Weekly Column: First Habit of Success

“In the Land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.” Desiderius Erasmus, Adagia (III, IV, 96). Dutch author, philosopher, & scholar (1466 – 1536).

This week, let’s discuss what is arguably the first habit of successful entrepreneurs:  Understanding what your customers want, and how to provide that to them.

The reason this is such an important habit is the same reason many businesses struggle. If you try to fit your customers into the mold of what you want to provide, you will find your customers going elsewhere. Successful businesses and successful leaders know that they have to constantly adapt, stay on top of customer feedback, and even reinvent themselves and their products to stay ahead in the marketplace.

It’s easy to find examples of this in big business (Apple, Google, even McDonald’s), but what about the small business and consultant world? How do you, as a small or independent business owner adapt and stay ahead of the power curve?

First, learn to filter out the noise. Some customers want your product or service now, customized, and for free. Anything less and they complain. This is hard, but you may just have to let them. Best case: part ways amicably. Refund their money if you have to, but don’t let them drag you down with crazy personalized service that cost you sales with real customers. Note: not every complaint is a bad customer, but you have to identify the difference.

Second, listen to the real customers. They are the ones that bought your product and use it, and can include ones that are enjoying your free content too. Chances are they are the ones that would give you a testimonial. They have ideas for things that would make their lives better, and may suggest products or services that you can provide. Example: A customer says they need help giving PowerPoint presentations at work. Response: Provide a free 10-step tip sheet on your web site, and then offer a one-hour audio (or video) lesson on PowerPoint success and an on-site “lunch and learn” presentation at your normal rates.

Third, pay attention (but not too much) to your competition. You don’t always have to do something “new and different” than your competition. Sometimes just putting your spin on something makes it worth while for a segment of your audience. For instance, as an experienced IT Project Manager, I can position myself to provide the same type of presentation training as others in my market, but with my point of view as someone who has seen success from the IT arena. If another speaker creates a program on how to inject humor into your presentations, I can look at creating a program on using humor in the IT environment.

This may sound almost easy when you read about it, but in real life it’s not so easy. You need the right Attitude toward serving your customer base, the Commitment to stay the course and adjust your heading from time-to-time and the desire to achieve Excellence in your efforts.

The opening quote eluded to your ability to lead those who are not yet fortunate enough to see what you see, and need your expertise to move forward in their own lives. Take a look at what you are providing, what your customers are telling you, and bridge that gap to stay successful. Seth Godin says “Real Artists Ship”. Not every effort will be successful, but some will. No missed opportunity will help you achieve success. Find out what your customers want, then give it to them – Make that your first habit to success.

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