When I was 17, an older woman I knew told me, “If you want to get ahead in this world, you gotta tell people what they wanna hear.” She was an honest person, so I just had to ask, “Have you done that?”
“No,” she said. “I tell them the truth, that’s why no one wants to talk to me anymore!”
Everyone wants something, isn’t that right? Getting ahead, though, can rarely be accomplished with words alone. It takes action. In the business world it requires giving people what they want. Successful online and offline businesses find out what their customers want and give it to them!
Have you ever bought a gift for someone that ended up on the trash heap after a short period of time? Okay, maybe it didn’t end up in the garbage, but they clearly weren’t interested in using, wearing or doing anything of substance with your purchase. We’ve all experienced this at one time or another. One of the reasons this happens is because you purchased them something “you liked” and assumed they would, too. This happens in business, too.
In business, online or otherwise, the question that matters above all others is – what do your customers really want? Invest in a product you “think” they’ll like and you can end up with a bunch of inventory no one wants to buy. Let me tell you, I learned this lesson the hard way when I was only 22-years old.
Back then, I decided to get into the mail order business. I purchased the inventory of a product that I “thought” everyone would want. Guess what? I was wrong. I purchased a product that had sold well “at one time,” but that time had come and gone. Lesson learned.
No, if you’re going to succeed, you have to know what your customers want – today!
If you’re a writer, the most important question is – “What topics will interest my readers?”
If you’re opening a restaurant, the most important question is – “What kind of food do people want in this area/location?”
If you’re an artist, the most important question is – “What kind of artwork do they want to buy?”
It all comes down to giving people what they want. When you meet expectations and flourish. And when you don’t… you don’t.
Sometimes people are looking for the top of the line products. Other times, good enough is good enough. McDonalds makes a fortune selling cheap food that many people consider “good enough.” Many people enjoy eating unhealthy, inexpensive food. You can argue about why all day long and that still won’t change a thing.
You can have a great marketing plan, but if you’re not giving the people what they want, the results will still be lukewarm at best.
WHAT PEOPLE WANT
There are times when finding out what other people want is as easy as asking them. Other times, however, they either won’t or can’t tell you. This is where testing comes in. Hollywood provides good examples of this. Screen plays are written, actors hired, sets created, etc., in an attempt to create the type of entertainment people want.
Sometimes they succeed wildly and other times they fail miserably. There are box office hits and box office bombs. Even so, the studios put out enough “hits” to more than compensate for the flops. The Hollywood machine generates billions of dollars worldwide every year because one way or another, they find a way to give people what they want.
MAKE ADJUSTMENTS AS YOU GO
I use Google’s Keyword Analyzer and Google Trends to keep my finger on the “pulse” of different industries. Just type “Google Keyword Analyzer” or “Google Trends” into the search box and go from there. You can get the data you need including global monthly searches and local monthly searches. This information will show you what people are looking for online.
In the past, I also used magazines to gauge interest in particular topics. Ten years ago there were four boxing magazines found regularly on the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million stores. I watched that number dwindle as they were replaced by Mixed Martial Arts magazines.
The magazine shelf was a direct reflection of the public’s changing interests.
Every industry has competition. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to tell who’s really the leader of the pack. Larger companies with deeper pockets can move money around and appear to be doing a lot better than is actually the case. “Follow the leader” can be dangerous if, in all reality, the leader is just as lost as the followers are.
If you have very little by the way of competition in your niche, one of two things may be possible. Either you’re on the front end of a positive trend that’s only going to increase in size and interest over the coming years… or you’ve picked a dud.
If you’re going to assess the competition, assess it from top to bottom and everything in between. Don’t assume anything.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES
No one likes making mistakes. Especially when money is involved. An old businessman once told me that I’d learn more from my mistakes than I did from my successes. He was right. I made a lot of mistakes earlier on. Some were expensive ones, too. At the time, it felt like the end of the world. Life went on, though, and I lived to fight another day.
The point is, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll never be 100% certain what your customers really want until you put it out there. What works in one area doesn’t work in another and vica-versa. Don’t get caught up with the why’s… just make your adjustments, keep moving forward and learn as you go.