Once we realize the focus of our business is not about us, it opens up a gaping hole in our messaging.
So who is it all about then?
We know the correct answer is "The Customer."
But who is your customer?
Is it just anyone with money on their credit card and a pulse? Are the credentials for doing business with you that they can fog a mirror on a cold day? If that's the case, you may be in trouble of being too vague in how you market your business.
You may be at risk of what Zig Ziglar used to call a "Wandering Generality."
This entrepreneur goes from one idea to the next with no focus, no impact, and no serious income.
Who is your target?
There are a lot of questions that we kind of just gloss over when we're creating marketing collateral for people and when we're working through customer-centric marketing.
- What are they like?
- And what makes them tick?
- And where are they located?
- Are they geographically limited? Can you reach anyone across the entire world?
- Could you handle a client in New Zealand, Sweden, or anywhere in North America?
- What's their demographic, what's driving them psychologically?
It's so important to get this right. It's that essential first step to make sure you're headed in the right direction.
And this is what I realized around year two, that without clarity on who our ideal customer is, a StoryBrand message will still be confusing. You spend all that time, money and energy, working through your marketing stuff, messaging website, lead generator, and email campaign. And you only realize that the very first step was wrong. And then you have to do it all over again. What a tragic moment to recognize that even though you are a StoryBrand fan and you're excited about it, you paid all the money; and you still came out of it with a confusing message. You started with a confusing message, but without a clear idea of your hero, you're still at risk of having a confusing message.
Get the Who right, and then the rest of it will flow out of that. The journey of appropriately applying the StoryBrand framework to your business begins with committing to serving a Who. Why not try to reach everyone? Why do we have to specify? Why do we struggle with the commitment to a who? There are many reasons. Let's just go through a few of them. For many of us, commitment is scary. You think, "Why would I commit to just one person? Am I saying no to everyone else?"
And anybody married will know that it's not very empowering to walk into a room of people and stare around and say, "No, I can't be with them, no, no, no, no, no." Instead, you look at your spouse or partner, and you say, "yes, I'm committing to them." Like this is exciting to me. And as a result, the relationship has a lot more opportunity to grow than just trying to have a shallow relationship with everybody. That was worth the price of the course right there. I'm not sure who that's for, but there is lifelong value in commitment.
Commitment is a four-letter word for some.
Like you could say, I could be with any person in this room; why would I choose one? You realize that in a committed, lifelong relationship, you can get to know somebody so much better. And the commitment is worth it. Sure, commitment can feel scary, but it shouldn't be because when you commit to a Who, you're developing a relationship with them. You're not saying no to business. You're saying yes to a group of people that you're going to devote yourself to helping. So in the early days, I don't think you should be saying no to many businesses, especially when you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.
The big picture is that it's far more rewarding if you can commit to a who. In the early stage, anyone who's an entrepreneur and has started a business knows you'll make money from anybody, but that's not the long-term play. Instead, the long-term play is to serve a niche, to be devoted to helping them, committed to solving problems for them, delivering excellent outcomes for them, and then letting them reward you with money, fulfillment, and purpose in your work.
Another reason we struggle to commit to a niche is because we don't know our customers well enough - that's a huge thing when we haven't taken time to understand our people. Software people struggle with this a lot. There, they spend their days engineering a product. They're not listening to what the public is saying or what the market is saying because they're just so busy with their head down developing software or some sort of product.
As a result, you end up being a mile wide and an inch deep.
As my mentor once told me,
"Jon, if you try to be everything to everyone, you're going to mean very little to a whole lot of people."
So I would instead do the opposite. I'd rather mean a lot to a few people and just let the rest of the people have their own opinions as it may be.
Another reason we don't commit is that it's easier to be a generalist. What's harder: Taking the time to listen to people or just doing what I think they want. As a married man, I have a lot easier time talking than I do listening. I would get so much further if I could just learn to listen. But I'm better at talking. Listening is hard. But with listening, you get understanding. Shotguns are easier than sniper rifles. So it's a lot easier just to shoot at a target and just have the bullets just spraying everywhere and see what you hit rather than have to painstakingly aim a sniper rifle. And it takes effort and a little more thinking than just shooting a shotgun.
I understand if you're thinking, "I don't want to say no to people." On the other hand, I'm not sure about this idea of niche niching down or niching down. Some of the reasons are listed here, but maybe not -it is scary, but it is far more rewarding. And the reason why I know that is because I've spent the last two years studying this and I have enjoyed it.
I love this idea of businesses devoting themselves to the service of a who and then your Whos rewarding you back.
Your business exists for the service of others and for your satisfaction.
You can find meaning and purpose by showing up at work as you put energy into helping a specific group of people who are struggling with a problem. Without any solution, they'll never get better. They're only going to be more miserable. That's where you come into their lives.
You show up.
You're there to do something to make them less sad and more fulfilled and happy. Doing that will bring you joy. It sounds like work but on the other end of it is joy. That's how I've found a renewed joy in business. In this broken world, people are all facing something, and businesses show up to help.
I love how customer-centric marketing works with this idea that everybody is a hero trying to win their story. And they're looking for us as guides to resonate with this idea that we show up every day to work as a guide to help heroes win.