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What Do Your Clients Need?

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"Every person who has ever started a business, I imagine, thought he had a good idea. It's the smart person, and the rare person, who tries to find out the most important thing: do other people think it's a good idea?"

Those words of wisdom come from Bernard Kamoroff, author of "Small-Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Small Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes and Stay Out of Trouble!" Whether you look at your ideas about what your business provides, or about how to market your business, Kamoroff is right.

Trying to get clients when you're not really sure what they need or want makes you an answer in search of a question. You're going to have to turn your key in an awful lot of locks before you find the one that it fits.

It's not enough for YOU to know why they should hire you -- THEY need to know. It's hard enough to find clients without also having to educate them on why they would want you in the first place. The needs that your service fills should be important enough that clients are already looking for a solution before you make contact.

Find out what the "hot buttons" are for the people in your target market. What do they perceive to be the greatest problems they face, or the biggest goals they wish to achieve? Ask these questions of the people you serve and the other businesses who serve them. Read trade literature or special interest publications and educate yourself on the key issues in your marketplace.

When you have a clear picture of what your target market is truly looking for, you'll be able to package your services as a solution. Design all your marketing tools -- web site, brochure, telemarketing script, sales presentation -- to show how your service addresses the hot buttons you identified.

Seasoned corporate consultants know that you always get in the door at a company to solve its "presenting problem." If the company has already identified that they have a need it turns out you can fill, you stand a much better chance of being hired in the first place.

Once you are in and working for them, you will no doubt uncover all sorts of other issues that need to be addressed. And since you are already on the scene, building rapport and trust, of course they will retain you to help resolve those problems.

This is just as true for any service business professional, from psychotherapists to graphic designers. The client hires the designer to create business cards; then the designer discovers the client doesn't have a logo.

When the designer shows the client how much more impressive the business cards would be with a custom logo on them, the client agrees to pay for one. But if the designer had approached that person about creating a logo, the client would likely have refused. In the client's mind, it was business cards that were needed.

Don't worry if the most popular issues aren't the ones you most want to work on with your clients. Chances are that if you attract prospects by marketing to their perceived needs, you'll create opportunities to explore other options with them. But if you market something they don't yet know they want, you may never get to have that conversation.

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