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Recently I was on an amazing 5 day Mastermind Retreat in Iceland.

One day we drove into the volcanic highlands which have the most amazing scenery as you can see from my photos below.

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As we progressed on the rough volcanic tracks our stunning vehicle suddenly had some challenges with its gearbox and we ground to a complete standstill.

With enough fuel for 9 hours of warmth in the vehicle and sufficient food for a couple of meals we were fairly relaxed about the situation.  We had a telephone signal from the the top of a nearby hill and one vehicle came by that was able to radio for assistance for us.

We waited just over 4 hours for a replacement vehicle to come out to us although I think some of us were secretly disappointed that some cute guys from the rescue service wouldn’t be coming to helicopter us out!

 

We were in an area surrounded by massive hills with stunning views from the top including snowcapped Hekla – a volcano that scientists say is poised to erupt.

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We had sun, rainbows, even snow.

Icelandic horses wandered along a ridge on one of the hills.

So many visual delights.

So how did we spend the fours hours of our unexpected time out? Since the only signal was at the top of a hill which was a steep climb and darn cold when you got there no-one sidetracked into emails or other internet activities. We just got on and masterminded. We individually planned our next steps in our businesses. We went for walks. We breathed super clean air. We marvelled at nature and the beauty around us.

We discussed the incident the next day and explored what we each had learned from it – about ourselves, about life. We all concluded it was a relaxing and beneficial experience – albeit unscheduled!

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So… why not take a few hours out in a place that’s a long way from anything and with no internet connection – by the sea, by a lake, wandering through a forest, hiking through some hills and then see how you feel physically and whether you have new perspectives on your business.

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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There are many things to bear in mind when formulating questions for your survey. These boil down to: be clear, be concise, be focused.

I have many tips for developing great questionnaires. I’ve taken some of the ones I included in my book Using Questionnaires to Understand your Target Clients (being published by Business Expert Press in New York early next year) to share with you here.

  •  each question should relate directly to your objectives in doing the survey and enable you to collect the data that you need to achieve those objectives.
  • avoid questions on things that are just ‘nice to know’
  • keep your questions as short as possible. Break long questions into smaller, more pointed questions.
  • make each question clear and concise using simple language
  • phrase each question in a way that ensures that the majority of respondents will interpret it in the same way
  • avoid jargon and unfamiliar words that you understand but which may not be familiar to your respondents. If respondents don’t understand the question they’ll either guess at an answer or abandon the survey.
  • avoid abbreviations and acronyms – if you really must use them include an explanation of what they mean.
  • avoid words such as often, occasionally, regularly, frequently, many etc as these will vary in meaning from one person to the next.
  • avoid double-barrelled questions such as “Was service prompt and courteous? Yes/No”. Someone who found the service prompt but not courteous (or vice versa) will probably feel uncertain how to answer and there’s a risk they’ll answer “No”. Split the question into two separate questions.
  • avoid leading questions that might suggest a certain answer – be neutral in how you phrase your questions.
  • ensure any multiple choice response categories are mutually exclusive so that clear choices can be made by respondents.

I hope you found these helpful !

Remember: Be Clear, Be Concise, Be Focused!

 

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Questionnaires are a great way to gather information about a market, target clients and customers.

The uses of questionnaires are numerous !

Here are some examples:

  • gathering information about customers and target clients – their characteristics, buying behaviors, wants, problems, preferences. This enables you to better communicate with them and provide the products and services that meet their needs. It can also help with market profiling / segmentation.
  • tracking surveys help you to discover where is the customer in the adoption process. The information gathered shows their market awareness, knowledge, intention to buy, or repurchase of the product for example
  • customer intention surveys look at what motivates someone to move from interest in a product to buying it. This gives you an understanding of customer conversion, commitment and loyalty.
  • customer attitudes and expectations surveys help you discover whether your product meets their expectations; what opinions have they formed about the product / your company / your brand. This can be useful for advertising; to improve conversion rates and their loyalty to your company.
  • getting feedback on people’s needs before developing a product or service – including before you develop an information product!
  • getting feedback on new product concepts; discovering target clients’ likes and dislikes; evaluating pricepoints; likelihood of purchase and of course these serve to create anticipation for your new product or service. They can also enable you to estimate the demand for new products/services
  • habits and uses – to understand how, when and where a product is used. A simple example – a toothbrush can also be used to clean around taps, those awkward cracks on cookers. I buy the cheap ones for that – ones that I would never use to clean my teeth.
  • obtaining feedback on your products and services
  • product positioning or competitive market position i.e. how the market views your company/products/services relative to the competition
  • customer service surveys about the customer service received, the process involved and how those involved performed
  • brand equity surveys – brand awareness, brand quality, brand associations, brand loyalty
  • measuring the effectiveness of advertising messages
  • price setting surveys to estimate demand elasticity and discover optimal price points

And of course …. while you’re gathering information you’re also communicating with customers and target clients. When you use a  survey to solicit feedback from customers, this lets them know that their opinions and the information they can provide is of value to you and to your business. When a survey is used to gather information from target clients it can be the mechanism for starting a relationship with them that could result in them feeling that they know, like and trust you and want to buy from you. It keeps your company and your products/services top of mind. It can also help in building a list if you have an online business or use online marketing to promote your business.

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Why bother to Research your Customers & Target Clients?

There are numerous benefits to gathering information about your customers and target clients, for example:

  • you can discover what your customers and target clients really want so you can provide the right products and services
  • you can get insights into how they make their buy decisions – some people make spontaneous decisions; others gather information, evaluate it and then decide. If you knew where they gathered information from, whether it was customer reviews on websites selling these products, forums, social media, or by asking friends, family, colleagues you could ensure that your marketing message and information about your products and services were available in those places.
  • it enables you to create a marketing message that attracts their attention – a message that resonates with them – that speaks to them in their language
  • it can help you segment your market into target clients with particular characteristics or interests or resident in a specific area
  • it can give you sufficient understanding of your market to determine your position vis-à-vis other players. This can help you to differentiate your offering or develop a unique marketing message.
  • knowledge of where people buy. Information such as this enables you to select the best distribution channels for getting your product or service into customers’ hands.
  • the ability to make a range of informed decisions about your business
  • preparing key documents such as a feasibility study if you’re evaluating a new business idea and business plans when you need to raise financing

Research may seem like a lot of work but its importance to the success of a business should never be underestimated. It’s the foundation of sound business decisions and running a successful business.

Market research is one of the most important things you can do no matter what type of business you’re in and no matter what the size or location of your company. If there’s no market for your product or service or no longer a market, you’ll struggle to survive.

It’s essential that throughout the life of your business you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your market.

Starting a business

If you’re about to start a business you need to know about your target market and target customers. You need to be able to take an informed decision as to whether to proceed with your business idea, whether it needs modifying or whether you have to come up with something completely different. It may be that there’s limited demand for your product or service or the market is so saturated it will be hard to penetrate unless you’re really able to differentiate your product or service.

Expanding a business

If you already have a business you may be thinking about new products or services or moving into new markets – perhaps a new niche or a different geographical area. Again knowing what people want is essential. A survey also keeps the communication lines open between you and the people who’ve already bought from you – they know that you care about their opinion and their needs when you ask them to complete a survey. They’re also your ambassadors and are likely to tell their world about the new products or services that you’re planning or are about to launch.

Surviving in business

In any business it’s vital that you remain constantly up to speed about the market your business operates in, its suppliers and customers, your competitors – both direct and indirect, emerging and declining trends and so on so that you know the issues your target market experiences, the kind of subjects they want to hear more about, what products and services they need, how you can help them. If you fail to do this then you reduce your chances of survival. A survey is a great tool to help you to do this.

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The Red Arrows – the Royal Air Force Aerobatic team – gave a spectacular (and breathtaking) air display over the sea at Sidmouth this summer. I thought how daring they were and how committed and focused they have to be – both in their training and during their displays.

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A  week later I was in Vienna for a few days and managed to get a ticket for a performance by the beautiful white Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School. The commitment and discipline of the riders who start at the age of 16 and stay with the same horse for up to 20 years got me thinking about how this was applicable to a business owner.

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And so this blog post was born !

Here’s what I believe can be learned from the Red Arrows and from the riders at the Spanish Riding School that are applicable to most business owners:

  • you need a vision – of how you want your future to be. This will keep you on track even if the going gets tough at times.
  • you need to dare
  • you need to play big
  • you need to have discipline and focus
  • you need to stay totally committed to achieving your goal
  • if you’re piloting a fighter plane or training and riding a horse you have coaches and mentors and a strong support system. Most business owners would say this was essential and yet… they often don’t have a business coach or a support system for their own business. Even though you’re the driving force behind your business without a business coach and without a support system it will take a lot longer to succeed in your business endeavours.

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My question for you:

  • what else would YOU add to my list? Let me know in the comments box below.
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I’ve blogged before about the importance of attracting attention through the way you display your goods when you’re a retail store or have a stall in a market.

When there are major events such as the Olympics or the World Cup this can be an opportunity to tie your promo activities to these events and get more visiblity for your own business.

As an exmaple I was in Sidmouth during the 2016 Tour of Britain which ended Stage 5 and started Stage 6 in Sidmouth. Some of the shops had included bicycles and other links to the event in their window displays – as you can see from the photos below.

If done well it’s a clever way to get people to notice what you’re offering in your window especially if you’re a store that’s been there for years and local folks tend to take it for granted and just walk by without bothering to look.

In the photo below there’s a bicycle in the window – not something you expect to see in a furniture store. It did attract attention and in my case I noticed some furniture that I might put on my wish list. If the bicycle wouldn’t have been there I’d have just walked on by without even looking.

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This gentleman’s outfitters tried but …I wasn’t convinced they succeeded. What do you think?

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This charity shop only had a bike and union jacks. Since these left no room in the window for anything else I did wonder how many customers it attracted.

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For me the best display was the ‘penny farthing’ bike and the kits for cyclists which made a very eye catching display in this small department store. The display was uncluttered and simple. Now the store does have several wiondows so they were able to display their usual items in the other windows.

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My questions for you:

  • have you ever tied your promo efforts into a specific sporting or other such event?
  • in what way and with what outcome?

 

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Having decided who your target clients are you need to find out as much as possible about them. This will help with decisions about what products or services to offer; your pricing; where to make your products or services available as well as how, when and where to promote them.

Why bother?

Finding out what customers and target clients want is vital for running a successful business. You might be clear as to who your target clients are but how much do you really know about what they want? What do you really know about their buying behaviour? Can you really be sure you’re providing the solution to their problems and in the way that they want?

Maybe your products and/or services aren’t selling as well as you thought they would or as they used to do. There could be a mismatch between what your market wants and what you’re offering. Maybe you’re providing solutions based on what you THINK their problems are rather than what your target market is experiencing as a problem and wants to have resolved.

The only way to find out these things is by researching your market, your target clients and your current customers – and on a regular basis.

This applies whether you have an on-line or a ‘bricks and mortar’ business; whether you’re selling products or professional services; whether you’re just starting out or aiming to move your business to the next level. It’s really not a good idea to just guess, or to assume what your target audience wants rather than going out and researching their needs. Yes it takes time, but when done well it adds so much value to your business knowledge and ultimately it adds dollars to your bottom line.

Gathering Information

earSince we live in a world where our customers and target clients are not only able to talk to us but about us, be it favourably or negatively let’s harness the power of this to discover as much as possible about them – not just their characteristics such as age, gender, maritla status, education level, income but also  information about their buying behaviours, problems, needs, desires and opinions.

We can listen to their comments and discussions on social media platforms.

We can engage in conversations with them on social media platforms.

With a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place we can find out when and what they buy and how much they spend. However it won’t tell you why they buy nor how they made the decision to buy.

If you know their key characteristics – age, gender, education level etc you can read reports about those age groups and see what their typical characteristics are.

If you have access to a business library you can read reports about your sector by Nielsen or Euromonitor or government trade departments all of which will give you insights into what the trends are in that sector including what people are buying.

We can also obtain valuable information by directly asking them questions using one question polls and questionnaires and this will be the topic of the next blog post.

 

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Business and marketing lessons are all around us if we choose to notice them.

As I’ve been doing a 30-day blogging challenge and wanted to be able to give concrete examples and use my photos I’ve been deliberately looking for lessons during my time in Vienna where I was catching up with some friends who were over from Montreal

So… here are just some of them…

Displaying your Products

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Display your products in an eye catching way especially in a busy market where there are lots of stalls with the same type of products.

 

 

Let people try!

Let people have a taste of your products – whether it’s felafals in a market or a chapter of your online information product or a free discovery session with you. People buy what they know, like and trust. As I always say to my clients you need visibility and credibility.

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This company opted to offer a free bottle of water to people buying tickets to visit the Belvedere. Depending on the cost of your product and your budget you might want to give away some samples – you could tie it in to getting sign ups with the first x people getting a free sample.

 

A local piano company left one of their pianos out in the museum quarter so that people could play it.

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Let them be part of your products!

The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien provided deckchairs for people to sit in outside the museum. Each one had a copy of a painting hanging in the museum.

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Let people be a part of your product.

The same museum brought to life one of the stunning gold pieces in the museum and then left the replica base on display for the public to try out.Golden item

 

 

Bring your products to your target clients

It’s always a good plan to bring your products to where your clients will be as this guy selling beers did during the parade to promote the electronic music festival.

street scene

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Same idea with newspapers – put them where people can easily buy one.

 

 

 

 

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Even if begging is your way to get an income do it where there are lots of people and ideally a captive audience after a society wedding !

 

Make them be part of your marketing!

The Albertina Gallery invites people to sit on the decorated steps leading to the entrance and post their photos on social media sites.

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Look around you when you’re out and about  – there are zillions of business and marketing lessons you can learn or be inspired by! Don’t forget to share them in the comments!

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There is an ideal client for every product and every service but whether you need to worry about who that ideal client is depends on whether you’re targeting a niche or the mass market.

For this post I’m going to assume you’re targeting a niche market – whether you’re making customised cakes; unique wedding dresses; coaching people who are starting out in business – anything where you are customising a product or providing a personalised service.

If you know who your ideal client is it’s easier to ensure your product or service is available where and when they want to buy it. It’s easier to talk to them in the language they use and interact with them in the places where they hang out.

Deciding who your target clients are

 

But how do you decide who your target clients are ?

If you’ve been in business for some time you know the people who drive you crazy and the ones who are a delight to work with. You can make a list of the characteristics of the clients who you feel comfortable with and who you’re always pleased to interact with, work with, go the extra mile for.

You might find that you tend to attract women or just men; people of a certain age; people with children; poeple without children.

If however you’re just starting out in busness then you need to approach this matter from a different direction.

  • You might want to think about that sort of topics that people ask you for advice on and who those people are – not in terms of whether they’re your friends, family,  colleagues but what are their characteristics: gender, age, financial situation
  • You might have decided what custmisable product you want to offer or personalised service and then you could ask around people who want or need that service or product and see whether thiere are common characteristics – again gender, age, etc

But…  you also need to determine whether they can afford you. For example I would love to offer to help people who are former caregivers (as I am check www.caregiverjunction.com if you’re curious) however the majority of these lovely, caring people either don’t have the money or who are nervous to spend very much money. Since you’re not social services and  you’re not running a charity you need to make money so that type of client is someone who you would help on a scholarship basis so you might offer x number of these scholarships each year.

Attracting your ideal clients …

… and only your ideal clients.

So how do you do this?

If you offer services you’re less likely to get hassles if you make it clear who you can help, who you work best with. For example on my web page about my coaching services I say that we’d work well together if:

  • you’re serious about coming up with a viable idea for your business.
  • you’re really committed to evaluating your business idea so that you only move forward with a business that has a strong chance of success
  • you really want to be successful in your business endeavours
  • you can handle me not taking your hard earned money to have a cosy chat, tell you what you want to hear and avoid any issues.

Yes – this is very straight talking but… there’s no point spending my time trying to help someone who does nothing or very little. It’s frustrating, drives me round the bend and I run the risk of them saying they didn’t get any benefit from  working with me. If it puts people off then that’s fine – however it will (and does) attract my ideal client.

A coach or consultant is only as good as their reputation and the last thing you want is someone buying your programme, not bothering to implement the action points, ignoring your sound advice and then saying that you weren’t any good. Word of Mouth can be both positive and negative and you need it to be positive.

Your Action Points

Lot’s of these today !!

  • think about the characteristice of the people who ask you for advice; the people who want to work with you (that you enjoy working with… this is crucial)
  • if you’re starting out in a business or starting a new business research the people who might need your service – what are the common characteristics?

My Questions to you

  • do you know who you ideal clients are?
  • how did you determine who they were?
  • what are the consequences of having ideal clients?
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Useful marketing lessons can be learned as you wander the streets – provided you’re tuned in and on the look out for them!  These lessons may be things not to do  and they may be ideas that you could adapt for your business or organisation.

Here are just a few that I came across during one afternoon  wandering in the late summer sunshine of Vienna.

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This street musician started to play to these two children when they took an interest in his music and yes the parents dropped some coins into his case.

Something worth thinking about – who is your client – the person who consumes or the person who pays?

 

Some not good marketing moves included the people selling tickets to concerts who were very pushy. Their focus was on selling rather than telling people about a concert and giving them the opportunity to buy. People generally don’t like to be sold – they like to buy.

20160901_203810[1]As to showing fresh tuna in the menu photo of your tuna salad and then serving a scrappy little portion of tinned tuna – that’s a total no-no. In many jurisdictions it’s illegal to misrepresent your products. It’s definitely unethical. It’s also not smart from a business perspective. You won’t have happy customers, you won’t have positive word of mouth and you’ll probably get a bad review on Tripadviser (they did).

But let’s stay with the marketing actions that could give you ideas as to how to market your products or your business or organisation.

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One of my recent blog posts was about making your products available to people where it’s convenient for them. The Franciscan Church didn’t have a shop but it was using a machine that normally would have snacks or drinks in to sell CDs, books, candles etc

 

 

 

 

 

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The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien provides deckchairs for people to sit in in the gardens outside the museum.

Each deckchair has a copy of a portrait that hangs in the museum. Maybe you could do something similar to promote your products or your organisation.

 

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The same museum has a world famous collection of items made in gold.

On the day I was there they were bringing to life one of the items (the Saliera). You can see it on the poster in the photo to the left and then below the two people painted in gold.

 

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As an aside the friends I was with thought it would be fun to have our photos taken sitting on it –  fortunately we were warned (just in time) that the  gold was wet and we’d end up with golden backsides!!

Your action point

  • next time you’re out and about keep your eyes open for marketing lessons – you’ll be surprised what you discover !
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