People in general, and solo-entrepreneurs specifically, lament that they have no support. Meaning, they have no one to talk to, people will not buy their product/service, other businesses owners won't support them, or even like or share their social media pages or website with others. Some business owners report they have insufficient financial support or enough clients interested in buying products or services. What I became curious about was “what is the reason for this belief—true or not?” What is causing small business owners feel this way? So, I took a survey. Here is what I found out. Out of 187 small business owners/entrepreneurs who responded, they believed that:
• other people are only interested in helping/supporting if they benefit (41%),
• no one cares (24%),
• people are afraid of what others think or will say if they help (19%), and
• people fear what they don’t know (16%)
My survey also identified that most people (42%) will not ask for help because they don’t believe they will get the support they need, or don’t know where or how to get support (44%). This is one of the reasons why having a coach, advisory board, and/or mentor is so valuable. Sometimes, having an objective person walk you through your beliefs and what is actual can make the difference between being stuck and progressing forward.
NOTE: Use caution when interpreting the data since we can’t generalize, and I am sure we need more people and tests to confirm how likely it is people are not getting support, or that the underlying reasons are an accurate reflection of reality. Plus, this was a “self-report.” Therefore, this is what people believe or feel, and not necessarily what is really going on. But, with that said, the data can still give us some insight.
HUMAN BEHAVIOR IS TRICKY!
Human behavior, particularly consumer behavior, is tricky. There are many reasons why people may or may not support your business (or help you on a personal level). What I understand is people (generally speaking) are motivated by fulfilling needs. Yes, they do want to know how buying a product or service will help them. Or, how will sharing your website/URL or social media page will be a benefit directly. Also, people trust what they know. If you are a new business, people do not have a relationship with you, yet. So, some people may not be able to care for something they really do not know about. And, yes, people are afraid of appearances---what it may look like, if you are a fraud, or you don’t have a good product or service, and they support you. Therefore, it does make sense why those who responded answered as they did. This is not the whole story, however. I will address more in Part II of this blog topic.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Again, there are many different reasons why people will or won’t support your business (or you personally). But, you can’t control other people’s reasons. Your first action is to see what you can do differently to be persuasive or attract positive attention to your business so that people move their attention to your brand. It may help to start out by understanding what is in the way and what are you doing to create the results you want. For instance, are you building trust? Do you have a product or service that your CREAM or ideal clients need, want, or can solve their problems? How many people know about you? What do people know about your brand, product and/or service? These questions can help guide you and help identify how to reach prospective clients. There are also a few strategies you can implement. For example:
• Create a strategy for building trust, on and off line. Remember, this will take time. Be consistent and persistent with your brand and make sure you are implementing high-touch marketing approaches to help people get to know you and what you do.
• Develop a CREAM client profile so that you know who your ideal clients are and if you are reaching them appropriately.
• Create a niche. Solo-entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to be a Jill or Jack of all trade but neglect to master just one. I always use the analogy of McDonalds. What are they known for: fries and burgers. But, they sell breakfast, coffee, desserts and salads. McDonalds may sell lots of other items, but they make their money from what they know best, fries and burgers. Another analogy, IHOP. They are known for their, but they sell lunch and dinner items too. You must first show people what your expertise is and focus on that one message, and then expand. But, the expansion must tie back into what you do. Like McDonalds, they sell fast food. IHOP, they sell diner food. No matter what, your brand must be consistent with your product and services. These major food chains don’t sell flowers or outdoor pools, right? Therefore, think about your brand and what you sell then ask yourself how this ties back to your major theme. If you find a discrepancy, it may be time to revamp your brand or what you offer.
• Identify resources of support. There are people you can talk to. You can hire a coach (such as myself) or find a trusted mentor that can help you fine-tune your niche, identify your CREAM client profile, and to help you implement a strong support system. You can also institute an advisory board. Your board should consist of subject matter experts and people who can give you objective, evidence-based guidance.
• Ask people what they think? There are thousands of online social media groups. Ask people their opinion about your brand, product or services. Give a gift card or some reward to increase interest in helping you understand how your business is being perceived.
In addition, the answer to the problems in the survey responses I mentioned earlier is within the responses:
• If people only support if they see a benefit, then show them the benefits of supporting you
• If no one cares, show them why they should care—let them see what you provide is worth caring about
• If they are afraid of what others may think about supporting you, then give them good reason to think positive; build trust and have quality products and services
• if people don’t know you, create strategies so that they can get to know your brand
Finally, keep in mind, just because you love your business and think its great, does not mean your CREAM clients feel the same. Solo-entrepreneurs go into business because they are passionate about something (e.g., wanting to help others, believe they have the answer to a problem, etc.), BUT, they also need to make profit. People must see your business is profitable and worth investing in or supporting. Therefore, what you offer is not about what you like. You liking your business keeps YOU motivated to operate it. However, the end results are more about what your target client likes and wants. Your job as a business owner is ensuring your product or service fulfills what people want, expect and/or how you will solve a problem. And, you must do this with the focus of quality and building trust in your brand.
Part II of this article focus on what you can do as a supporter of another person’s business. Be sure to read it as a companion to this article.
Coach Dawn Reid helps women solo-entrepreneurs create SMART-R™ goals and work-life-self harmony, while growing profitable businesses. Coach Dawn will partner with you so that you can identify how to find solutions and resources to overcome your obstacles. She also trains aspiring coaches or works with talent management teams on developing core coaching competencies to help prepare them for a rewarding coaching career. To learn more, visit: www.reidreadycoaching.com.