Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Don’t get “Stuck” with Niche Marketing

Everywhere you turn, you hear the rule about niche marketing making you rich repeated. This ranges from pick a niche so you can have a logo designed to the idea that you’re not really in business until you have a niche market. What if the pressure and approach doesn't improve your relationship with your business and your clients?

I’m here to challenge that wisdom, as you probably already know. Niche Marketing includes some serious sticking points that may indicate it’s NOT your best option. I want to take a quick look at those points today.

Niche Marketing is presented to entrepreneurs and business owners as the fix-all, do-all solution. While I agree we can learn some important lessons from Niche Marketing, it’s a direct reflection of some of things that are seriously wrong with the business and economic model that has failed so gloriously (and mysteriously if you listen to the experts).

This approach to doing business is a direct out-growth of the drive to specialization. From tinkering with genetics to higher education focused on less and less content, business, life, and talent has been driven to focus on increasingly narrow ways. The drive to know more and more about less and less is now THE embedded way for you to also do business. To sustain this model, business must take over and limit access to information, resources, rights, and property.

Another impact of focusing all your efforts exclusively on Niche Marketing is you can miss opportunities. Creative application of skills and services is one of the hallmarks of small business. The drive to niche can make it more expensive to offer your services through multiple channels. You can end up confused by the drive to serve all the customers who move you. Your efforts can get way-laid by the "rabbit chasing syndrome" aka chasing multiple objectives.

Yes, the niche-driven perspective is not a business model I’m willing to enlist wholesale in order to finance my passion and drive. Are there other options?

Yes! There are other ways to work with your business the incorporate the lessons of niche marketing while not being held hostage to the over-specialization of virtually everything in our world.

Surviving the changes that have arrived and continue to present takes something other than what we already have. From Einstein to other great thinkers, we already know that the thought and behaviors patterns creating the problem are not what is needed to solve the problem.

What do the other ways look like? They are personal, customized, connected and flexible. Niche Marketing has become one-size-fits-all. What is really needed is creating a business structure, approach and methodology that specifically matches your heart. The planet, your customers and your well-being can no longer sustain this single-answer, knee-jerk methodology.

Your values and the value you offer is the beginning point. Just like the new Pepsi ad campaign about One Tribe and funding entrepreneurs reeks of marketing ploy cloaked in warm-fuzzies, so is a Heart-Based message driven primarily by Niche Marketing becomes an unclear representation of who you are and why you serve. What if instead of chasing any rabbits you were by the home-base where rabbits would return when they were tired of running!

When it comes to the methods you choose for marketing you and your business, other choices might just be something that serves you better. You and your clients deserve more!

Wishing you Success & Heart!

Heidi Sue

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Coffee, Confusion & Coherent Values

Well, we don't do it very often, but today's errands included a Starbucks stop. It's close to the house, it was only 1 block out of the way on our route...on and on.

And I noticed a funny thing about the cups the coffee came in . Both had printed on them stories about how buying Starbucks coffee was a way to support the Conservation International organization, with the 'Buck buying 66% of coffee beans from sustainably grown sources, specially selected farmers, etc.

I do believe that's a good thing. Unfortunately, Starbucks is still doing stuff that demonstrates responsibility is likely a marketing move--it's primarily a ploy to keep me spending money at their dwindling (yeah!!! ubiquity is NOT a recommendation for quality) outlets. I don't believe any market has actually needed the number of 'Bucks installed--and obviously so as many are now being closed.

Just below this moving story of how important it is that I spend my money on coffee out instead of making it at home (which we typically do at least 6 days a week), is the imprint about how the paper cup was made.

And that imprint is sad. Anyone wanting to be responsible with resources should be embarrassed by it: Made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber.

What I found so odd is that 30% post-consumer fiber is such a normal, everyday occurance now. Then, add in that how the little insulator sleeve was labeled 60% post-consumer fiber, and it becomes even more confusing.

Here's my confusion: the mis-matched messages from a cup that isn't really helping to save the world, but coffee beans that supposedly are and a brown cardboard sleeve that is saving ghe planet...and my just up feeling it's all about marketing and whatever consciousness is involved focuses on separating me from my pennies and Washingtons.

If you're going to choose that a particular value be part of your business, be consistent. Make sure everything you communicate about that value is as coherent and consistent as you possibly can. Otherwise something as simple as a tall vanilla latte could end up strengthing someone's intention to drink more coffee at home.

Wishing you Success & Heart,

Heidi Sue Roth

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shoe Polish, Cancer, and Business Secrets

I was polishing my shoes yesterday and I realized this is something a lot of people don’t do any more. It seems more common to just keep wearing them down, getting rid of old shoes and buying new ones. It suddenly struck me that this is also shows up in our business attitudes.

You see, I learned to polish shoes from my father. Dad is currently fighting a cancer that statistically he is unlikely to survive and so I think of him a lot. Every Saturday afternoon he’d collect our best shoes in order to make sure they were well-polished for church on Sunday. Usually he listened to the radio while sitting there with the family footwear spread before him. It always surprised me how happy he seemed while doing this funny task.

He had a special kit with a rack to hold the shoe he was working on. All the different colors of polish, rags, and brushes fit inside this contraption. I can’t even count the times I watched him take our battered shoes and turn them into something shiny and proud. Eventually, I wanted to learn.

Today, I’m incredibly glad I did. Four years ago a bought a pair of Frey boot-clogs after wanting them for at least 5 years and probably even longer. I love those boots. The tread is barely worn after all this time, but the leather needed some attention. I also worked on a pair of shockingly-comfortable pumps I bought last summer. Finding cute, comfortable heels is a trick! So when I find them, they are really valuable to me.

And in today’s market, I don’t want to just wear them out and have to replace them. I definitely want them to last. Not to mention I love both pair of shoes I worked on yesterday.

Polishing those shoes let me realize how often I teach clients to really see and use what they already have, who they really are to improve their business. I feel sad and frustrated when I see people desperately trying to make business ideas that are a complete mismatch for their core values and reality.

The number one reasons businesses fail is that people choose the wrong business. This is a greater problem even beyond the common-quoted fact that businesses fail for lack of money. And you know what’s even tougher? To have an idea, product, or service that is true to your core, but you’re attempting to realize that gift through a business structure and style that isn’t as good as match.

I had the privilege to talk to a great, inspiring man about 2 weeks ago. He has amazing, new, powerful products to bring to the world. And when we met, he was stuck in figuring out how to create the manufacturing process for his first product. At one point in the conversation, I just asked him to stop for a minute.

Not once did he describe how his dream was to run a business from R & D to delivery. His dream is to have the product and present it to people. He’s a dynamic spokesperson WITH ideas—and he even has clients who want his products waiting, waiting, impatiently waiting.

One of the results of this conversation was helping him experience permission and desire to structure his business in a way that fulfills him! It didn’t have to look like a traditional product launch…and in reality this guy doesn’t have time for that as he already has 3 more products designed and ready to prototype. With more coming unless I miss my guess.

So we come back to polishing shoes. Nine times out of ten I find my already clients have exactly what they need: they simply don’t know how to frame or re-frame what they’ve got in a way that works for them and is marketable. Too often the “good stuff” gets pushed aside or thrown out. When all that’s really needed is some time to discover the goodies tucked in a closet because someone thought it looked a little worn. Once this idea or thing is re-purposed, polished and put to work again, the gap is filled.

Are you ready to find out what things in your business have been set aside that could be pillars of power and success? Then let’s talk!

And if you’ve got some scruffy shoes around, consider getting out that tub of polish and an old rag. You might be surprised how much you enjoy the process.

Wishing you Success & Heart,

Heidi Sue Roth