My first marketing school was a brown 1988 Buick that I bought from my Grandma for $1500.
The velvety bench seat in the back was always littered with tapes and CDs by consummate marketers like Dan Kennedy.
It was 2002. During my commute to and from work, I’d listen to the audios to gain ideas for marketing my alternative rock band, Desmo.
That’s how I learned the three M’s of marketing.
The 3 M’s of Marketing
Message, market, and media.
Put the right message, in front of the right market using the right media.
These days, we have so many shiny new marketing tools and methods, it’s easy to forget the fundamentals.
In this series, we’ve been chatting about the common barriers that can keep your business from growing.
In this post, I list the most common business growth barriers to help you identify the greatest opportunities for boosting your income and impact.
It’s interesting to note that the key to breaking through income barriers is often going back to the basics – find the market, the right message, and the right media.
If revenue has slowed or plateaued, it’s because one or more of those needs adjusting.
Before we dive into the list of barriers, be sure you have read the first two parts in this series on how to grow your business in 2017. Everything builds on what we’ve discussed before.
To create the list of income and impact killers below, I looked back at more than 14 years of experience working with over 6000 students and clients
These are the exact things that I look at in my clients’ businesses to bust through barriers and slingshot their growth.
I’ve grouped the barriers by the three major growth areas that we talked about in the last post – attract more leads, convert more leads into customers, boost customer lifetime value.
I’ve given each barrier a short name that describes it, followed by a description. You’ll also find a few questions to help determine if you’re running into that barrier.
The list below is designed to bring you confidence and clarity about what to focus on right now in your business.
Do not get overwhelmed by it. You might feel like you’re dealing with all the barriers.
This does not mean you are failing.
Don’t get down on yourself if you notice a barrier that has been there a long time without you realizing it. You are doing the best you can.
Over time you get better at choosing and focusing on the best growth strategies for your business. That’s part of becoming a stronger leader (a CEO) for your business.
It gets easier as you gain experience, resources, and advisors.
You can’t fix all the growth barriers overnight.
A robust business model takes some time to build. Even the most successful and profitable businesses have “holes in their bucket.”
Here’s the key to getting the most from the list of growth barriers below.
Based on your current resources, goals, and stage of business growth, choose which barrier is limiting your growth the most.
In other words, ask yourself which one will produce the greatest ROI in terms of increased income and impact once it is removed.
This is where mastermind groups, mentors, coaches and consultants can offer valuable outside perspective.
Finally, realize that this is not a comprehensive list. These are just the most common barriers for businesses that are in the six-figure range on a trajectory to reach a million a year in revenue.
Growth Barriers to Growing Your Audience
Attention Deficiency (Message Mismatch)
We live in an “attention economy.” In other words, attention is one of the most valuable resources that you can acquire and leverage in your business.
Your marketing message must capture and keep the attention of your ideal prospects. Without their attention, you can’t earn their trust.
No trust, no income, no impact.
The challenge is that it’s getting harder and more expensive to gain attention online. People tune out more easily. They are jaded after repeatedly hearing the same marketing messages. The best advertising and marketing channels are getting more competitive.
For this reason, it’s increasingly important to craft a message that is highly relevant to and resonant with the thoughts, pains, and desires of a laser-targeted audience. That is how you cut through the noise.
And market attention can shift. It’s vital that you keep up with (or even ahead of) what’s working right now to gain the attention of your market. A marketing message that once got attention might not do as well moving forward. This requires refining and testing your message often.
Questions to Ask
- Is your marketing message highly relevant to the top-of-mind pains of your ideal customers?
- Is your marketing message unique enough to stand out in the increasing noise online?
- Does your marketing message communicate your unique value?
- Does your marketing connect with the top-of-mind pains and problems of your intended customer before talking about the solution?
Another facet of effective marketing is using the right media to communicate your message to your target market.
I see business owners mess this up all the time. They take on too many content and marketing channels because they think that’s what they should do to grow their reach.
Because each marketing and sales channel requires additional time and resources to maintain, you must be selective about which ones you choose.
Your media channels must work together in a cohesive way to create a customer journey that moves prospects towards a sale and maximizes your income and impact.
Another mistake I commonly see is that business owners don’t know which media channels are producing results and which ones are a waste of time.
The Pareto Principle (also called the 80/20 Rule) tells us that 20% of your marketing efforts are producing 80% of your results. So which ones are in the 20%?
While the numbers might not be exactly 80/20 for you, the point is still the same – to double down on what’s working and give up what’s not. This is a continuous process as you take on new media channels to grow.
Questions to Ask
- Does your marketing strategy incorporate media that are most likely to get the attention of your ideal audience?
- Do your chosen marketing and content channels work together strategically to attract your ideal prospects and move them towards a sale?
- Are you wasting resources on media channels that do not directly contribute to attracting prospects and customers? Do you have a plan for better leveraging the ones that are working?
Leads by Luck
To grow your business, you must get to a point where you can buy leads (through channels like Facebook ads) and quickly earn back your investment plus a profit.
This gives you a dependable, predictable way to generate and grow your monthly income.
In the past, you could grow an online business by relying solely on free content channels like social media, search traffic, blogs, podcasts and video. Those days are gone.
Free traffic is the slow route to growth. It’s tough to track the results. It’s unpredictable because there are too many variables that are out of your control. Free traffic channels can disappear overnight leaving your business without a source of new customers.
If you use only free marketing channels to generate leads, then you are depending on luck to grow your business.
Questions to Ask
- Is your business entirely dependent on free sources of traffic?
- Do you know how much money you can spend attracting a new lead and still earn a profit within a reasonable amount of time?
Perhaps you’ve heard it’s important to define a description of your “customer avatar” to create effective marketing and sales. While that’s wise advice, the often-touted methods for defining an avatar are inadequate for growing your business in the current digital marketing landscape.
Most avatar definitions are made up of no more than basic demographic info and a shallow description of their desired outcome.
But your intended audience is made up of different sub-avatars, each with slightly different pains, challenges, and desired outcomes, not to mention different language for describing them. Some are ready to buy now while others need time to warm up.
This goes back to the importance of relevance and resonance in your marketing message.
If your marketing and sales process is built around one single customer avatar, you are ignoring as much as 80% of your income and impact. The good news is that 3-5 sub-avatar descriptions is adequate to cover your bases.
You have to use different content, ads, lead magnets and follow-up emails for each sub-avatar.
Questions to Ask
- Have you identified the 3-5 sub-avatars that make up your ideal customer base?
- Do you know the primary hot buttons for each sub-avatar?
- Do you have a different lead magnet and follow up sequence for each of your sub-avatars?
Barriers to Attracting the Right Customers and Having a Bigger Impact
Working with the wrong customers and clients is draining. You can’t do your best work. It pulls you outside of your strengths and unique genius.
It’s tempting to make exceptions and take on clients or customers that feel like “easy money” even if they’re not an ideal fit.
Attracting and working with the wrong people is a recipe for burnout. You can’t sell effectively or get the kind of results that your business or your clients need.
It’s also common to start out serving on kind of customer only to find out that it’s not really who you want to work with. To fix this you have to pivot your branding and marketing.
Eventually, you reach a point where you must adjust your customer definition, marketing, and sales process to move away from customers that limit and drain you to ones that will ultimately lead to more fulfillment, opportunities, and growth.
The sooner you do this, the sooner you accelerate your growth.
Questions to Ask
- Do enjoy working with your clients? Are you energized by your interactions with them?
- Are you able to do your best work and use your biggest strengths to deliver results for your customers?
- Do you attract enough of the right leads to stay fully booked with your ideal clients, or do you make compromises because you’re afraid of not earning enough revenue?
- Is it getting harder to attract the right clients?
Customer Capacity Limit
At some point, every business risks reaches the point where the demand for their products outpaces their ability to fulfill the product or service. One the one hand, this is a great position to be in. However, it immediately creates a barrier to increased revenue.
This is common occurrence when the offer is a service and you’ve capped out on how much time you can dedicate to delivering the service.
This is when the service needs to be productized (e.g. turned into a scalable course) or additional service providers much be brought on to increase customer capacity.
The other common limitation is when one person (such as the owner) is the only source of ideas, content or the final sign-off for new products. If this person becomes a bottleneck in the process, due to limited time and bandwidth, it will limit quickly limit revenue growth.
Questions to Ask
- Does your business rely 100% on delivering 1:1 services to generate revenue or do you have scalable offers as a part of your product suite?
- Does your business require a single person to deliver, create or sign-off on products?
- Is there a cap to how many customers or clients you can take on because of limited human capital?
Boost Customer Lifetime Value
As a quick note, customer lifetime value is most often used to mean “the amount of money generated from a customer over the period of time they do business with you. I find it important to look at this from the perspective of value exhange. You’re not simply “extracting” as much income as you can from each customer. This line of thinking quickly becomes problematic. You must look at maximizing the value (or impact) delivered to each customer as a joint focus as you maximize the income you generate from the value you provide.
Incomplete Customer Journey
This one is the most important barrier to understand.
In fact, this one can make or break your entire business model. Get the customer journey right and all the other barriers fall away much more easily.
For that reason, I’m going to dedicate my next post to understanding this powerful leverage point for growing your business.
One final note.
The barriers listed above recur multiple times over the lifetime of your business. As your goals change and the market shifts, barriers that you dealt with once before can re-emerge.
Okay. You’ve made it to this point in this meaty newsletter. It’s worth reviewing this one regularly.
Whenever you sense a barrier holding you back, look over the list above to identify the most important thing to focus on next to grow your income and impact.
Choose the barrier above that feels like it could generate the biggest growth if you were to remove it. Look for the low-hanging fruit.
And don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on one at a time. Next thing you know you will be at that one-million dollar a year mark, making an impact the way you’ve always envisioned.
Next time, we discuss the customer journey. It’ll be a juicy one!