Line & Length

Thinking About Your Market – Part I

For many business owners, the biggest challenge standing between them and success is developing the ability to have an out of business experience. That’s

right, an out of business experience, or OOBE.

Let me explain.

For those of you not au fait with the world of the paranormal, or the X-files, I’m
modelling this theory on the ‘out of body’ experience that many people purport
to have when near (or brought back from) death. Here, as they lie on the
operating table flat lining, they feel themselves float outside of their body,
observing as doctors and nurses frantically fight to resuscitate them – yet they
are perfectly at peace. Upon returning to their body, they are given a new
perspective on life or just a greater appreciation of what they have.

“What has this got to do with business”, I hear you ask, “Are you high?” (Ed. On life you mean…ahem) Let me explain.

So how does an Out Of Business Experience help?  What need is there to float outside of the business? What would it require?

As good business people, you have a comprehensive understanding of your business’ quantifiable measures – market share, profit, turnover etc. However, you also have consumers or shoppers of your product/service. How much do you invest in understanding them, their habits or their perception of you? These consumers are the single most important element in the success of a business and yet many fail to take the time to understand them.

To really develop an understanding of your target audience and their interactions with your business, you need to step out of your company persona and learn all that you can about them.

To achieve the OOBE, you must cast yourself in the role of the consumer.

They don’t know the expansive back-story to your product, the quality of materials you source or the years of study you completed at university to deliver the service you do. Without prompting and clear communications, it’s very unlikely consumers will appreciate the difference between your competitor and you – but many business people simply assume consumers will, because they do.  When was the last time you took a look from the outside, in? I don’t mean sitting out the front of your office building, staring at the receptionist.  

There are a number of ways to do this. You can do it yourself, by simply monitoring or watching shopping habits in a store/online or even speaking to your non-work friends. External suppliers can help you with social media monitoring or you could commission some qualitative market research – but these can be expensive.  

To get the ball rolling, there are two cost effective and simple ways to do grow your understanding of your consumers’ qualitative experience. Firstly, try the OOBE method, by looking at your business’ touch points (e.g. store shelf, brochure or your website) from the outside in. Find your touch point, clear your mind and take an objective perspective. Forget all that you know about your business, your industry, your years of university and approach as if you were a  target shopper.  What are the messages? Are explanations about the product/service clear? Does your store/proposition highlight the quality you expect or properly represent your USP?

Secondly – ask for feedback. There is a multitude of free survey websites out there, through which you can quickly and simply gather your consumers’ opinions. Ensure you offer a true value exchange to get the best results – reward respondents (discount, offers etc.) for giving their time, to ensure the uptake level and quality of response is useful.

In conclusion, without a true understanding of your target market, you may well be firing a quiver of marketing arrows at a target that doesn’t exist, or in the wrong direction. Take the time, it’s worth it and you may well have an epiphany, or find there’s more perceived value in your business than you ever realised.

Let us ponder a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln to drive home my point. “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe… while drifting among the treetops”.

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