The Golden Rule vs. The Platinum Rule of Marketing
The Golden Rule states “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” While this practice civilizes us and helps us get along in society, it doesn’t work in marketing and building a service-oriented business. Here’s an analogy; if you wanted to give someone a present and you followed this rule, you would give them something you would like to receive, which only works if they’re exactly like you! However well-meaning and unintentional, the message you’re sending your target audience is:
I care more about what’s important to me than what’s important to you.
Ouch! Most helping professionals don’t intend to send this message at all!
The Platinum Rule states “Do unto others as they want to be done to.” To do so requires connecting with others and learning what they really want, rather than what you want to provide them. This works great for sex; you’re much more likely to pleasure your partner by doing what feels good for them rather than what feels good for you. Your sales will be much higher by providing programs and services that address what your customers want rather than what you think they need. Your message to your target audience is:
I genuinely care about what’s important to you.
This is the #1 Secret of Powerful, Irresistible, Effective Marketing That Gets Results
Most practitioners understand this yet seem to have a hard time implementing it. I’ve seen many conduct diligent market research (because they know they need to design their services for their niche) and then completely ignore their data and their marketing flops. It pains me to see such passionate, talented, well intentioned professionals struggle to make a living because they have such a hard time connecting with the people they want to serve.
Market Research: The Key to Guaranteed Success
I cannot overstate the value of conducting market research. In fact, along with a few other key factors, credible market research is what differentiates successful practitioners from unsuccessful practitioners (or, if you like, practitioners in business and practitioners not in business).
Market research starts with learning core relevant facts about your niche. Who are they? Where are they? What do they want? What works for them? What doesn’t work for them? How are they being served (if at all) by other services? Ultimately, you want your market research to help you create a profile of your ideal client. And by ideal I don’t mean the nicest or the one who will send you the most referrals. Sure, that’s ideal, but not in the sense that it’s being used here. Rather, you want to clearly picture who it is that you’re serving. You want to understand what motivates them and what doesn’t, what they’re striving for, what they consider success to be (because it may not be the same as what you think it is, or even, what you think it should be), and so on.
Quality market research is done through 1:1 conversations with people that fit your niche, or through a focus group. And let me say bluntly: surveys are useless! Especially email or online surveys sent to a large group. The information you receive won’t help you. Your goal is to learn about your niche from the inside out and get to know them so well that it becomes clear how to market to them and what services to provide. Email and online surveys won’t do this. Got it?!
Ideally, you’ll conduct market research continuously on your existing programs, new programs, ideas for programs, and so on. Just as large corporations use market research to effectively market and serve their customers, this is a key to your success.
Here are five steps for conducting market research:
Step One: Research your niche for their demographic information, other professionals/organizations that serve them, other approaches to helping them, websites, online social networking groups, books, workshops, and so on. Call or meet with similar and complementary professionals and organizations to learn more about how they help the people in your niche. Do your homework and become an expert on available information about your target clients.
Step Two: Put together some ideas for programs, branding, services, and so on. Create a variety of program names to find out which they prefer. A great exercise is to brainstorm answers to this question: “If I were to write a book or deliver a workshop for my niche, what would I call it?”
Step Three: Identify 3-5 people who fit your niche. Ideally, these are people you know. If not, then ask your network for referrals. Contact them for informational interviews.
Step Four: Conduct your informational interviews and ask for feedback about your ideas from Step Two. Ask what they read, where they hang out, what groups and organizations they join, what publications they subscribe to, and so on. Ask them about their experiences, needs, goals, and challenges. Ask them about what they’ve done, where they’ve gone, who they’ve worked with to get support for the need or goal you will address in your business. Listen very closely to the language they use to describe their needs and goals. Ask for their top three problems and top three goals. Ask them to describe their ideal support service or program to address their need or goal.
Step Five: Compile your data and ideas, and use them to design the services, branding, and programs for your niche. Follow up with your market research participants and get their feedback on your ideas, plus ask them for referrals. Remember: an important principle is that “people support what they help create,” and when you follow-up with those who helped you along the way, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their excitement and support. In fact, a common and delightful by-product is that some of them might sign up for your program!
Reminder – DO NOT USE SURVEYS! Re-read the above for an explanation if needed.
Reminder – DO NOT IGNORE YOUR MARKET RESEARCH and do what sounds good to you (this is all too common)
A Word of Warning
I’ve seen many smart professionals acknowledge the wisdom of conducting marketing research to build their business and then ignore their data and fail or struggle as a result. Why? My guess is that it’s efficient, convenient and psychologically satisfying — a deadly trio when it points the wrong way – to build your business around what “sounds good” or “seems right” to you. The Golden Rule is ingrained in us.
Regardless of how good your hunches are or how many times in the past you’ve predicted what the marketplace would do, my advice to you is to always conduct your market research first, and then design your services, programs, and marketing on the hard data that you generate. If this merely verifies what you already “guessed,” then more power to you. But more often than not, your market research will re-shape your hypotheses; if not outright obliterate them (a humbling, yet staggeringly informative experience).
The other way of remembering all of the above – the more fun, positive way – is simply this: market to your target audience, not to yourself. And make no mistake: you are not your target market. This is one of the biggest flaws in all marketing (by no means limited to therapists or coaches). Often, businesses of all sizes forget that they aren’t their target market. Or to put it differently: they assume that they are their target market. So they simply say to themselves: “Hey, this makes sense to me, so it must make sense to the people I’m trying to communicate with.”
Of course all of the above depends upon understanding the need to identify your niche as your target audience for your services. You can’t effectively market to and help anyone and everyone; you must target your marketing to your specific, desired audience. See below for more information about choosing your niche.