A few months back I was advising an entrepreneur was eager to market his service to other small business people but his ideas to sell his Internet offering sucked. Rather than tell him so and risk hurting his feelings, I suggested that we would go speak to some prospects to find out what selling methods worked best with them.
A small business owner who had been running his deli business for a few years told the entrepreneur that the only marketing he would respond to would be direct contact. The entrepreneur needed to call him and let him know what he could do to help grow his business.
I’ve seen it too many times and am guilty of it myself – trying to second-guess customers. No matter how many clever marketing methods you come up with to sell to customers, the reality of what will work almost always can be found by speaking directly with customers.
Know-how and information that will work for you in your business, whether a start-up or existing business, is most valuable when it’s obtained first-hand.
Secondary sources such as magazines, books, and radio programmes or small business websites crammed with stock articles may provide insights and ideas. But it doesn’t make sense to rely on commentators for important business decisions.
When I was writing and editing a magazine for supermarkets and retailers (after working afternoons for three months in a Spar in Midrand, Johannesburg) I compiled a one-page column each month of advice on various topics direct from supermarket managers. This column was well read because other supermarket managers wanted to know how their competitors were solving problems similar to theirs. But the real pull of the coal-face column was the practical, real-world know-how from business people who had struggled with problems and solved them.
I provide information and advice that comes direct from my experience with small business people and entrepreneurs. I sometimes need to use examples from written sources but that’s only to help bring to life a point or principal I’ve seen work in the real world of business.
Too much information can be dangerous while too little can be risky. But the right information can help you get where you want to go.
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