How to Actually Launch Your Business This Week (Part 2)

Open-for-BusinessIn last week’s post, we talked about launching your business quickly by finding a service-based offering that fulfills the same need as the product you want to develop. This week, we’re going to talk about how to actually launch your service-based business quickly and awesomely (in a way that doesn’t lead to more overwhelm, frustration, information overload, and – you know – bad stuff in general.)

Are you ready to get clients or customers for your service-based business this week? There are a few quick things you need to do…

1. Get clear on your outcome. What is it that you do for people? What problem does it solve? Don’t focus on the solution (your service), focus on the problem (why someone would buy your service.) Get completely clear on the problem you solve, the emotions around it, the people who have it, and the people you want to help. Be passionate about solving this problem!

2. Create an initial offering that knocks their socks off. You know that one little gem you have – the one thing you do for paying clients that makes people say “wow”, burst into tears of joy, or just generally freak out in the presence of your awesomeness? Find a way to do that – for free. Yep, give away your biggest and most powerful tool. This won’t solve their whole problem (it never does), but what you share will likely show your ideal clients that a) their problem can be solved and b) you can help them do it.

3. Figure out where the people you want to help are looking for an answer right freakin’ now! I don’t mean where they hang out, I mean when someone is in a panic about solving the problem you solve, where do they go? What do they do? If someone is mid-breakdown because they want this problem solved really badly, where do they turn? This isn’t as hard as you think. If you’re really hungry, you go to the restaurant instead of the grocery store. If you’re really fed up with your dog making a mess on the carpet, you go to the pet store for a solution to make him stay away. Where are your rabid, hungry buyers already looking for a solution?

4. Go there. Physically, virtually, whatever suits your fancy – it doesn’t matter. You get out of this what you put into it. If someone is in buying mode, looking to solve a problem, you want to be where they are. Professional service people like VAs, writers, etc. this is your time to start checking Craigslist, Elance and oDesk! I have even found coaching clients on oDesk. I have friends and family who found six-figure writing contracts on Craigslist. Not kidding. Go where the buyers are already looking for you.

5. Master the sales conversation. This part is a bit big for a blog post, but here is the general gist of it: Ask them what they really want. Get them to share it all with you – every detail, every thought, every emotion. Make them feel really good thinking about what they want. Ask what is stopping them from having it. Ask what it is costing them not to have it. Have them describe what it would do for them if they could overcome those challenges and get what they want. Ask how committed they are to getting it on a scale of 1-10.

Then say, “You know – I’ve helped a lot of people just like you get those kinds of results. I actually have a program designed for people in your situation, with your challenges and your goals. Would you like to hear about it?” Lay it all out – the benefits of what you do, asking if they think it would be helpful along the way. When they ask about the cost, offer a money-back guarantee first, then state your price. If they object, call them on it – they told you it was important, but they’re not willing to invest their time/money/whatever. Is it really that important?

6. Repeat #4 as often as necessary. Use the 5 circles of marketing to find 5 different ways to reach your target audience for maximum results. Guest blog posts, forums, groups, networking meetings, events, whatever you can do to get in front of buyers – do it.

7. Ask for help and feedback. This is not the time to be the standoff-ish expert, ask for feedback and genuinely care about what people tell you! Ask your friends, family, colleagues, whoever you can for referrals. Get on the phone with as many people as you can to ask about their challenges and obstacles so you can shape your offering. Practice your initial offering talk, session, what have you on anyone who will listen. Post on your groups and forums looking for feedback on your content. Ask for help! Be humble. This is you, standing in your commitment to make your business work. If you don’t share with those who love and support you now, when will you?

This will launch your business quickly. Period.

Planning comes later. Business cards might be helpful, but don’t agonize over them. Even your website can come later if it stops you – you can launch and generate revenue, get clients, this *week* if you really implement this process. Don’t wait – start something!

Want to use this article on your site? Go ahead! Just include this byline at the end:

Cheryl Woodhouse is the Intuitive Marketing Mentor, helping entrepreneurs build wildly successful businesses with less frustration, overwhelm, and stress. Using her groundbreaking business modelling methods, she simplifies marketing, growth, and success into systems that any entrepreneur can implement while playing to the strengths of every individual. You can gain access to these innovative strategies for free by visiting her blog at CherylWoodhouse.com

Still struggling to find your "niche"?

findyourniche2

“Do what you love and the money will follow” – we’ve all heard that, right? Did you know that if you heed that advice, you are actually setting yourself up for struggle (or worse, failure?)

I’ve seen it before and I’ll see it again – people focus on what they want to DO. Then they start doing it. They get excited! They’re happy! They’re in the honeymoon period with their business, and nothing could bring them down – people are buying!

Then reality starts to catch up with them. 1AM, 2AM, 4AM rolls by and they’re still working. Up at 6AM for the next task. Weight lost, weight gained. Customers frustrated that things aren’t happening as quickly as they’d like. Income has reached its peak based on the current effort, so the entrepreneur hires staff.

A relief. They let go. They work more regular hours, but take on more – because after all, they love what they do!

Then the employee trips up…

Now the entrepreneur feels like they can’t sleep if they have to complete everything on their plate. Stress takes its toll. That thing they loved isn’t a passion anymore, its a grueling job for less than they would earn in the 9-5 world. They contemplate giving up. They are fearful. They feel numb, lost, and confused.

This is the scenario often created by “do what you love, and the money will follow.” It is not an exaggeration – it is very real.

What is the alternative? How can you avoid this fate?

STOP thinking about SELLING what you want to DO.

A successful business can incorporate the things you love to do. That is never the issue. But by focusing on what you want to do, you’re putting yourself at the center of your business. Without your time, effort, and energy (yes, even with info products – somebody has to create them, right?!) the business stops. Income stops. Clients leave. The business fails.

Instead, you need to figure out what you want to create – for OTHERS. For your customers.

Do you want to help people lose weight? Do you want to give people more time with their children? Do you want to help people travel, overcome emotional trauma, or get more organized?

You need to discover the outcome you want your clients to have!

THEN your business becomes a machine to produce that outcome, not you.

THEN you can choose any outcome you want, and hire or partner with the expertise to make it work – you’re not limited by your own knowledge, skills, or confidence issues.

THEN you can build the things you want to do with your life into your business model.

THEN you can successfully scale a business that works, even when you’re not there.

THEN you avoid falling in love with your own products, and your own way of doing things.

THEN you are free to create whatever your clients request, with no emotional attachment to the “how” – because this is *their* outcome, and *they* are designing it.

THEN – and only then – does your business become a vehicle to fulfill the vision you see for the world, bringing you and your clients more success than “the old way” ever could.

Discovering what you want to create for others is the first key to a happy, healthy, thriving business.

But what if you’re still stuck? How will you know when you’ve found your purpose?! Isn’t this just as confusing as figuring out what I want to do?!?!?

Relax – there is a tool for that!

This simple test will help you determine if your purpose is spot on, close to the mark, or way off – so you can finally figure it out!

The Curse Test

Yes, this is unconventional – but it WORKS. What have you got to lose by giving it a try? Set aside 5 minutes alone, and follow these steps…

1. Think of your first-choice niche. You know the one – you’re back and forth about whether or not it is right for you, right? Not being 100% sure of this niche is the reason you’ve even looked at others. Get it into your head.

2. Start talking about the impact your business will have on people in this niche. “They’ll lose weight! They’ll be more confident and happy! They’ll be awesome superheroes in the world of business!” Whatever it is.

3. Are you starting to get excited? Good! Top 5. No excitement? Go to step 6.

4. Keep talking. Keep getting excited. Now, try to add in a few curse words. “They’ll be so damn happy!” or “This shit is for real!”

5. Assess yourself. Did it feel natural? Did you struggle to curse while talking about this result?  Did it sound fake or phony or forced? Or did it get you even more pumped, ready to yell “HELL YES!!!”?

If this niche gave you that “HELL YES!!!!” moment, your work is done. That is your niche. You’re passionate enough about creating that result that you’ll be able to push through and succeed. And since people are willing to pay for results, you only need to do minor research on how this will be profitable – no intensive “will people even buy this?” research.

Now your task is to determine how to best deliver that outcome with your business (NOT YOU!) by asking potential customers, or putting something out there and seeing how people respond.

6. If that niche *didn’t* give you that HELL YES moment, that is not the niche for you. Sure, it may be profitable, but when push comes to shove… I’d bet money you wouldn’t stay up until 3AM working away on your business without slipping into a serious scarcity mindset (aka OMG how am I going to pay my billlssssss?!?!?!)

Start over again at step 1, but this time, focus on your next choice. Repeat this process until you get your HELL YES!! moment.

Then you have your niche!

One last piece of wisdom. You’ve probably been struggling with your niche for a long time, and wondering WHY on Earth is it so important? And what is this “purpose” stuff people keep throwing out there with “niche” stuff, to confuse you even more?

I’ll tell you why it is vitally important. Because through this process, you’re not choosing a “target market” – you’re choosing a specific outcome for a specific group of the population, and one that you’re passionate about creating.

By determining what you want your business to create for others, you’ll know exactly where to find the people who need it. You’ll know the language to use to help them discover your solution. You’ll know – almost instinctively – that your role is to create what they ask for, to help them achieve this outcome through your business, and to foster a community of people sharing their success. You’ll know which marketing tactics will work, and which won’t – because you know how your target market thinks and what they do.

You’ll be able to make snap decisions on marketing, business growth, product creation, and more – because you’ll know your “tribe” like a best friend.

Now that sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it?

Shine bright, my troublemakers!

– Cheryl

Branding 101

I get a lot of questions from companies about branding – specifically, what is “branding”, and how do you do it?

As with many a great blog post, I’m going to start with the dictionary definition:

Brand name: noun, a word, name, symbol, etc., especially one legally registered as a trademark, used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify its products distinctively from others of the same type and usually prominently displayed on its goods, in advertising, etc.

Following the dictionary definition, then, your brand is simply your logo. Sounds simple enough, right?

But true branding goes so much farther than logos and labels.

In today’s world, companies are so much more than just faceless entities. We are now socially connected and accessible beyond what our predecessors ever could have imagined. Your company and its products are so much more than a producer and a bottle, you are a collection of traits that consumers will either relate to – or not.

Your brand is your opportunity to identify and highlight those traits in a way that allows consumers to recognize you, relate to you, and share you with those in their circle of influence.

So how do you build an effective brand?

Don’t start with your logos and labels, start with your company’s identity. Think of what makes your company unique, what your story is, where you are coming from and what your goals are. You want to, essentially, develop a personality for your company as if it were a character in a book.

You need a back story, unique mannerisms and traits, a “role” for your company (protagonist? antagonist?), and a goal for your brand. You need to know what your “character” contributes to the story (in other words, what are the benefits of your product to consumers?)

Imagine if your company were a person. How would they react when faced with certain situations? What type of relationships would they build? What would they get excited about?

This is your brand.

Still thinking of your company as a person, imagine now how this person would look – think less in terms of actual clothing items, and more of style and color. Would your company wear dark-grey pinstripe suits all day? Or would a flowing, floral summer dress be more appropriate?

Use these visuals to help you design the look, logo, color scheme, and other important visual elements of your brand.

It can help to pull together a “vision board” of ideas to bring to your graphic designer. Find images in magazines and online that you believe your company would wear or have if it were a person. You will likely find a small number of colors stand out, and these can be used to form your logo and the general color scheme of all your visual elements!

This is how people will remember your brand.

Of course, the visual elements will simply act as a visual reminder. They will help people to remember the finer details of your company, who you are, where you’re coming from, and what you offer.

It is somewhat like tying a string around the finger of every one of your customers. Every time they see the string (your logo, colors, and visual elements) they will be reminded of the warm, fuzzy feeling they got from you!

Those of course are just the basics. There is much more involved in creating a brand than these simple steps, but hopefully this post gave you some ideas that you can use to help create (or refine, or recreate) your company’s own, unique brand!

If you need assistance with creating or implementing your branding campaign, I can help. Visit my coaching and consulting pages to discover how I can help your company one-on-one.

How to Market a Cloth Diaper Business

Or “How to Sell Lots and Lots of Diapers!”

In my digital travels, I’ve come into contact with many, many moms running cloth diaper businesses. Whether you sew your own, retail, or wholesale, a cloth diaper business faces a multitude of unique challenges. If you yourself are in the cloth diaper business (or any business for that matter!), read on to discover how to market a cloth diaper business!

Before you put up your website, decide on a name, decide what diapers to carry and what color scheme to use etc. you need to stop, sit down, and think about someone else : customers. Specifically, your customers.

Diaper businesses have one major obstacle that I see almost daily – they all blend in. It’s hard to stand out when you offer the same product as a million other websites, but diaper companies often make it harder on themselves by neglecting their USP – unique selling proposition.

It seems that most diaper companies are split between marketing as “eco friendly” and “budget friendly” – and some try to ride the fence and be both.

Even those who try and niche smaller than that are too afraid of niching down to actually say so. Recently, I spoke with a cloth diaper store owner who prefers to ship her diapers locally only. What do you see when landing on her website? National shipping in Canada for a set price.

Does “National Flat Rate Shipping” say “I prefer to ship locally”? No – it says exactly the opposite!

My advice to this cloth diaper business would be to scrap the national flat-rate shipping, remove all provincial, national, and international information from her site, and plaster information about diaper and crunch resources in her local area everywhere.

She started the business because there was no one local selling cloth diapers – and if you stumbled on her website, you would think there still wasn’t anyone selling cloth diapers in her local area.

This mompreneur has lost her USP in her struggle to conform to what a “cloth diaper business should look like”.

What is your USP?

Do you really like all-in-one diapers? Are you passionate about them? Sell ONLY all in ones. Become the source for all-in-ones, and any and all information about them. Plaster it all over your website and every one of your marketing materials that you ONLY sell all-in-one diapers. << FYI, anybody ambitious should take on this idea. This is probably a six figure business idea.

Do you like selling locally? Plaster it all over your website!!

Prefer selling only girly diapers? Boy diapers? Gender neutral? Specialize, and tell everyone!

The cloth diaper industry has gotten large enough that selling cloth diapers isn’t enough of a specialty anymore. If you want to make any real money as a diaper business, you have to find a specialty.

Figure out what made you switch to cloth to begin with – what products made cloth easy for you? What products made you smile? What about cloth diapering did you love? Make that your business and you can’t fail!

Cloth diaper businesses, weigh in! What makes a difference in your marketing? Could you use some direction with your business? Post your URL in the comments!

Branding Makes a Difference

As moms, we’re all familiar with formula company samples. Whether you formula feed or breastfeed, we all received them – those little promotional packages that encourage us to choose their brand. I’d like to talk a bit today about how branding makes these companies so successful.

You see, formula is a highly regulated industry. The FDA requires all manufacturers to meet minimum nutritional requirements to be legally allowed to sell the product – much like pharmaceuticals are required to pass certification before entering the market place.

Much like pharmaceuticals, however, the minimums probably aren’t enough to prevent negative side effects, and therefore formula manufacturers typically exceed these minimums in almost every area.

But here is the kicker – store brand formulas and brand name formulas often contain the exact same levels of nutrition, from almost identical ingredients.

They’re essentially the same.

Just take a look at this comparison of one popular store brand, Parent’s Choice, vs. a popular Name Brand – Enfamil.

They’re almost identical, and yet when you look at the cost comparison, the Parents’ Choice formula is almost $15 per can less than the Enfamil.

Why? Branding, that’s why.

Brand name formulas have developed a brand that people trust. People believe them when they say they are the closest of all formulas to breast milk, even though all other formula companies say the exact same thing. Enfamil even recently lost a major lawsuit by store-brand manufacturers for their “best formula” claims – and paid millions in damages. The courts found that in reality, all formulas are essentially the same.

How do they achieve this brand?

Well, they start by placing their products everywhere – in television ads, in the mail, in magazines, in the hospital… Everywhere a new mother might be, brand name formula attempts to get a sample in her hands.

They talk about the health benefits of their formula – DHA, AHA, prebiotics and probiotics – compounds all found in breastmilk, they say.

Compounds all found in store brand formulas, too.

They use words like “Premium” for their normal variety, and then special labels for any type of formula that serves a specific allergy or dietary need.

With every contact, brand name formulas attempt to get a sample to a potential customer, while trying to convince them that the formula company is on a mission to give their child the best possible nutrition, and do what is best for their child.

In other words, buying this formula is what is best for the child.

Anyone reading this post has the ability to effect the choices of their customers in the same way.

Make potential customers believe you have a mission. To make the best formula, to sew the best diapers, to change the world with food, whatever it might be – share your mission.

Get a sample into their hands, if you can – a picture, some information… Something that shows them not only are you the best option on the market, you support the same values as they do – whether that is eco-friendly, organic, socially responsible, child friendly, or whatever your values might be.

If you can do that, you can get people to purchase almost anything you put out there that serves their needs. You could even price it at more than twice what your competition charges for an almost identical product or service (although I’m sure that most of you here are reading this to use your branding skills for good, rather than evil… *wink*)

The bottom line is, Enfamil Premium LIPIL and Parents’ Choice Premium are nearly identical, from a nutritional standpoint. From a branding standpoint, they are drastically different – and as a result, they price themselves very differently.

The only real difference is the brand. How can you apply that to your business?

“I wrote this informative post while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mommy Brain Reports on behalf of Parent’s Choice Infant Formula. I did receive compensation for my time and efforts in writing this post. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own.”

What is a brand?

So we’ve talked a lot over the last little while about branding and how to do it… But what is it? What does it mean to your business? Is it really something you can do? Is it something you should do?

Well let’s start with a basic definition of a brand. Not the “corporate” definition – one that actually applies to real businesses like yours :

A brand is the identity of your business – it is the way that others see you in the world.

It is your mission, your values, your products and services, your employees, your website, your logo – everything that touches a customer about or in relation to your business.

So branding, therefore, is :

Making an impact on the way others see you in the world.

It is causing people to perceive your business the way you would like to be perceived.

Let’s take an example… Nike. Everybody knows Nike and their infamous “swoosh”, with or without their well known “Just do it” tagline.

But what does that swoosh do? Is it the swoosh itself that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Does that little mark, on its own, make you buy – and pay a premium for – their products? No!

It is the identity that the swoosh represents that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. The swoosh is just a mental trigger to help you remember their brand – it isn’t their brand by itself.

What does that mean for your business?

Well it means you can stop focusing so much on developing the next swoosh, the next “just do it”, “I’m lovin’ it”, or “Have it your way” – and start developing your real brand.

Figure out who your business really is – why you’re in business, what your products and services really do for people – and make that your brand. Then start branding – use that “brand” to guide your marketing and advertising decisions, help you with customer service problems, develop new products, and more.

And if you like, put your logo out there – but always remember, your logo is only a trigger. It should remind people of who you are – but it doesn’t define you.

Now, I want you to do something. Post your brand in the comments.

Who are you? What problem does your product solve? How do you want to leave people feeling after interacting with or buying from you?

You can leave the comment anonymously if you like, no one is here to judge. This isn’t a contest. It is only an exercise to get you to put your brand into words.

I help moms spend more time with their families and build successful businesses by teaching them to make effective marketing decisions and brand their companies. That is my brand. I live it, eat it, breathe it, sleep with it, bathe in it, and I’d probably get funky with it if I could. I love it.

Tell me, readers, guests, clients, and random visitors – what is your brand?

Why Everything You've Ever Been Told About Niche Marketing is a Complete Lie…

… and what you should do about it.

When talking with soon-to-be, new, or even seasoned business owners about marketing and branding, the word “niche” invariably comes up in our conversations. After all, most popular literature on business today will tell you to niche yourself down – target a smaller segment of the market.

“Niching in the key to success!” they say…

“Anyone can be successful if they find their niche!”

I call shennanigans.

Just like the “find your passion” mantra, those that tell you to “find your niche” are really only telling half the story.

The problem isn’t niching itself. In fact, everyone reading this should know what niche segment of their market they are working with. The problem comes when you try to market only to that niche – and start focusing on the niche part.

What the heck is she talking about?

Okay, lets get a real, workable example here. Let’s say that you wanted to open up a pet store. On the wise advice of someone you consult (or by your own desire and passion) you decide that your pet store will only sell holistic, organic, all natural pet food. That is your nicheorganic, holistic, all natural pet food.

Here is where people make the mistake. If you’re a pet store in the holistic, all natural, organic niche, where would you market? Well, one would assume that you would be marketing anywhere that all natural, holistic, organic shopping people go, right?

Well, no. I mean you could – and people would read your ad, thinking…

– “next time I need some pet food, I might go check them out…”
– “if I had a dog, that’d be the place I would go…”
– “I’m happy with what my pet is eating now…”

You might get some customers from it, but likely… Not. At least, not right now – and maybe not even in the future.

Okay, so we know what NOT to do…

But what can someone like you do when you figure out your niche? Well, lets pretend you’re the above pet store owner. Where do you advertise?

The same place every other pet store does.

What? That’s the complete opposite of everything I’ve ever been told!

Well guess what? Everything you’ve ever been told probably isn’t working, either! Yay!

Sure, the big chain pet stores have resources that you don’t. But don’t go looking for holistic, organic, all natural people – look for PET OWNERS.

See, most people don’t recognize a need for your specialized expertise – and they rarely even realize you exist.

Someone looking for all natural, holistic, organic pet food is probably just going to look for a pet store that carries it, right?

So if they go looking for a pet store that carries holistic, organic, all natural pet food – and see that you specialize in what they’re looking for – who are they going to choose? You, or the other big box guy that *might* have what they’re looking for? YOU!

This works in other niches, too.

Selling soy candles? Market yourself alongside other candles as a “natural, safe, eco-friendly alternative”. Those who value natural, safe, and eco-friendly products will choose you over other candles – even if they weren’t looking for that type of candle.

Fair trade coffee? Market with regular coffee, using fair trade as your “unique selling proposition” or USP.

Life coaching for women? Market with regular life coaches.

Counseling for couples? Market with regular counselors.

Free range beef? Other beef.

Shoes for 7-toed above average foot sizes? Other shoes.

This literally works for every niche, every market, and every product.

If you have a niche, find out where people are looking for products like yours, and tell them about your specialty!

What do you think? Are you ready to scrap the “niche” part of niche marketing?

7 Simple Steps to Brand Your Business

In a post later this week, I’ll be covering why you should brand your business and what a brand is. Before we get to those topics, I wanted to give you some actual usable steps you could put into action today! So here you have 9 steps to branding your business:

  1. Figure out who you are. As a business, as a business owner, and as a person. Figure out what your company values are, what your goals are, what your core products and services are. Figure out the kind of impact you want your business to have on the world. What is your big “why”? Why are you in this business? Why should people buy from you? Why do you want people to buy from you?
  2. Figure out who your customers are. School teachers and rock stars have very different visual appeal for one reason – they have different target markets. School teachers have to appeal to parents (note, not children!) and rock stars have to appeal to hardcore rock fans. Who will be buying from you? Who has the money? Who has the problem that your product solves? Who has the same values as your company? In a perfect world, who would be your customer? Figure that out, and you’ll know who your marketing has to appeal to.
  3. Finish your logo. Note that we didn’t say *design* your logo, we said finish it. Get it done – get it out there. As long as it would be recognized somewhere as your logo, and it aligns with your company values and message, it’s done. Stop agonizing over it already!
  4. Finish your website and business cards. Today. Yesterday. Last week for all we care – get them *done*. A lot of people will spend time perfecting their website, business cards, and other marketing materials because they believe they have to look perfect. That couldn’t be further from the truth! The most important thing about your marketing materials is their visibility – and they’re hardly visible if they’re still under construction! Finish it, be happy with the way it looks, make sure it lines up with what your customers would expect, and get it out there!
  5. Create a consistent appearance. Choose the logo, colors, and appearance that will convey your message and appeal to your target market. Then, make it consistent – use it everywhere. Branding is 5% logos and colors, and 95% conversation. Make the conversation looks consistent so that people can recognize it!
  6. Take control. Figure out exactly where your ideal customers are going to be talking about you. Online in forums and message boards, through social media, magazines, newspapers, and locally. Determine where your ideal customers are going to be, and get your message out there. It doesn’t matter if your customers are already talking about you, what matters is that you get the message that you want people to see out through those mediums.
  7. Then give up control. Realize that your customers are ultimately responsible for your brand, and what it looks like. You can guide the message, get your logo and “visual” materials out there in the world, and facilitate a conversation – but you have to leave the actual conversing up to your customers. You can talk to them, but the most important branding conversations are the ones they have with each other.

What do you think, moms? How do you brand your small business?