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.
I knew in order to successfully pull off the re-launch of my blog teaching business I had to go right back to the start and answer a fundamental question.
This question would drive everything I did with my new direction over the coming years. It’s still driving what I do now.
So you’re probably wondering, what is that question?
Let’s find out…
It Takes A Decade To Learn A Basic Principle
When I first became an online entrepreneur I was pretty clueless about how business 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 brilliant product, buy some ads on TV, radio and in print, then watch the money flow in.
In hindsight I can see the mistake I was making clearly. 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 of course, 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 is marketing to you?
If you’re like me when I first started as an entrepreneur, I thought advertising and public relations was marketing.
I thought it was about broadcasting messages using paid media, and getting free exposure for your message through the 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 Too
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 (blockage)
- What does this problem stop them from experiencing that they really want (outcome)
- What do I need to give them to help them get what they want (blockage remover to lead to outcome)
So what did I do to get the answers to these questions?
I spoke to my customers.
No I didn’t send a survey to my list, or attend a networking event and speak to people, or attempt to find the answer in social networks, forums, or online communities.
These are all great sources of insight about your customers, but I wanted a better source of information.
What Do Your Active Buyers Want?
This is the ultimate 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?
This is more than just observational research, anecdotal data, stories, friend recommendations or even what a mentor or mastermind group tells you.
This is learning from someone who is actively trying to solve their problem and is willing to spend money to do so. This is what you learn from someone who spent money to tell you the answer to this question.
Wait! What? — They spent money to give you the answer?
Yes, that’s right. These people pay money to tell you want they want and will pay more money to get.
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 invite people for a paid private coaching session with me over the phone. 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 learn what they want.
If you don’t offer coaching, offering some kind of paid for service can also help you figure out exactly what your customer wants. They’re going to keep telling you what they want, 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.
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