There are so many tasks to do in a business, it’s hard to know which one to do next. You see all kinds of articles telling you which advertising platform to use or which eCommerce host is the best… but to a new business it’s kind of like talking to a brand new triathlete about which $12,000 triathlon bike they should buy. It’s too soon to worry about that.
There is a progression to business. The exact steps can move around in different industries, but the concept is the same: make sure you have a solid foundation and do work that helps you reach future goals.
I call it a “tactic ladder”. It’s not really a strategy. It’s just a way to put all the things you need to do in order, starting with where you want to get to and determining the steps it will take you to get there. When you are doing the work, like a ladder, you start from the bottom and work your way to the top.
Business owners who try to skip steps and start with a task too high up on the ladder can get seriously frustrated. They don’t have the foundation underneath it first and struggle to make progress. Maybe it’s advertising when you don’t know your target customer yet, maybe it’s buying expensive tools when you can’t afford yet, or maybe it’s focusing on differences that you care about but the customer doesn’t.
Here is one example of a tactic ladder:
- Get repeat customers who refer others to your business is the end goal.
- Provide awesome customer service so you can get repeat customers who refer others to your business
- Get the tools you need to be more efficient so you can provide awesome customer service.
- Make a bigger profit so you can get the tools you need to be more efficient.
- Get your target customer to buy from you again so you can make a bigger profit .
- Create additional products that appeal to your target customer so you can get your target customer to buy from you again.
- Learn more about the broader market your target customer fits into so you can create additional products that appeal to your target customer.
- Sell to more people so you can learn more about the broader market your target customer fits into.
- Reach a broader audience so you can sell to more people.
- Start to buy ads so you can reach a broader audience.
- Figure out how to target ads and write compelling copy in them so you can start to buy ads.
- Confirm that your product stands out and fits the market’s needs so you can figure out how to target ads and write compelling copy in them.
- Get more customers to pick you over the competition so you can confirm that your product stands out and fits the market’s needs .
- Refine your product so you can get more customers to pick you over the competition.
- Get feedback from your customers so you can refine your product.
- Get your first sale so you can get feedback from your customers.
- Earn your target customer’s trust so you can get your first sale.
- Get your target customer to notice that you understand them so you can earn your target customer’s trust.
- Describe your product in a way that speaks directly to your customer’s frustrations so you can get your target customer to notice that you understand them.
- Design products that satisfy to your target customer’s needs in a way that others don’t so you can
- describe your product in a way that speaks directly to your customer’s frustrations.
- Know the benefits your target customer is looking for but can’t find elsewhere so you can design products that satisfy to your target customer’s needs in a way that others don’t.
- Know what your target customer finds frustrating or annoying so you can know the benefits your target customer is looking for but can’t find elsewhere.
- Know what your target customer’s average day is like so you can know what your target customer finds frustrating or annoying.
- Know who your target customer is so you can know what your target customer’s average day is like.
- It all starts with knowing who your target customer is.
In the short term, you might be ok skipping a step or two. But sooner or later, you end up asking the dreaded question, “why did my sales slow down so much?” It’s like you had a ladder without feet, a house on quicksand, or a car with flat tires… eventually the foundation of your business gave out.
In the long run, it’s most effective for your business if you start with building the foundation with your target customer, learning as much as you can about them, and then designing around that. It’s why I recommend starting with selecting and offering products for people you know in real life. It will force you to branch out and learn how to make things for other people, not just for yourself.
It’s easy to focus on making things that we like, but as business owners we have to remember it’s not just about making what we like. It’s about making products/services that we and enjoy AND that benefit someone else so much that they choose our product instead of all the other ones out there.