners, or any other third-party plan judge or reader. No. This is about knowing your market for yourself, so that you understand the decisions you make, understand the strategy, understand the heart of your plan.”
As you plan and prepare for success in the new year, does this post trigger some thoughts about your own market-defining story? I hope so. Do you have a few questions? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!