In 2012 I made the decision to restart my business.
I wrote previously about how I killed almost all my income streams, and I did it on purpose. This was the beginning of the restart process.
It felt like I was starting from the beginning again, which meant I had to figure out the answer to a fundamental question…
This is the same question every new entrepreneur must answer first. Without it, you are destined to fail.
So you’re probably wondering, what is that question?
It Takes A Decade To Learn A Basic Principle
When I first became an online entrepreneur I was pretty clueless about how businesses worked.
My business education consisted of stories I read in magazines and newspapers, or interviews on the radio, with these men and women who had ideas for products, launched them, and then the money started flowing in.
My assumption was pretty basic back then: Make a product, buy some ads on TV, radio and in print to sell the product, then watch the money flow in.
In hindsight I can see the mistake I was making…
My awareness was limited to what I knew, hence I focused entirely on myself when it came to business ideas.
This is what I thought went into a business…
- Me as the entrepreneur to come up with good ideas and drive activities
- A product that I made or sourced from somewhere
- Advertising to create awareness for this product
See what is missing?
I didn’t factor in the people who would buy this product. I didn’t consider my customers.
I knew nothing about them. In fact, I figured that with a cool product and good advertising they would just ‘turn up’ and buy.
That might happen if I got lucky, but I wasn’t customer-centric back then. I was more caught up in the romance of being an entrepreneur, my cool product ideas, and of course, the big money that could be made.
Marketing Is A Social Science
Let me ask you a question…
What does ‘marketing’ mean to you?
If you’re like me when I first started as an entrepreneur, I thought advertising and press coverage was marketing.
I thought it was about broadcasting messages using paid media, and getting free exposure for your message through mainstream press.
Those are good platforms for marketing, but they are only channels, techniques you can use to deliver your message to people, they are not the message itself.
Over the years I learned that marketing is a social science. It’s the study of human behavior when it comes to purchasing decisions.
It took me a very long time to truly understand this. Even as I started blogging my focus was heavily skewed towards what I cared about without any consideration for what other people wanted.
I invested a good two years of blogging before I figured out and refined my message to something my audience wanted. Strangely enough, as soon as I did this, my income skyrocketed.
If You’ve Never Made Money Online Before You’re Making This Mistake
By now if you have read between the lines you know the answer to the question I posed at the start of this article…
What is the fundamental question you need to answer if you’re going to make money online?
The question is what do your customers want? (and secondarily, what do they actually need?).
I faced this question when I restarted my business. I felt I knew my market well having already spent eight years blogging and teaching through online courses.
Yet I didn’t want to make assumptions. I wanted to hear the words said directly to me. I wanted my customers to tell me, word-for-word, what they thought their problem was and how it was stopping them from getting what they wanted.
I could then use my knowledge and experience to figure out what they needed.
Once I had the answer to these three critical questions, I would know exactly how to restart my business:
- What is my customer’s problem? (their block)
- What does this problem stop them from experiencing that they really want? (the desired outcome)
- What do I need to give them to help them get what they want (blockage remover to lead to the desired outcome)
So what did I do to get the answers to these questions?
I spoke with actual paying customers.
What Do Your Active Buyers Want?
Here is the question you need to answer.
If you’ve never made money online, it’s because you’ve never figured out the answer to this…
What do your active buyers want?
The answer to this question comes from more than just observational research, anecdotal data, stories, friend recommendations or even what a mentor or mastermind group tells you is the answer.
You must learn the answer from people who are actively trying to solve their problem and are willing to spend money to do so. People who have never spent money to try and solve this problem are NOT active buyers.
Ideally, you want to learn the answer from people who buy from you — your first customers are your research customers.
Wait! What? — They spend money to give you the answer?
Yes, that’s right. There are ways to get people to pay money to tell you what they want.
Does that sound like a pretty ideal form of research?
I think so.
This is why when I restarted my business the very first thing I did was send an invite to my email newsletter for paid private coaching sessions with me over the phone. I’ll be honest, one-on-one coaching is not my favourite way to make money, but it is by far the best way to learn about your target audience. It’s also a great starting point when you have nothing else to sell yet.
I ended up conducting almost 20 private coaching sessions in a two month period. Of course, the purpose of the coaching session is for me to help my client, but it is also the ideal circumstance to refine more clearly what they want.
If you don’t offer coaching, offering some kind of paid for service (contracting, freelancing, consulting, etc) can also help you figure out exactly what your customer wants. They’re going to keep telling you what they want from you until you give it to them, because they’ve paid you money for it!
The more direct contact you have with active buyers, the more you learn about why they spend money and what that purchase is meant to help them do. You will learn why THEY are stuck, what THEY want, and how exactly THEY describe their problems.
Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs start with the product in mind, create it, launch it, then attempt to convince people they need it.
You can guess where that leads. No sales, no customers and one important lesson – you know what people DO NOT want (that is a step forward, but a slow and painful one if you just spent a lot of money and time on a product no one purchases – trust me, I’ve done it).
Have You Ever Spoken To A Buyer?
I’ll leave you with one last important question…
Have you ever spoken directly to a buyer?
When I say buyer, I mean someone who has purchased something designed to solve the problem your potential new business is intended to help them solve.
If the answer is no, you may have just figured out why you’re stuck. It’s hard to gain clarity and direction when you haven’t learned about the people who drive your business.
P.S. I’ve created a new product that I’ve wanted to develop for a long time. It’s specifically designed for you if you’re struggling to figure out where the money is to be made online.
If you’re frustrated because you can’t find a money making topic, or you can’t figure out where the money is in the market you have decided to go after, this is exactly what you need.
It’s a short course called The Blog Money Finder, and you can learn how it works here…