When you were a child, did you play with a magnifying glass? Did you focus the sun’s rays and ignite a spark? Oh, what fun!
You can achieve a similar result with your business. The three steps are to focus on your key customers, deliver value, and spark your profits. However, most businesses fail to focus on their key customers. Some businesses offer too many items, whereas others try to satisfy everyone and end up satisfying no one.
Let’s learn from Aesop, an ancient Greek story teller. One of Aesop’s stories contrasts the needs of a fox and a stork. The fox invites the stork to dinner and serves her soup in a flat dish. He snickers at her efforts to slurp up the soup with her bill and she flies off in anger. In retribution, the stork serves soup to the fox in a pitcher. The stork giggles at his efforts to reach the soup with his tongue and he slinks home. This story teaches us to offer “different strokes for different folks.” Compromising is like serving soup in a cup -- both the fox and stork will go home hungry.
Many businesses offer a plethora of options, but research confirms that this strategy is not effective. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, found that less is more. Customers are so confused by more options that they purchase less.
The secret is to offer specifically what your key customers desire. A profitable business delivers what its key customers most value -- and nothing else. The flip side of this strategy is to prune all features, options, and products that key customers do not value. Here are three examples.
• IBM discovered in the 1950’s found that the top 20 percent of its software features were used 80 percent of the time. In response, IBM simplified the menus of their software and soon competitors followed suit.
• When Herman Cain was the president of Pizza Hut, he ordered all its franchisees to quit offering their customers unpopular pizza toppings. Simplifying their options sped up the ordering process, reduced costs, and increased purchases. Cain asserts that the secret of his success is to “focus, focus, focus.”
• Bluebeam’s “pdf” software provides the functions specifically needed by construction professionals such as architects, engineers, and inspectors. A construction professional testifies, “Bluebeam does about 300% more than the Adobe product.” Bluebeam would blur its image and its unique brand positioning if the company offered pdf software that competed with Adobe in the general marketplace.
What does this mean for your business? Your products and services business can delight your key customers and deliver them value by following these steps.
1. The first step is identifying what features, options, and items they desire.
2. The next step is to revise its products and services specifically for its key customers.
3. The third and hardest step is to prune all features, options, and items that do not resonate with them. Doing otherwise blurs the positioning of your business and costs time and money.
According to the cowboy philosopher, Will Rogers (1879-1935), if your business “spent the same amount of money improving products as they do advertising them, they wouldn’t have to advertise them.”
Enterprising Women is a partner in the new Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative.
The initiative supports the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) mentors — women and men — to increase the interest and confidence of young women to pursue and succeed in STEM degrees and careers.