In starting and marketing my own business I never would have anticipated the things I’d learn in the process. There is so much that goes into it, from establishing a legal entity, to creating a web site, to tracking business metrics, and countless other things, the list goes on and on.
There is a heightened sense of awareness that comes with learning all of the components to running this beast. But, nothing I have learned has proved more valuable to me than coming to understand the people for which I created the business to serve.
I’ve come to gain, and continue to seek, a whole new grasp on people and it has been nothing short of mind-blowing. Initially, I thought I just created a service for people that wanted to get healthy and that there wasn’t much more to it than that.
I was wrong. Dead Wrong.
I can’t help but hear the old MTV show play in my head. Where drew barrymore or some celebrity gets followed for a week so that we can get a glimpse of what their life “is really like”. The show always began with the declaration:
You think you know, but you have no idea.
You were right Drew, Dammit you were right.
Such is the same in my life with my business. Namely the people who I serve.
It’s so much more than a transaction between two strangers. I’m beginning to see that if you hope to have a real thriving business, you have to understand on a very deep level what it is you’re doing for the people you’re serving.
Up until very recently, I thought opening a business was a shot in the dark. Let’s say Jane Baker, or Ron the Restarantuer, wanted to open a business, so they did, and if the economy was just right and their food was that good then maybe they’d have a chance. Maybe.
The past couple years have been a testament to this. The financial meltdowns we heard about on CNN were felt in my town as countless businesses became casualties. For Lease signs everywhere. Businesses that’d been there my entire life, were now gone. I, along with many other locals, standing there on main street solemnly shaking our heads as we uttered “It just aint right”. The backdrop of empty buildings needed only tumbleweeds to punctuate these dire straits.
But in starting my own business, I see things differently. I don’t think the survival of the mom & pop is at the mercy of the commerce gods. I realized the places that stay open are in large part because they know how to wheather the storm. And it begin and ends with people.
Yes people. Our town is full of them and yet businesses die everyday. Why? because there wasn’t enough focus on them. What motivates them, how they behave, how they buy, and what deep seated needs they have.
I can’t beleive how many places I walked into hoping to buy something and I’m treated like like a snake-oil salesman, in the IRS, offering a bible from the Church of Latter-day Saints. Yes, all of those things, they don’t look happy to see me.
Every person they send off with a “Wow I am never going there again.”
I met the owner of Panda express once and he helped open my eyes on this. He said, in the beginnning when he first started, “If someone ever walked in to Panda, they were not going to leave until they had such a great eating experience that I knew they’d be back.”
People would walk in on a Saturday night, when the restaurant was packed, and walk right out not willing to wait. He told me he would chase all of them down and bring em back in. He’d assure them seating and give them free beverages till a table opened up or he set up dining in the kitchen.
They knew he wanted them there. His attitude was to always be aware and to never be fooled into thinking you could give up customers like that.
I was stunned to see this guy cared so much. I later learned to be more methodical about it.
I found that while individuals are unique, their human nature isn’t.
I quickly realized that the gym I owned attracted a certain kind of person, and that If I understood that person, I’d be able to better serve them and find more of them.
It’s been very illuminating to learn these things and in the process I not only understand humanity much more than ever before, but I now have a profound understanding of myself that I did not have before. Because well, I’m a customer just like the people I patronize.
So the following lists a few of the lessons that have been the most valuable things I have learned about people as customers. Check it out.
1. Focus on the People.
Yes I know you make awesome cheesecake. That is awesome but it’s a give-in, whatever you make needs and should be great. But the focus of every Successful business or related pursuit are the people. What people need and more importantly want. You don’t exist to serve you.
2. Your People don’t want what YOU want them to Want.
This may trigger in you a shocking revelation, or an equally passionate “No sh**”
But I can’t tell you how uncommon this bit of sense is among businesses and human nature in general. Sometimes we are shocked when we realize our shiny little business is falling way short of giving people what they want.
I heard many times that when making something, you should create the thing you would want. In my case, creating the gym I would want to go to. Sure, and that’s what I do to an extent. I want a gym that changes lives, invigorates it members, and gets results people once gave up on because those are needs that I know I share with people.
But if Im operating a gym the way *I* think it needs to run and it’s NOT changing lives, invigorating it members, and getting results then its NOT working and *I* need to rethink what I’m doing and change accordingly.
I would be mistaken to keep doing what doesn’t work and get mad at the people for not swallowing what I’m trying to shove down their throats.
But too many businesses or anything a starter seeks to create (a blog, book, band, or service) only serve the creator and their ego and then they get mad at people for not appreciating their brilliance. You have a successful following and make money or you can protect your ego, but you cant have both.
Again, give customers what they want NOT what you want them to want.
3. People are Emo
Your people buy from you because what you offer satisfies an emotional need or desire they have been developing all their lives. Every decision is emotional and will be justified with logic. What you sell represents the solution and gratification to an emotional need. So whatever you offer, what emotional need does it fill?
4. Understand Your People as Human Beings.
Yes, not mindless drones or numbers on a spreadsheet. People. How do they (your customers) decide what to buy?
On impulse or intense deliberation? On data or whatever the joneses got?
How do they behave? How do they feel? What do they perceive about themselves? Are they seeking the latest innovations or the best deal? Do they care about status or dependability? Know these answers it shapes how you communicate the benefits of your stuff.
5. People operate both consciously and unconsciously
Bollocks. No really, it true. The Conscious Mind is what gathers all the stimuli, data, and information and transmits it to the unconscious mind. More often than not, the unconscious mind is the decision maker.
6. If that Stimuli, Data, and Information you convey satisfies a need, they’re in. If it doesn’t– they’re out.
If people are not fully convinced that what you are offering is the noble steed galloping in shining armor promising to slay the beast that is their pain and ride off into mythical sunsets, then you’ll just be some loser in aluminum not selling anything.
7. Their Perception is Reality.
You are hoping to create a perception of yourself and your business. If there is dissonance between what you hope they’ll perceive and what they actually perceive, what you’re offering won’t get bought. You can claim to make the best chicken caccitore or red velvet cheesecake in town, but if none of your patrons agree, that beleif simply isn’t true.
There it is. The list is simple but has huge implications. Do everything you can to understand the people to patronize. Do that, and conveying the message that your amazing product is the vaccine to a pain or frustration, will be (cheese) cake.
Cue the music.