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Maybe you're asking the wrong questions.
The following are 14 essential questions you need to ask yourself if you're starting (or trying to finish) anything. These questions will help you pinpoint where you're bottlenecked, as well as help you break through the hurdles you're experiencing. The following list will help you:
- Determine your target market
- Figure out who to connect
- Identify what problem other people have that you can solve
- Decide whether what you're trying to sell is buyable
- How to build awareness and trust
One last thing before we get to the list: none of it matters unless you start.
If you're not taking action, all the questions in the world can't help you write that book, build that business, or lead that organization/tribe/gang whatever.
Use these questions to clarify your proposition. But if you're stuck answering these questions (us over-thinkers tend to do this), then err on the side of bold action.
Start even if you're not sure.
Begin before you're ready.
The answers will come when you start moving.
1) The thing you’re going to make or service you’re going to provide: who is it for?
If you said everyone, you already failed. Be specific. Now get more specific. Now get abnormal (aka seek out the fringe or the people on the edge).
Identifying the fringe/edge/abnormal of your target market is essential in order to capture the early adopters, who more eagerly spread your message.
You can learn more about early adopters in The Long Tail; suffice it to say, getting the small group of people who are SEEKING your product is much better than trying to break into the mass market (more on that below).
2) This group of people: what do they believe?
The majority of people (the mass market) desire safety and stability, and when given a choice, many people choose the safe route.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have the time or resources to tap into the mass market, so playing to the desires of safety and stability may not progress your goals. Since you will need to tap into the fringes, make sure you understand what they believe. Do not tap into mass market beliefs to sell to the abnormal.
3) This group: have they ever bought anything like this before?
Believe it or not, most people in the world have never bought something new. Shopping is a western luxury; most people in developing nations couldn’t fathom going to the store with the intent to spend money on something they’ve never used before. In many cases, spending money is life or death for these people.
Key takeaway: Focus on people who want to consume something new (and have the resources to consume it). If you're trying to spread an idea in a developing country, understand they probably don't want something new.
4) This group (the group you want to sell to): do they know you exist?
If they don’t, how will they find you? If they don't know you and can't find you, how can they buy from you? If you’re hoping to have someone else promote you or sell your content, you’re banking on a gate-keeper to choose you. While possible, highly unlikely. Pick yourself instead by connecting with people and making sure they know you exist!
Actionable step: Not sure how to get noticed? Why not start a kick ass blog like this one and get your name out there?
5) The people who know you: do they trust you?
Trust is a tough word. Someone might trust you because you have integrity, but if you're a mechanic and you offer to do heart surgery on a friend, maybe their trust in you stops with car maintenance. On the other hand, if someone you know has a reputation as the best heart doctor in the world, and he tells you that you need a transplant and he'd be happy to help, you're much more likely to trust him. Trust depends on what you’re selling, what you’re making, and who you’re interacting with.
Key takeaway: Become the best in the world at what you do - be the perceived expert - and then build relationships to establish yourself as a trusted expert in that area. When people wonder who they should go to in order to develop a new line of silk shoelaces, and you design and sell silk shoelaces, there shouldn't be a question in their minds to go to anyone else.
6) In the connection economy, are you a connector?
3 ways you can connect:
- Connect one person to another. For example, both twitter and facebook do this very well. Meetup.com helps connect people in real life.
- Connect the customer to a solution that you make. For example, my friend Nate’s kitchenware solves a very specific problem for a very specific niche. His major focus should be to connect customers seeking a solution to their problems (say, messy, difficult meal preparation), with his product that solves their problem.
- Connect one kind of customer to another kind of customer. For example, Google connects customers with money (those who buy ads) and people with trust (those who use Google to find their solution). Curators also do this.
7) What problem are you solving?
Everything you’re making, whether you’re writing a book, creating a business, or leading a gang, seeks to solve a problem. If you’re writing a mystery novel, you’re solving the reader’s boredom problem. The more specifically you can identify the problem, the better you can identify how your solution solves the problem.
8) If this catches on, why won’t cheaper competitors take your spot?
If you’re selling a commodity, it’s very likely someone will undercut your price. So what makes you stand out? If someone sees what you’re doing, what will keep them from beating you at your own game?
9) The project you’re creating – what’s the hard part?
- Easy things aren’t scarce
- Hard things are scarce
- Scarce things have value
- By doing something hard, you’re creating something of value
- So what is so hard about what you’re doing?
10) How much does it cost you to make a sale?
This includes costs to connect, build trust, and then actually sell the product. Even for those writing books or screenplays, it’s worth considering (at least on a conceptual level) how much time and energy you’ll need to put into getting your book or script published or sold.
11) What is the lifetime value of a sale?
This refers to the customer himself. If he buys from you, is that the end of the relationship? Or do you sell other products or services that he can come back to and buy later ? Some customers buy often and consistently, and you can predict that they’re lifetime value is much greater than a single purchase.
Example: Amazon determined their customer lifetime value was $33. That’s how much money every customer would bring in over the course of their lifetime. So any time Amazon had to decide where to spending advertising/marketing dollars, they had a standard on which to base their decisions. For Amazon, if new ad space costs more than $33 to attract a new customer, it's not worth the money.
12) Is there a cheaper way to produce what you make?
If so, you should either be producing it that way (without losing quality), or you should get out of the game fast (somebody will undercut your prices and drive you out of business).
13) Can you make it faster than other people?
Speed doesn’t matter…unless it does. If one of the qualities of what you do (whether write, sell, or lead) involves the speed at which you produce/create/execute (say, daily blog posts, or one-click purchasing, or next day delivery), then be fast. Otherwise, use slowness as a characteristic of quality and let your customer know why it takes you 3 weeks to ship your product.
14) When will you ship?
- When will you intersect with the market?
- If you don’t ship, all of your work is worthless
- Shipping brings failure
- When can you ship?
- Be specific: day and time.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
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Thank you for sharing this with us. I'm a big Seth Godin fan, and it's just useful to remember all of his advice from books into these clear pointers.
Dolly, glad you like it! This post only covered the first hour of the 2 day event. I will be adding a ton more content over the course of the next couple weeks 🙂 Hope you enjoy!
Thanks so much for sharing. I'm not too familiar with Seth Godin's work, but I have heard of him and want to delve deeper into his material. I'm going to take some of these pointers and reflect on them for the next few days.
Looking forward to reading the rest of your series on this!
Hey Lehua, I'm glad you liked the post and I really hope the questions are helpful. I'll be following up with several more blog posts over the course of the next week (I'm converting a lot of notes to actionable content, but I promise the wait will be worth it.)
Keep me posted on your project!
I found your blog recently and am enjoying the content. thanks. I'm building a similar website to yours. Providing info and motivation in blog and ebook form, except mine is on health. I am a fan of Seth Godin and found you while researching his material.
How do you see yourself as a connector? Do you plan to create more customer-customer interaction for your army? I'm finding it difficult to build in conncection to my project apart from connecting customers to my solutions and advice.
Kevin - great question. I'm not sure exactly how I'll end up panning out the connection aspect of the blog. It could evolve into a facebook group or forum or something similar...right now, the best way I know how is by (1) highlighting people who are doing awesome things and are a part of our army...and (2) connecting them to one another through this process or as a one on one recommendation.
Hope that helps. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Stay in touch,
Thanks for the reply Tom. Some good thoughts.
Seth has some key themes in his teachings. Starting and shipping, being purple/fringe, and creating a tribe with meaningful connection. For me, connection is the fuzziest of these concepts when it comes to execution.
Seth's examples of connection (fax, email, google ads, social media) are good, successful examples, but very difficult sort of things to implement.
When it comes to blog tribes... I see connection mainly in the form of communication between author and reader (via comments). Some have active forums or groups (but I've seen lots of dead forums or one way advice conversations with the author) but I feel this is not really the same sort of connection as in Seth's examples. Ideally, the author gets out of the way and the tribe thrive from communicating with each other... kind of like we are now.
Do you think Seth has intentionally built in connection into his own blog and business model? If so, what specific things can you identify? Yes, he has seminars and workshops, but what about his thousands of other readers. Is it enough that we are connected to him and his writing... ?
Kevin - great thoughts. Would love to connect some more on this topic - shoot me an email sometime!
I think Seth has built in connection to his blog and business model. Here are a few ways:
1) Daily blog posts. He doesn't write much, but he stays in your ear, so you're always hearing from him.
2) He responds to emails...at least until recently - I think he just made a statement he won't be able to do that any more
3) Seminars - Seth holds several meet ups every year. A great avenue to connect with readers and have readers connect with one another
4) His projects are all connection based. The Domino Project, Squidoo, etc. It's all about connecting ideas and people to one another.
I think Seth's concept of connection is all about meaningful interaction with people. We connect when we share something in common, for example...but we couldn't connect on that commonality if we hadn't sparked a conversation, right? When you boil it down, it's all about creating that communication and starting the conversation.
I think it ties pretty solidly into his other major motifs in his writing like you mentioned (fringe / purple cow, etc).
Great stuff Kevin! Stay in touch!