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?
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.