Small businesses fail because they don’t get enough paying customers.
Most of the time, this is a result of poor marketing and/or lack of sales skills.
(Considering how many truly horrible products and services have actually been sold successfully, I could probably say “all of the time.”)
Sometimes, though, the idea just isn’t right. People aren’t interested in your product, course or workshop – or they don’t want to pay for the service you are offering.
This can especially be a problem if you want to offer something completely new – if you’re looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind, never-been-done-before idea.
The last thing you want to do is invest a bunch of time, effort and money trying to promote something that isn’t going to sell (or isn’t going to work for your clients.)
Here’s a 3 part test you can apply to your new ideas before fully committing to them.
1. At least 3 “strangers” bought
By “strangers” – I mean people that did not know you before they purchased from you.
- Not friends.
- Not family.
- Not the people in your “how to be a life coach” training program.
- People who were referred to you by people you know. This is good networking and a great way to get your first few clients. As long as you don’t already know them, it counts.
- Former employers or business connections. Contracting back to a former employer is a great way to get a freelance business off the ground.
It’s relatively easy to sell to your friends and relatives and people who know you. (Especially if you’re introducing a lower priced offer.) You’ve built up know, like and trust – and they may love you enough to purchase from you in order to be supportive. (Or you may believe that’s why they bought!)
To feel rock solid confidence in your business and your ideas, you need to sell them to strangers.
One could be a fluke. Two a co-incidence. Three is a pattern. If there’s three, there’s more.
2. You charged (and they paid) the full amount
- Not a discount rate. If you charge $125 for a wellness session, getting $20 doesn’t count.
- Not a trade with a colleague. Even if you had to practice your selling technique. Even if you exchanged cheques.
- Not a swap for services. No coaching in exchange for a website (or vice versa.)
Working for free or at a discount is a great way to build your skills and confidence. It’s great for getting experience and testimonials.
Swapping for needed services is also awesome. You can lower your start up expenses and get experience at the same time.
That said…your business needs to support you with real dollars. If people aren’t willing to exchange (enough) cash for what you do, there’s no market there.
3. They were happy with the results – and you have hard evidence
What you do needs to actually work/help people. It’s really hard to build a sustainable, long term business selling sub-par products and services.
You’ll constantly be on the hunt for new clients/customers and you’ll miss out on the easiest sales of all: repeat sales to existing clientele and referrals/word of mouth marketing. You’ll also lack the social proof you get from having great testimonials.
And if you actually care about your clients and want your life’s work to have meaning and fulfillment, you will find it hard to continue marketing and selling something that falls short of the promises you are making.
To pass this part of the test you need evidence. This evidence can come in 3 different ways. In order of preference:
- Your client re-purchases. They sign up for another program, they renew their contract, they continue to work with you.
- Your client sends you a referral. Or several referrals.
- You get a glowing testimonial.
If your idea passes this 3 part test, there’s a good chance you have something viable
If there are at least 3 people out there who’ve proven they will buy from you, there are almost certainly more.
If you’ve passed the test, but you’re struggling to make additional sales or attract enough new clients, you more than likely have a marketing or sales problem.
If you haven’t passed the test, your idea might not be viable. Then again, it may just be a problem with your sales and marketing. (If other people are successful with a similar offer, the latter is likely the issue.)
The good news is that marketing and selling are learnable skills. They’re also an absolute requirement for business success. Even if your idea is great.