Simon Hopkins is a cofounder of iBE.net, a developer of web and mobile-based business management software. He began his career at Andersen Consulting in 1989 and was most recently Chairman and CEO of Roc Americas Inc., a global IT consultancy. Before that he was COO for Axon Solutions and CFO of Feanix Corporation. He has successfully led companies to IPO and acquisition and earned a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Imperial College, London.
So, you’ve developed what you think is a great piece of software, awesome mobile app, or a super sleek website that solves a major problem. You’ve picked a “launch date”, built some buzz online, and you’re all ready to go live. As the big launch day comes and goes, not much has changed: your traffic hasn’t spiked, your downloads are almost non-existent, and you’re left feeling defeated and deflated.
Don’t panic; almost every entrepreneur has felt this way at some point or another. In an age of digital/information/application/software/solution overload, it is becoming increasingly challenging to differentiate your technology and create something that deserves to be called “innovative” or “disruptive”. The good news is that while it may be harder to be unique, it has become easier to be specific. The same channels that have created clutter have given us a way to granularly reach our potential customers—to offer something that is specifically tailored for their needs and positioned in a way that resonates and converts.
Whether you’re just starting out, or are struggling with sales, the overriding message here is to focus, focus, focus. You know the size of your potential market and the profiles of potential customers. Chip away at this group until you can chip no more to hone in on a highly targeted, narrow segment—the more specific, the better. Get to know this target market intimately, and if you aren’t already, become one of them. Where does this niche group of people hang out online? What blogs do they read, websites do they visit, and social media do they use? What other products or services do they use that are related to yours, and through what channels do they purchase them? Who influences this group to buy, and generally who are the thought leaders? Having an understanding of all of this will seem overwhelming if you cast the net too wide.
Once you’ve learned about your subset, you can effectively engage with them online. Interact with them on their social medium of choice (blogs, social media, email, etc.). The beauty of starting small is that you can build meaningful, 1-1 relationships. By narrowing your focus, you can adjust your messaging to reflect the specific needs and desires of this subset. Start pushing out content—whether in the form of blogs, social media posts, white papers, infographics, or even paid ads—that reflects your dedication and understanding of this niche group. Suddenly, you are speaking their language, and are knowledgeable of their specific problems; you’ve made it into their inner circle of business professionals. You’re fishing with dynamite, instead of guessing what bait might attract them.
There are several outcomes of this exercise that can make it very valuable. The first is validating the assumption that this highly focused group of potential customers is primed for your product or service. You may have become extremely familiar with their buying habits, needs and wants, and still honed in on the wrong group. Before you throw your hands up in the air, test out different marketing messages to see if you can find the right hook. If or when you do get it right, you should be able to convert these prospects into customers more quickly and more easily than you would in a traditional sales cycle. You’ve laid the groundwork by investing in getting to know them and producing content they’d find valuable. Whether you’re launching a new product or service, or you’re in need of an accelerated revenue boost, a little focus can go a long way.