Imagine you’re building a house. You start with the first floor, then the second, and years later — after you’ve lived in it for a while — you want to add a balcony or another floor, but your contractor tells you the house wasn’t built for that.
Do you tear it down and start over or do you wish you’d thought about it earlier?
This building is your business. (And your services, and your products.) Starting over is costly and timely, so you need an excellent foundation with room for growth.
This is why I created the following "Venn Alignment Diagram".
As long as you make sure the 3 elements from the diagram are aligned, you’ll have your strong foundation and you can add whatever you want on top of it.
Click to tweet: Optimize your business for success with this Venn Diagram.
1. What you do.
If you want to make sure your business is built to grow, you have to set a strong foundation. And the strongest foundation lies within rather than without. (It's just like motivation - in most cases, internal motivation can carry you further than external motivation, even though it's best you have both.)
So I'd like to take the road less traveled and say that your business will be more successful if you align it to YOURSELF FIRST. If you're aligned to your business, you'll love it, toil over it, and you won't give up when things get rough. And if it's just aligned to your target audience, do you think they'll be the ones toiling over it? No, you're the only person responsible for it, and if you want it to be awesome, you need to love it.
Here are some exercises you can do to align yourself:
1.1. Define your purpose.
Rather than coming up with "products", come up with ways to help the people you want to help in the way you want to help them. This is your purpose.
To discover yours, just fill in the blanks:
I want to help [your target audience, up to three groups] with [whatever it is you want to help them with] in order to [the benefits they'll get from your product] because [your own reason, maybe you had the same problem].
I want to help bloggers, freelancers, and solopreneurs with doing marketing with purpose and personality in order to build engaged audiences AND be able to enjoy themselves because I used to be miserable in marketing.
Yep, this is my purpose. It informs everything I do and helps me focus.
P.S. I got this technique from some other people's frameworks. When I manage to dig all of them out again, I'll include the sources here.
1.2. Know what motivates you.
Do you know what motivates you? Is it deadlines or freedom? Is it knowing things in advance or being surprised along the way? Is it money or fulfillment or both? Knowing these things will help you make good decisions for your business.
One way to get to the bottom of a problem, for example is the 5 Why's exercise where you ask "why" 5 times, until you get to the real reason you're doing (or not doing) something - meaning after 5 why's, you get to the motivation behind it.
Disclaimer: This exercise uncovers fears and hangups as well, so take note of those and try to address them - it's a big part of aligning yourself for success.
Now break down your business into parts. For example, core message, target audience, and products. Ask yourself why you've done each as you have, and keep asking until you discover the real reason. Do this exercise as many times as you can or want to, and keep a list of the motivations you uncover. Always consult the list for major decisions.
For example, say I want to know why I want to help bloggers in particular. -> Because I'm confident I can help them. -> Why? -> Because I have been a blogger for a long time and therefore know what they're going through. -> Why? -> Because I believe that having been there will better help me help anyone. -> Why? -> Because I need to feel secure in what I do. Otherwise I feel like a fraud and peter out.
(Oops, think I just did 4 Why's. Ah well, think I nailed it anyway.)
So there it is! I'm a scardy cat and security motivates me. So next time I want to help someone, but "I haven't been there", I'll come back to this and go from there. On the other hand, I could have discovered that I secretly didn't believe I could help them and either drop that group or align my mentality better to serve them.
1.3. Do things YOUR WAY.
Basically, it's got to be your way or delegate. (tweet it)
And I'll tell you why - when you're doing things the way other people are doing them and you don't enjoy doing things the way other people are doing them, you'll end up putting off a lot of things. You'll struggle with social media, run out of listicle ideas, and you'll just be miserable because what you're doing doesn't come naturally.
You're a unique human being and therefore everything you do is done in a unique way - including networking, writing, etc.
It's high time you gave yourself permission to experiment and find the ways that work best for you. Here's an exercise that could speed up the process:
Draw two lines to make three columns and write down all the things you're putting off in the first one. The second is reserved for either an M or a D, meaning you either want to find a way to do it yourself (m for myself) or you can't be bothered and you'll delegate.
Finally, the third column is for alternative ways to do those things.
2. What you say.
So you have your purpose, you're aligned to it, and you can’t wait to see the money rolling in or the requests raining or whatever. You feel as though you’re on top of the world… but it only lasts a few minutes after launch. Then it's downhill from there.
Suddenly, you're staring at the mother of all inactivity, refreshing pages in the futile hopes that the tide is going to turn any minute now.
But if it doesn't, I bet it's because something in your copy went wrong. Maybe you made something, but weren't clear about the audience you're trying to reach. Or maybe you just used some fancy terminology instead of your clients' slang.
Here are some ways to present your offering in the clearest way possible:
- Set a goal for each page on your site and each landing page (you might want it to make people buy something or go somewhere) and make sure you include a CTA at the end (without drowning people in multiple CTA's).
- Check if the language you used corresponds to the language your clients use every day (you can see what they ask on Quora, on forums, in book reviews, or you can talk to them, do surveys with open-ended questions, and so on).
- Be very specific when you're describing the people who are going to use your product. And be specific with the benefits they're going to take away from it. Basically, be specific every time you get the chance to be.
- This goes without saying, but don't ramble on endlessly and highlight the important parts (like the benefits) lest people skip them. Use hotjar to see what they do on your site, and try to see your offering through their eyes.
- Make sure everything - from your CTA's to your blog images to your tagline to your social media messages - is aligned. For example, don't include strange pictures on your site, which may not appeal to your people.
You see, copy is very temperamental and it can get out of control pretty fast. If you ever need an extra pair of eyes, let me know.
3. What they want.
Did you hear about the guy who built this gadget for 2 years, raised and spent all this money, only to find out nobody actually wanted it? Yikes.
You don't wanna be that guy. Which means you have to do some digging BEFORE you even launch your business. I know, you thought you were almost there, you could smell the money, and now I'm bringing you down, saying you have to backtrack.
Here's the deal. I'm SURE your offering has value. And I'm absolutely certain SOMEBODY will need it. Just like I'm certain that somebody would have said "cool, I want this gadget" to the guy who spent 2 years building it. In fact, many people said it, but they weren't his target audience, which means he should have gone to the source and made sure the market was ready for his product. But he didn't.
Here are some suggestions to avoid ending up in that situation:
- Ask people what they want. (Or sneakily find it by yourself like Joana Wiebe.)
- Test a mini version of your product before working on the big one. (Derek Halpern)
- Do client interviews or give free help to understand your client's perspective.
- Write some tweets or blog posts about it and see the response. (example)
- Join a community to better understand your target audience.
Those are just a few ideas. If you sit down and think about this for ten minutes, I bet you'll come up with your own ingenious strategy.
Finally, a big disclaimer here: You don't have to start from square one if you notice a misalignment between your product and what people want. Sometimes all it takes for a product to be successful are just a few tweaks. Like re-aligning what you do, what you say, and what people want. And then you're ready to grow.
Phew, we covered a lot today, didn't we?
You see, I have seen these misalignments many times in friends, strangers, and clients. I have helped re-align some. And trust me, once everything is working together, you have a much higher chance to come out a winner.
Now it's your turn...