Not Having Any Luck in this Business? Here’s What Could Be Going On

Ask Danielle

Last week I told you about asking colleagues on my mailing list why they are in this business.

I received a wonderful outpouring of responses, and I’m still working on responding personally to every one.

Several people wrote about having difficulty getting anywhere. Here’s an example from one colleague:

Unfortunately, nothing was happening with the business and then I got very discouraged and didn’t pursue it further.  I decided to put a pause on the business and change my career.”

This colleague plans to come back to the business at a later date. The thing is, though, when she does come back to it, she is likely to have the same difficulties. You aren’t going to get different results doing the same things that weren’t working in the first place.

So I probed a little further and asked her to elaborate and try to give me some more specific details about what she was experiencing. I asked if her difficulty was in finding clients. I asked if she had done a business plan. I asked if she had a target market (and if so, what was it). I asked if she had a website (because the website is a big window into the business as a whole and I can tell a whole lot just by taking a look there).

Here’s what she told me:

“I was having difficulty finding clients. I do have a website. My target market was individuals and corporations. Yes, I have done a business plan. I have networked and reached out to prospects about my company but I think the services I offer is not what popular. I’m not sure what I attribute my difficulties to, maybe marketing and the services.

There are a few things that immediately jump out at me as the cause of some of this colleague’s difficulties. I share because maybe you are in the same boat and it may help you as well:

  1. “Individuals and corporations” are not target markets, they are demographics. A target market is a single, specific industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support and marketing message to. Saying “individuals” is your target market is like saying “people” is your target market. That could literally be anyone and mean anything. It’s the complete opposite of the definition of a target market. Because the point of having a target market is to get clarity and direction for who you are talking to (you can’t come up with any kind of compelling message unless you decide definitively who your audience is to be), what that group’s particular needs, goals, challenges and pains are, how you can help them in those things and structure your offerings in a way that will be of most interest and value to them, and where to find them. If you don’t decide who to focus on, you’re going to be all over the place talking about things in a way that can only be vague, generic and nebulous. That’s not going to have any impact on anyone.
  2. As a demographic, corporations are rarely, if ever, the best fit for what we do. That’s because they don’t need the solution Administrative Consultants are in business to offer. (And just to clarify, in the context of my conversation with this colleague, she’s using “corporations” in terms of “big business,” not literally anyone who happens to have incorporated their business.) Here’s the thing: generally speaking, big business has the kind of workloads that inherently require full-time, in-house, dedicated staff (and Administrative Consultants are not going to be able to work with any clients like that, from both a legal and practical standpoint). They also have the resources to pay for and house them. They don’t really need us. If they are even remotely interested in us, it’s only to offload non-core functions as cheaply as possible. That’s what offshoring/outsourcing is all about. They could care less about the relationship, and when there isn’t a real need, they don’t place much value on the service. And you can’t be in business to be cheap. It’s always the solopreneurs and boutique businesses that have the greatest need for what we’re in business to offer. They, therefore, place greater value in it and are more willing to pay well for it. So it’s important to understand who makes the best fit (who has the highest and greatest need) for what we do so that you aren’t wasting your time barking up the wrong trees.
  3. When it comes to the service, you aren’t selling hammers, you’re selling what a hammer does, what it builds. My colleague states she thought she was offering services that weren’t popular. Here’s what she’s not understanding: It’s not “services” that you’re selling. As an Administrative Consultant, you are offering one thing: an ongoing relationship of administrative support. What that support is comprised of depends on the target market. This is why you need a target market. Once you decide specifically who to cater your support to, you can determine what body of tasks, functions and roles will be most helpful and compelling to that group. That’s when you’ll find the “popularity” you were lacking before.
  4. People don’t want to hear about your company, they want to hear about what your company can do for them. Read that two or three times and let it sink in. This makes a critical difference in how you are approaching people. But here’s the other thing, when you don’t know who you’re aiming for (because you’re just aiming at anyone and everyone), you don’t know anything about them and therefore don’t know how to talk to these people or what to talk about, you automatically default to talking about yourself and your company. If you had a target market, you would know specifically who you are aiming for, know what their common needs, goals, challenges and pains are in their industry, and you have something to talk about with them. My philosophy about networking is don’t do it. Instead, go to help, be of service, learn more about the people you meet and simply make friends. You’re going to have a lot better results that way. (For further insight when it comes to in-person networking, read this post: Are Business Cards Dead?)

For anyone out there who hasn’t yet decided on a target market, please do download the free ACA guide on “How to Choose Your Target Market.” It will help you TONS!

How about you? Have you had similar difficulty in your business? Do you find this information I’ve shared helpful?

3 Responses

  1. [Private Name] says:

    Thank you so much for your input and for sharing my story to help others. It’s funny how I have read other articles where you mentioned the three points you made in my case, but somehow it didn’t register until now. I understand where my problem areas are, and they are very important ones. Thanks again. You’re so helpful.

  2. Rene Jarrett says:

    Danielle, I love reading your blogs and comments. I just received my LLC and registered for a website last night. Now I need to, once again, read your business plan template to get an idea of what exactly I want to offer.

    I don’t want to go overboard; right now, I just want about four clients because I want to only work part-time. I will be assisting executive consultants. I already have one client. Thanks so much for the special attention you give your association clients and for helping me to go in the right direction.

  3. Hi Rene 🙂

    I’m so glad my posts and insights are of value to you. You are so sweet to let me know that, and I really appreciate it!

    I think your goal is a good one to shoot for. Four is perfectly doable and manageable (provided you make sure you don’t get caught up working with them like a day-to-day assistant.)

    Another tip: focus on getting one client at a time, because it takes time setting up and ramping up with each new client. Taking on too many new clients at once, while it might seem like a boon, can actually overwhelm a new business. I have worked with many, many colleagues who grew too fast and it killed their business because they didn’t have a plan for managing their practice.

    Here’s my quick biz plan for you:

    1. Everything starts with the money so know your numbers. Download the free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator so you can get clear about your money needs, goals and what you and your business need to be profitable and sustainable.

    2. Choose a target market to cater your admin support to. A target market is simply an industry/field/profession that you focus on supporting. EVERYTHING from that point forward is then informed by who your target market is, and all your next steps become much clearer just by having and knowing who your target market is. (Again, download the free ACA guide on How to Choose Your Target Market if you haven’t done that already.) So when you have questions like, Where do I market? What do I say to them? How can I support them, etc., etc., all you have to do is look to your target market because it will answer all those questions for you.

    3. The next big thing is to focus on your website. It’s the most vital and important tool in your marketing collateral. It needs to be structured in an intentional way that leads site visitors through your client funnel, gets those all-important consultations and converts those consults into actual clients. I show people how to do all of that, step by step, in my website guide: Build a Website That Works

    4. You’re going to need to understand how to manage your practice and clients in a way that allows you to make good money and take fantastic care of clients without sacrificing your own life doing it. Get my practice management guide to learn how to do that: Power Productivity & Practice Management

    5. And then of course, you’re going to need the practical, foundational pieces (e.g., client forms and contracts) which you can also get from the ACA Success Store (this would be Set-01)

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