3 Sanity-Saving Tips for Homeschooling Entrepreneurs

http://unsplash.com/

http://unsplash.com/

 

For many parents, the decision to homeschool is  about the preservation of cultural, social, and spiritual priorities within their children’s lives.  Regardless, many find it difficult to develop and sustain a routine that offers children the skills they need, while keeping them engaged.  Add to that, the necessary attention it takes to nurture a small business, and there’s a recipe for disorganization, stress, and the discouraging feeling of overwhelm.

Thankfully, many families have learned how to manage the unique design of a life that includes at-home educating and entrepreneurship.  Among the primary concerns for homeschooling entrepreneurs, is of course, the sacred sanity of the parents. Though there is not one unique set of rules that will work for every family, the following rules may just shed some light on how to stay sane while taking on the honorable task of helping children flourish through personalized attention and customized at-home education.

Rule No. 1:  Be Flexible, Not Forceful

This is a tough rule for many parents, but well worth the effort. Remember that most children are not likely to follow a structured routine, so parents’ expectations should match that reality.  Instead of setting a rigid schedule with set tasks during specific blocks of time, consider focusing on one or two topics each day, and giving children the room to do some pre-determined exercises, and to feel their own way through the material as well.

Though children in a traditional school setting can cover as many as 5-6 topics per day, the home environment lends itself to deeper exploration of each topic, which can help children take personal interest in what they’re learning.  Personal interest means a greater capacity to learn and retain important information.  So go ahead, create a curriculum, set the expectations, but leave plenty of space for children to process the information, and to develop a sense of engagement with whatever they’re learning.

Rule No. 2:  Consider a Hybrid of Parental and Digital Guidance

We live in a time when teachers, tutors, and trainers don’t have to be in the same geographic location.  There are virtual academies and virtual tutoring services that offer interactive video lessons for topics ranging from history and math, to guitar and yoga.  Instead of going solely by a pre-set curriculum, savvy homeschooling entrepreneurs take advantage of the well-qualified individuals and organizations that offer online lessons and activities.  Parents can schedule important business calls or blocks of work time during their children’s digital lessons.  Many states have virtual schools and cyber academies that offer great opportunities for students to engage in fun online lessons. While children are online, parents can manage their business priorities, and schedule time to review lessons with their children and add their own lessons at their convenience.

Rule No. 3:  Take Your Children To Work With You

What better opportunity to impart your constantly expanding wisdom of self-employment to your children than including them in aspects of your day! Setting aside as little at 10 hours per week to show your children some aspects of entrepreneurship offers relevant life lessons with the benefits of early exposure.  Working on a contract?  Show them how it’s done too.  Print out a copy just for them, and go through the process together.  Need to comb through your files for a particular set of documents? Why not give your child a chance to earn extra cash by assigning them the task of locating that document? Remember that learning doesn’t just take place at a desk or during the review of a lesson designed specifically for children.  You may be taking your many skills for granted, and recognizing that can often remove some of the pressure that comes with finding ways to keep your children engaged while getting your work done too.

Life itself, particularly the entrepreneurial process is ripe with opportunities to explore various topics.  Allow your children to be part of your life, instead of just looking at ways to be part of theirs. Exposing them to the intricacies of your day can help them to develop their own relationship with self-employment and basic business principles, and those skills translate well both in social and academic settings.  So, be flexible, create a digital community to support your at-home efforts, and remember that your work can offer fertile ground to reinforce the life skills your children will need to flourish in any environment.

About the author:  Akilah S. Richards co-founded The Life Design Agency to help entrepreneurs discover, design and express their unique products and services.  Akilah works primarily with women on the emotional and spiritual life components.

The Key Role of Tenacity in Entrepreneurship

Tenacity is one of the most important aspects of entrepreneurship.  More than start-up capital, your product, or even the identification of your ideal market, tenacity can mean the difference between success and surrender.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”— Amelia Earhart

Success as an entrepreneur involves making and constantly re-committing to the decision to stay the course. It is about an acceptance of success as a process, and not a specific end-result.  Of course, results matter in business, but since results can only be influenced, and not guaranteed, entrepreneurs must look to process, not result, as a prime opportunity to align with their desired results.

Dr. Lonnie Johnson: A Story of Entrepreneurship and Tenacity

I had the privilege of working with a wildly successful entrepreneur whose own story offers a beautiful illustration of the power in tenacity.  Nuclear Engineer and former NASA scientist, Dr. Lonnie Johnson, is most widely known for his invention, The Super Soaker.  He built the water gun as the result of his attempt to build a more powerful squirt gun for his daughter.  To date, the Super Soaker has grossed more than a billion dollars in revenue, and is an irrefutable household name when it comes to the coolest toys!

Before licensing his Super Soaker water gun to a toy company, though, Dr. Johnson endured nearly eight years of rejections.  Tenacity played an integral role in Dr. Johnson’s success, because had he given up, he would not have had the funding he needed to continue his current research, the development of a lithium battery that will eliminate the need for fluids in batteries.

The Rewards are in the Journey

For Dr. Johnson, the definition of success was not limited to an acceptance letter from a toy company.  Instead, he committed to sending out the letters of inquiry, and everything that came along with the process.  He did not decide that rejection letters meant that he was failing, but instead, that he was moving ahead with his process, just as he had committed to doing.  The brilliance in this mindset of focusing on tenacity over result is that you never fail.  Failure implies an undesirable result, whereas tenacity is about commitment and the knowing that no matter where the tides turn, you are willing to learn from the experiences and stay the course.

Keep in mind that being tenacious does not absolve an entrepreneur of being flexible, creative, and willing to adjust their game plan.  The objective is to turn your idea every which way but loose.  This includes:

As the famed pilot Amelia Earhart stated in the quote above, the process is its own reward.  And though I know that can be tough to maintain, particularly for those of us who are deeply emotionally invested in our work, it’s well worth the practice.

About the author:  Akilah S. Richards co-founded The Life Design Agency to help entrepreneurs discover, design and express their unique products and services.  Akilah works primarily with women on the emotional and spiritual life components, while her husband, co-founder and Creative Brander, Kris Richards, offers branding packages to helps businesses express their brand’s message, with clarity, confidence, and creativity.

About SimplifyThis

Take appointments directly through your website. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business with SimplifyThis–two-in-one appointment scheduling and invoicing software for small businesses.

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Selling your Product or Service: How to Turn Passion into Profit

For entrepreneurs, the journey towards business success often begins with a single concept or vision. This has usually evolved from a particular passion or past-time that they have, from which they have identified a need and created a suitable product or service to meet this.

This can provide a strange anomaly for business-owners; while passion may sustain you, your ability to translate this and effectively sell a product or service will ultimately determine your level of success.

broken heartThe fact remains that while the success of your business depends on your ability to sell, many creative entrepreneurs find selling to be an alien concept. With these points in mind, here are some practical steps towards changing your outlook and turning you into an effective and motivated sales person.

Reconsider your Approach to Sales

When you consider selling, do you  imagine the type of pitch delivered by cold-callers and door-to-door sales reps? Does the idea of an aggressive, hard-sell technique discourage you? Many creative individuals, especially those selling non-essential products have difficulty getting past the image of the sales-y salesperson. If this is the case, strive to re-evaluate your approach to sales and develop a comfortable style for you. So long as this generates revenue and reflects the nature of your product, you can become a good salesperson without compromising your values or fundamental personality.

Rediscover a Love for your Product or Service

Over time, you will watch your core product or service evolve from a creative vision to a commercially-viable entity. While this process will allow you to develop a profitable business, the changes that you make to your product may ultimately move it further away from your passion or the creative concept that inspired it.

To evolve as a capable sales person and sell your product to a targeted audience, rediscover your love for your product and market it in a natural and enthusiastic manner. You may even consider re-modelling your product if you continue to feel disconnected from it; even though this could have a slightly negative impact on sales volumes it will at least enable you to rediscover a sense of self and purpose.

Consider Outsourcing and Affiliate Sales as a Short-Term Measure

You may consider outsourcing a big business tool, one conceived with the sole intention of saving large corporations money. In reality, Cloud technology made outsourcing accessible to small businesses (SMB’s) throughout the world, and there are multiple reasons a business-owner may solicit outside help with aspects of their venture. The capacity to benefit from specialist expertise one key reason to outsource sales, for example, as it enables you to market your product effectively. Additionally, entrepreneurs may embrace the concept of affiliate selling, where they place their products on a vendor’s website in exchange for a commission fee. Although both of these options eat in to your potential profits, they will also help you to sell more effectively while you learn the tricks of the trade and become more comfortable with the art form.

The Art of Negotiation: 3 Tips for Small Business-owners

It is often said that negotiation is an art-form, but this can make it sound like a luxury when it is in fact a crucial skills for small-business owners. The owners of SMB’s typically do not boast the resources of a large company or corporation, so their ability to negotiate can help them to reduce costs and maintain a profitable business. The benefit of effective negotiation goes far beyond finances, however, as it can also enable you to develop your business network and establish mutually respectful relationships with clients, vendors and suppliers alike.

negotiating ducks

With this in mind, what are the key things to bear in mind when attempting to carry out a successful negotiation? Consider the following: 

Determine your Top Goals and Prioritize

Before you enter any negotiation, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of exactly what you want to gain. Without this, there is a risk that the negotiation process will become drawn out and leave you at a distinct disadvantage. In instances where you want to recruit a specific member of staff within a predetermined budget, you may even have multiple goals that must be prioritized. Whether your main aspiration is to minimize costs, secure the services of the best possible candidate or something else entirely, you must take the time to understand the short and long-term needs of your business and create a clearly defined list of outcomes.

Consider the Outcomes and Know what you are Prepared to Give Up

On a similar note, it is important to remember that a successful negotiation should ideally leave all parties satisfied. If you are to achieve your own goals without compromising those of your counterpart, for example, you must be flexible and occasionally take the proactive step of offering something up in exchange. So long as you enter a negotiation with a willingness to compromise and a knowledge of what you are prepared to sacrifice, you can successfully maintain an existing relationship while also getting precisely what you want.

Research your Counterpart and Review their Past Performances

When it is stripped bare, the process of negotiation involves nothing more than honest and open interaction between individuals. You can therefore gain a clear advantage by researching and understanding the motivation of your counterparts, while also reviewing their past performance in previous negotiations. If you are negotiating with a supplier who is known to offer discounts in exchange for longer-term contracts, for example, you should consider this from a business perspective and propose a three, four or five year deal as your need allows.

Know when to Walk Away from a Deal

Even with a clearly defined plan, a list of priorities and a knowledge of your counterparts, there may be occasions where you are unable to reach a suitable compromise with your rivals. While this is far from ideal, you must have courage in your convictions and be prepared to walk away from a potential deal once you have determined that your goals are not going to be met. This enables you to retain control of your business and its destiny, while it does not mean that you cannot resume negotiations at a more favorable time or pursue an alternative deal elsewhere.

About SimplifyThis

Take appointments directly through your website. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business with SimplifyThis–two-in-one appointment scheduling and invoicing software for small businesses.

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Staying Present While Being Productive: 3 Tips for Spiritual Entrepreneurs

For many entrepreneurs, the choice to start their own business was as much about quality of life as it was about financial empowerment.  Being personally fulfilled—particularly where spirituality is concerned—is just as important to some entrepreneurs as the amount of money they earn each week or month.

Paperless OfficeFor those entrepreneurs, let’s call them Spiritual Entrepreneurs, it’s not enough to exist and do well; they want more. They want to feel:

  • connected to their work
  • present in each moment
  • that they are not just going though the required steps to attain an outside definition of success

Are spiritual entrepreneurs disillusioned about the prospect of being present in their work instead of presenting their work?  I offer up a resolute NO to that question, and in addition, offer these “3 C’s of Spiritual Entrepreneurship” to help chart the course from presenting to being present; those 3 C’s are clarity, confidence, and compassion.

Clarity

Many entrepreneurs start out following formulaic approaches to success.  These approaches, though helpful to some, will not work for everyone.

Spiritual entrepreneurs need to adapt a philosophy that combines basic business knowledge with personal clarity. Getting clear on what you offer, how that offer lends value to your ideal client and what it takes to consistently convey that value is a more spiritually centered approach to business.

Instead of following the crowd, it’s often better to find the tribe.  But first, spiritual entrepreneurs need to be able to discern between that crowd and their tribe.

Confidence

The crowd consists of a massive Facebook friend list, plenty of Twitter followers, and the myriad other social media outlets used to promote business services. But if we assessed the conversion rates from friends and followers to paying customers, it’s easy to see that a crowd doesn’t equal customers.

Instead of constantly promoting their work, spiritual entrepreneurs need to build up the confidence to approach their tribe and ask questions.  They should adopt a listening approach, meaning they listen more than they talk, and connect more than they call on people to buy what they sell.

Most people don’t recognize that it takes confidence to built authentic rapport.  That confidence shows up in the willingness to be one’s self and to be willing to forego the thousands of hard-to-convert followers and risk expression among the ones who represent the people that your product or service was designed to serve.

Compassion

The listening approach helps to create authentic community through shared interests, thereby offering the opportunity to bring followers and friends into a sales funnel where it’s much easier to convey what is being offered, with minimal noise and a higher chance of converting them to a paying client.

Right in line with the listening approach, and the clarity and confidence it takes to use it, comes the need for compassion.  It may seem an odd addition to an article about entrepreneurship, but spiritual entrepreneurs need to be familiar with the power of compassionate business practices.  Compassion includes:

  • putting yourself in the shoes of your tribe, and committing to a more personalized approach to business.
  • getting on the phone and calling a client to see how they’re enjoying your product.
  • being willing to promote the products and services of your clients, instead of just nudging them to promote yours.

It takes great commitment to endure the emotional and financial rigors of entrepreneurship.  But, for spiritual entrepreneurs, those confidence muscles need to be extended way past the initial commitment.  With clarity, confidence, and compassion at the forefront, it becomes far easier to stay present, to address feelings, flow, and finances, and to create a body of work this is as personally fulfilling during the process, as it is when the end results are assessed.

About the author:  Akilah S. Richards co-founded The Life Design Agency to help entrepreneurs discover, design and express their unique products and services.  Akilah works primarily with women on the emotional and spiritual life components, while her husband, co-founder and Creative Brander, Kris Richards, offers branding packages to helps businesses express their brand’s message, with clarity, confidence, and creativity.

Why Multitasking Might Be Hurting Your Business

Hustle harder.  Be more productive.  Stay on the grind.

Those phrases are common sayings among circles of ambitious entrepreneurs who set out to turn ideas and opportunities into lucrative businesses.  The generally accepted mindset is to outwork most of the competition, and go toe-to-toe with the rest.  But if the formula is as simple as more work, more often, how come more entrepreneurs aren’t earning more income and having a greater impact through their work?

bigstock-Athlete-runner-feet-running-on-34709693

It’s common knowledge that the more time and effort you put into your business, the more chances you have to gain income and impact.  But is that actually the case?  Does more effort equal greater results?  Perhaps that is the case in physical fitness, but not necessarily in business.  In some cases, perhaps many, the chances of the coveted income and impact accomplishments may be linked to doing less, not more.

A February 2014 Forbes article called out the multitasking myth, labeling the practice as more like “multi-switching”, where the end result is not more work done better, but more projects addressed, but very few successfully executed.  It may be time for small business owners to shift their mindsets from hustle and grind to focus and flow.

It may be tough for some multitaskers to shift to a different mindset.  The hurdles are many, ranging from having too many tabs open while working on a computer, to constantly checking email, to trying to power through tasks that need to be broken up into smaller, more manageable tasks.  There is one particular hurdle that most entrepreneurs face, and it presents a great opportunity to dip a toe in the waters of simplifying their work process: The to-do list.

It’s hard to dispute this reality: The all-important to-do list rarely ever gets done.  And incomplete to-do lists often lead to diminished confidence in a business owner’s ability to manage or survive their day, let alone thrive.

Confidence is an important aspect of business ownership.  If a business owner feels that she can accomplish what she sets out to do, she is more inclined to take the necessary risks to succeed.  She can count on herself to manage her time, talent, and tasks in ways that lead to success.  It’s difficult to build confidence in one’s self, if there is always a list of things to catch up on. This constant race toward completion includes multiple finish lines (read multiple projects happening simultaneously) it is difficult to experience the sense of fulfillment and confidence that comes with completing an important task.

The Alternative to Multitasking

Make a to-do list.  Then, go through the list and decide which tasks are vital to the accomplishment of the biggest goals.  For example, if an ambitious young graphic designer has 12 items on his to-do list, and his goal this week is to gain 2 new clients through social media outreach, here’s what he can do to avoid the trap of plenty action and very little accomplishment:

  1. He should remove the things from his To-Do Today list that are not in direct alignment with his goal.  He should be vigilant about task-pruning, and be willing to be honest about how his tasks connect directly with his primary goal.
  1. He should create a date by which he will revisit the tasks he removed from the list.  This is a great way to ease his mind about not addressing the goals he removed from his list.  He is not dismissing the other goals, but instead giving himself the opportunity to focus on each set of goals during different days.
  1. After that, he should see which of the remaining tasks can be further simplified.  The less complicated his lists and tasks are, the more likely he is to accomplish them.  The more he accomplishes, the more confidence he gains in his ability to realize the goals necessary for his success.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that focused effort, not a combination of frenzied touch-and-go task-touching is a more direct way to success.  Perhaps two weeks of focused flow is a great way to test the idea of less work, more focus.  Simplifying the workday by focusing on one or two primary tasks, can lead to incremental success through small tasks that build upon themselves to complete larger tasks.  More tasks completed leads to a more confident entrepreneur.  After all, it’s accomplishment, and not mere action that offers a clear path to success.

About the author:  Akilah S. Richards co-founded The Life Design Agency to help entrepreneurs discover, design and express their unique products and services.  Akilah works primarily with women on the emotional and spiritual life components, while her husband, co-founder and Creative Brander, Kris Richards, offers branding packages to helps businesses express their brand’s message, with clarity, confidence, and creativity.

Small business owners, save time on social media marketing by scheduling your posts

Social media marketing and your website go hand in hand. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Posting content from your website to your social media profiles helps to drive traffic to your website. At the same time, posting content to your social media networks helps you attract new fans and followers to your social media profile. All in all, posting original content from your blog or website is good for business. The trouble is, with everything else you have to do on a daily basis, who has the time?

clock

Posting your blog and website content to social media

As you know, social media is in part a distribution point for the content you publish to your website. But that’s just part of the equation, successful marketing on social media also rests on good old fashion socializing. On social media this translates into reading, Liking (or favoriting), commenting on and sharing others on other  people’s posts. Online relationships after all are involve a fair amount of reciprocity.

As far as what you say, or share content-wise, this should be a combination of articles, blog posts, videos and images that you find online, and also original content—also in the form of articles, white papers, blog posts, videos, podcasts or pictures—that you yourself create.

The benefits of posting your original content include:

  • Driving referral traffic back to your website
  • Increasing your reputation with search engines, therefore improving your chances of showing up in search engine result pages
  • Further positioning yourself as a thought leader within your community

The question then becomes, not why should you post your content to your social networks, but how do you find time to do all this posting.

Scheduling your social media content in advance

While maybe you’ll need to sign on daily to keep up with your online communities, you can at the least, get the task of posting your own content out of the way by scheduling your posts in advance. Here’s how:

Scheduling posts on social media

For Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, you’ll want to use a social media management tool. Hootsuite is a management tool for businesses that allows you—among other things—to schedule your posts in advance across multiple social media sites. (Note, while Hootsuite will let you schedule Facebook posts, they are known to get more views when you post directly in Facebook. Therefore, try to post directly to Facebook, while using Hootsuite for Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.) Here’s a video that will show you how. There is a free version, or paid versions starting at $9.99 a month.

When you start posting content, remember you can dip back into your archives and post some of your older stuff too – as long as it is evergreen.  Bonust tip: check out Hootsuite’s bulk scheduling functionality!

For Facebook, you’ll want to schedule your posts directly in Facebook and skip using a management tool – these posts have been shown to be given more preference from Facebook (that means more visibility for you). This is also easy, just follow these simple instructions!

One of the great uses of social media for your business is to drive traffic to your website by posting your content to your social media sites. If you fine you’re having some trouble keeping up with your social media marketing program for your small business, try scheduling them in advance so you can get on with all the other things you need to do!

Tips for Marketing Your New Business on Social Media

If you have some familiarity with social media, and are just starting to use it for your business as well, here are some tips to follow as you get started.

social-media-points52

Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

You may be on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites all day, personally. But when it comes time to start pages for your business, you’ll need to be a little more conscientious.

Take time to decide who you are talking to

This sometimes seems obvious, so obvious that you don’t have to do it. You might be surprised to realize that you don’t actually know who you’re talking to, who you’re trying to reach on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever other social network you may be using. At the same time, knowing specifically who you are talking to is the very first step to saying anything that is even remotely meaningful.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is an incredible amount of noise online; you’ve heard the stats, people receive a thousand marketing messages a day. The only way to cut through the noise is to deliver meaningful messages, and that starts and ends with an understanding of who you are talking to.

Are you talking to other professionals and sharing industry insights? Are you talking to your local community, prospective customers, people you work with, partners? What community will you be joining online? You will need to really think this part through before attempting to post content.

Understand the difference between selling and networking

Though you may start a Facaebook page, Twitter account, or Google+ page for the sake of marketing your business, there’s a certain way to go about it, and it’s not terribly direct. If it was as easy as signing up for a free account and then advertising your product or service through free posts, well, we’d all be very successful online.

Instead social media marketing is all about networking, truly finding your place in a community. Keep in mind, it is basically uncouth to only sell your products on your social media profiles, you need to also converse with and engage your followers.

In terms of what to post, follow the 80/10/10 rule; this means 80 percent of your posts should be educational, 10 percent should be about you, personally and the remaining 10 percent can actually be dedicated to selling your product. Get some more guidance on what to post to Facebook.

In order to communicate effectively on your small business social media page, start out by listening to what other people in your community are saying. Don’t just dive in guns drawn. Go in gently, have a listen and then begin to jump in when the time is right. Very similar to offline networking.

Marketing Your Small Business: Three Tips for Cutting Through the Noise

People receive thousands of marketing messages daily through TV, radio and of course the ever-on internet now available on desktops, iPads and smart phones. Every time you glance at Facebook, you likely absorb a marketing message. How then, as a small business, can you cut through the noise and reach prospective customers with a meaningful message. Here are three tips to keep in mind when you create your marketing materials, or draft your unique value proposition.

Getting New Clients

Focus on benefits

To write the best marketing messages, you have to step out of your own shoes and into your customer’s. This can be hard sometimes, when you’re intensely involved in a project, seeing things from someone else’s eyes can be hard. Still, your marketing messages need to focus on the benefits you offer. Be careful not to confuse benefits with features.

Features describe the product or service, in terms of what it does. Benefits are the end result that the customer experiences by using the product or service. In other words, explain how it solves their problem and makes their life better.

What’s in it for me? is the main question that we either consciously or subconsciously ask ourselves when we encounter a marketing message. If we don’t receive the answer quickly and satisfactorily, we quickly move on.

Narrow your niche

To have more meaningful conversations with prospective clients, choose a more specific sub-set of the market. For example, if your products appeal to an age group that stretches from twenty-somethings to over fifty, focus on one small part of that spectrum, such as customers in their early twenties. Though it is counter-intuitive sometimes, limiting who you market to actually usually leads to an increase in business – this is because you can actually speak directly to your audience this way. You can speak to them in their language and your message will be impactful, and therefore they will be more likely to actually listen.

Knowing your customers inside and out

Knowing your customers well (who they are, what they need, what they buy, how they buy and how they feel) is one of the most important success factors in your business. This you’ve heard hundreds of times. Knowing your audience well is the foundation for growth. It takes time, patience and some internet savvy to properly research your market, but it is the very first and most important step to building a business.

How to Determine Your Value Proposition

The first step to finding your unique value proposition in the market place, is doing the legwork to understand your target market—the people who will buy your product or service. At the same time, you have to understand your competition—the companies whom your potential customers can turn to for the same service or product.

apples-and-orangesMaybe you arrived at your business idea by spotting an actual gap in the market, a real need that was going unmet. In design thinking, this is known as sensing the gap. If this is the case, then for you, finding your unique value proposition won’t be difficult; you already have a sense of what it is.

But for those of us who came to our businesses through a desire to build upon our own skill set, it could be trickier. For you, you will need to look carefully at your potential customer’s needs, and then look for how your competition is failing to meet those needs, and from there you can carve out your unique place.

Step one: Understanding your target market

First, you’ll need to understand who it is that will be buying your product or service. Be careful here; it’s tempting to say that anyone can use your product or service. For instance, if you are a hairdresser you may say anyone who has hair is your target market, but this is never the case.

Target market isn’t anybody who can possibly use your service, it’s the people who are most likely to use it and whom you therefore decide to sell to. You will target them by speaking directly to them on their terms. To be able to do this, you will need to understand who they are. This includes demographics: age, gender, household income, marital status, and just as importantly, psychographics. In other words, what makes them tick?

As a small business owner, chances are you won’t undertake doing an expensive focus group to learn information about your market. But you can still observe your target market online and off. Speak to someone who represents your target market, ask them if they’ve ever used a product or service like yours, ask them how they used it, what they liked and what they didn’t like. Ask them what would have made the product better.  Similarly, find out where your market hangs out online, forums and social media sites might be a good place to see what people are saying about their experiences.

In the end, what you want to do is get to know the people in your target market as individuals, think of them as real people, so that you can best understand how to serve their needs. Next, you will look at your competition to see how they are failing to meet their needs, and this information will become the basis for your business – you unique value proposition.

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