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Are you massively wrong about the size of your market?

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I walked in my son’s Cub Scout meeting late last night, and ran into the wife of our den leader. She is a wonderful person; an engaged mother, passionate volunteer and airline pilot.

“I am so sorry for being late,” I said. “I was teaching a class.”

“No problem at all, where were you teaching?” she said.

“On the phone,” I said.

She looked puzzled. “You were teaching on the phone? How does that work?”

“I teach marketing to coaches who are in the Martha Beck coaching program. They dial in from all over the world, and I deliver sessions on how to grow your coaching business .”

“Hmm,” she said. I could tell that this was the first time she had ever heard about a “teleclass,” or “phone coaching,” all standard practices in my industry for the last decade.

This informed, intelligent, professional woman was totally unaware of a business model that has supported me and my family for the past six years.

And yet when I am teaching marketing to new entrepreneurs, they often lament that “the market is so crowded for (coaches) (social media consultants) (weight loss experts) (music teachers) (lifestyle design bloggers) (fill in your business here).”

They often say things like “All I see all day are offers for teleclasses, or marketing programs, or retreats. How in the world can I get any clients when the market is so saturated?”

“Where do you see them?” I ask.

“On Facebook and Twitter, mainly,” they say.

“And who makes up the people who are in your Facebook and Twitter streams?”

“Well, there are the fellow coaches in my coach training program, and the instructors in the program (which generally is about 80% of their social media connections) and the rest are family and old high school buddies (which is about 20%).

The best metaphor I can think of to explain this is that you and your very specialized peers are all on a small island in the middle of the Pacific, carrying around signs promoting your services. You keep bumping into each other. Because you think that your tiny island represents the entire world, you are convinced that there are far more sellers than buyers. In the meantime, there are massive amounts of ideal clients and customers on seven continents around the world, totally unaware that you exist, and dying to get help.

So how do you break out of this micro lens of your market and start to see the real need?

  1. Analyze your contacts on social media. How many are peers who theoretically are competitors? Feel free to stay connected with them, but expand your connections to include:
    -Connectors from very different industries, who might provide access to new markets.
    -Your clients. Put priority on following their work, being helpful and supportive.
    -Leaders in your industry who help you develop depth and mastery in your field.
    -Natural partners. Are you a web developer? Hang out with business or marketing coaches who can refer clients to you.
  2. Analyze where you spend your time. There is nothing wrong with getting support from professional peers, but when you are in a market-expanding mode, you want to spend 80% of your time in front of existing customers (who often give you repeat business), as well as new contacts in new markets. I suggest you research:-Live groups on meetup.com
    -Professional groups on LinkedIn (the volume will boggle your mind)
    -Facebook pages that would appeal to your ideal customers
    -Your own community network. Do you think your dentist, doctor, barista, neighbor or yoga teacher knows what you do for a living? One of my neighbors, who I have known for 8 years, said to me the other day: “Oh, you work? I thought you were a stay at home mom.”
  3. Build in a strong referral component to your business. Clients who you have worked with in the past are a great source of future business. They will most likely have a very different personal and professional network than you do. Make it easy for them to spread the word about the great services you provide by building in solid follow up systems and processes. For great ideas, see John Jantsch’s book Referral Engine.

If you think your tiny island is the entire world, of course you will feel stressed about market saturation.

Swim to shore. A whole new world of customers awaits.

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32 Responses to “Are you massively wrong about the size of your market?”

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  4. Kathy says:

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder. We often get stuck on an island without even realizing it. Reading articles like this reminds all of us to stretch and reach and pay attention to where our focus is

  5. [...] Are you massively wrong about the size of your market? Posted: February 26, 2012 | Author: mithuhassan | Filed under: Seeking for a Postion |Leave a comment » Via Scoop.it – Clothing Manufacturer and Exporter from BangladeshBe wrong in this area can have consequences “tragic”. Indeed, the fact underestimate the potential market can have us abandon our project, even when he has a very interesting potential. This article will maybe get you on track to prevent this clumsiness. [note Gysler Martin]   I walked in my son’s Cub Scout meeting late last night, and ran into the wife of our den leader. She is a wonderful person; an engaged mother, passionate volunteer and airline pilot.   “I am so sorry for being late,” I said. “I was teaching a class.”   “No problem at all, where were you teaching?” she said.   “On the phone,” I said.   She looked puzzled. “You were teaching on the phone? How does that work?”   “I teach marketing to coaches who are in the Martha Beck coaching program. They dial in from all over the world, and I deliver sessions on how to grow your coaching business .”   “Hmm,” she said. I could tell that this was the first time she had ever heard about a “teleclass,” or   “phone coaching,” all standard practices in my industry for the last decade…   Read more: http://www.escapefromcubiclenation.com/2012/02/02/are-you-massively-wrong-about-the-size-of-your-market/Via http://www.escapefromcubiclenation.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  6. Jane Griffin says:

    Thanks for this timely post. I actually stumbled across a very good meetup.com group via a Linkedin Group I’m in just this week! Gave me the kick up the behind I needed to get back on the social media horse and try and meet some local groups I could help out. Keep reminding myself that the people I want to reach aren’t on Twitter…but they want to be!

  7. Jim Van says:

    Like everyone else, I totally agree. It’s a small number of people that hang out on SN sites, and they are largely competitors, peers, and old friends. I think it was Seth Grodin, über-blogger, who summarized his Twitter feed as being ’98% garbage’. I know I don’t read most of my Twitter feeds anymore, and generally just skim over frequent posters on FB & LinkedIN…

    The comments you made about live events bring up another conundrum: many of the same people attend many different networking events, to the point that, in this market, at least, if you attend 3 or more, you’re seeing many of the same people, which is fine for a time, but over a year, can really defeat the purpose of your being there.

    Meetups, OTOH, often offer a fun & neutral environment, and the ones in which been involved or have organized seem to have fresh faces each time I attend. For example: my latest two clients were business owners I met at a meetup for a dog owner’s group. I guess it pays to be prepared with one’s headline, story, business card, & a bag of dog treats to boot:)

  8. Karl Staib says:

    This hit the nail on the head for me. Or just hit me in the head. :)

    I totally agree with this post. It’s a big reason why I want to go to Lift Off. I need to expand outside my comfort zone and expand my marketing efforts.

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  11. Totally. There’s some kind of psychological principle going on here where we estimate from the evidence we see, without thinking of the base rate.

    Or something.

    Still, good reminder.

    One thing that should probably sober me is thinking: how many of the people I know off-line are on Twitter.

    Then extrapolate that.

    I think sometimes I spend too much time thinking: how many of the people I ‘speak’ to every day are on Twitter.

    Or, translated: how many of the people I know on Twitter are on Twitter?

    Good reminder. I’ll keep the image of the island in mind…

  12. Nikki says:

    Pam, so glad you wrote this. I often have this foreboding sense that there’s just no ROOM left for me. That everyone’s already doing it bigger and better. This post will help me ignore that whiny little voice in my head whenever she starts her usual spiel. Thanks ;)

    Nikki xo

  13. Great post, Pam. I think people, in general, tend to over estimate their situations relative to business and under estimate their situations relative to networking.

    That’s doubly dangerous because when taken together, those scenarios can lead a business owner WAY off track.

    Your point about forcing oneself to continually evolve and look for new relationship-building opportunities is a critical one. If you get comfortable with your business and allow yourself to feel you can’t do more relative to networking, then you just may be leaving quite a bit of opportunity on the table.

    Thanks,
    Justin

  14. Megan Stacey says:

    You are so right Pam – I like the way you encourage creativity in networking online and in person. There are so many wonderful future clients out there…all you need to do is get to know them and make sure that they know you.

  15. This is such an excellent post, both informative but also encouraging. I am still trying to find the right balance of where I spend my time in various social networks, having become aware recently that many people who follow me on Twitter, for example, aren’t potential clients. That’s partly because Twitter is still intimidating to some not tech-savvy people.

    I always wanted to keep my facebook life personal but have since opened it up to sharing more business related things (thinking many people don’t know what I do for a living).

    What I realize is that my extended social circle is more likely to include people who share my interests and values than, say, Twitter, which means no more shots of me with a lampshade on my head.

  16. Alex Morris says:

    I do think companies should put more effort into looking into who is actually “following” them on Twitter and “liking” stuff on Facebook. You can really get a good rapport going with customers rather than simply viewing them as a means to boost your profit.

  17. Pam,

    That “tiny island” mentality you mention fuels despair, hopelessness and panic. Not a very useful perspective when one is motivated to make a difference and banking on a new career.

    Great advice.

  18. Karen says:

    very thought-provoking. thank you.

  19. Cindy Chin says:

    Pam,
    You speak the truth. It is definitely a side effect of all this technology. Before FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, you actually had to physically meet people! What a concept!

    Even though I love my social media, your post reminds all us entrepreneurs to broaden our scope.

    Thanks!

  20. Erin Howard says:

    Pam – wow, this is timely for me. My business, teaching about and providing email and social media marketing services to small businesses, is less than a year old and as I am getting started offering live and online classes I was feeling a bit discouraged about how much competition there is. I feel especially discouraged when I meet or see people online who are where I want my business to be in a year or two. But of course I mostly see these people in my Twitter streams and so on, just as you said.

    But realistically, when I get out to local business networking meetings I do occasionally run into competitors, but I meet lots of people who don’t know a lot about the subject and seem excited about my services.

    Thanks for the encouragement and dose of common sense!

  21. Don says:

    Another excellent reminder that I needed right now. Pam, you’re awesome. Keep up your important work.
    Regards, Don

  22. Absolutely!!!

    We tend to do the same in many other aspects..Sometimes we think that what we know is all there is to know…

    It is incredible what we end up learning when we get out of our little worlds ( small island) and explore what else is out there…it opens us to things we never could imagine!

    Thanks Pam, Great Post!

  23. Anita says:

    Thank you Pam. When I go out and talk to people I am always surprised to meet individuals who have no idea what coaching or mentoring even is. It’s a big world out there with lots of people needing north star guiders like you :-)

  24. Larry Keltto says:

    Great post. About six months ago I did what you suggest. It works.

  25. Ashley says:

    That was SO right on Pam! I really like the island analogy; you confirmed something that’s been slowly coming into focus for me. I offer copywriting & marketing strategy services to personality-based small business owners who are in the start-up phase of growing their businesses online. While I’ve worked with some phenomenally creative women up to this point, many of the ones in my online social circles are DIYers. It’s time to start thinking outside the box, or the island in this case.

    Thanks for the perspective =)

  26. Stanley Lee says:

    Timely post as I’m struggling on finding my own products’ and services’ market. I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about this.

  27. Donna says:

    So true… and so obvious (now that you pointed it out.) Love the imagery of the small island with everyone carrying a sign promoting their own business!! Instead of a box, we are in our groups on little islands everywhere thinking stuck & limiting thoughts!

  28. Laura Simms says:

    One of my goals this year is to be more of a presence in my own city. There are throngs of people in my target market here, but if they ain’t on Twitter, they don’t know I exist. Thanks for this, Pam!

  29. Torrey says:

    For those of us online, it’s easy to feel this way. It’s easy to forget to get off the computer and go out in the real world where there’s lots and lots of folks that need your help that you’d ordinarily miss.

    Great thoughts Pam

  30. YES!

    Great work, Pam. The world needs this, and the world needs you.

  31. Pam, you are so right. I’ve dipped in and out of using social media but only starting to do it consistently this year (woo hoo a whole month:) I’m a late bloomer) and this is exactly what I’ve been noticing.

    Loved your island metaphor.

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