Would You Like To Dance With Me?

The-Startup-Business-Ross-McKenzie-Strategy-People-2015-12-07-300x220-compressedI am an Arthur Murray bronze level ballroom dancer you know!

But that may not be enough to help my friend Vivien.

You see, Vivien wants to learn to dance, but she is just not sure where to start at the moment. Which step goes first and what follows after that…

She has just launched an online business. It’s a small micro startup and what she is providing is a unique online solution that supports businesses with virtual executive assistants.

She explained to me her business model and I found it very interesting.

I then asked her who are her potential customers or clients and she said anyone requiring an assistant!


Do you think that could be too broad?

I think so, in fact it is so broad the statement suggests she is trying to be all things to all people.

However, in this world of relationships and intimacy, you cannot afford to be general – you need to know the specific steps to each dance. Tango is different to Rumba as it is different again to Viennese Waltz.

In fact, you need to be very targeted in how you position yourself in the market and then when you engage in the market place, you need to be more specific in your conversations, otherwise it is very hard to differentiate yourself from all the others out there.

When I shared this view to Vivien she was concerned that if she did this, she would be cutting herself off from potential customers. I then explained to her that this need not be the case as if she identified the customer avatars within her market place, she can then speak to them directly in a voice that they understand and relate to.

Let me explain…

Vivien’s potential market place at this stage is very large and also very broad. So I asked her what would be the typical customers that she currently has. She explained to me that there were generally four groups:

  • Startup Businesses / Entrepreneurs
  • Sole Traders / Professionals – no employees
  • Small Businesses – less than 10 employees
  • Mid Size Businesses – 10 to 20 employees or associates

I then asked whether the specific needs of each customer group were the same or different – in other words what are each group’s pains and what are their desires?

Surprisingly when Vivien did this exercise, there were many things common across all groups, but there were a few things that did start to be unique within specific customer groups.

I then suggested to Vivien that if she met a representative from each group separately at some social event and got to talking about what they both do, would it be likely that the conversation starts off broadly to explain their businesses, but then progressively start to be more tailored around each other’s business commonalities and specific needs?

Yes, this is what happens as we are constantly seeking alignment and this by the way, is a very natural approach.

For example, just think of how we talk to people that we already know? Whether that be your teenage nieces or nephews, or your colleagues. In fact, there is a word for it which should not surprise you and it’s called…


At the end of the day, it’s about you establishing rapport with your customers and you can only do this by speaking in terms of their fears, pains and concerns, but also their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Rapport by any other name is the beautiful dance that occurs when we are in sync with each other

There is no second guessing as to which direction we are heading when you are in rapport.

You cannot have rapport if you are sitting on the side speaking in generalities. Rapport is an intense relationship where you need to make the first move.

For Vivien this breakthrough translated by changing her messaging slightly so that it is specifically tailored to each of her customer groups or avatars. In fact, it was more natural for her because to do this, all she had to do was to think about each of these avatars more intimately to refine her message.

As to results, well still early days for Vivien, but I did hear her speak at a conference recently and she was very specific in the types of clients she helps and I noticed there was a group of people wanting to talk to her afterwards!

What about you?

How are you talking to your customers?

Are you dancing or are you still on the sidelines?

Walk In Their Shoes – Or Discovering Your Customer “Avatars”

“You never really understand a person unless you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” – Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

The Startup Business Strategy PeopleWho are your ideal customer avatars?

Not sure what I mean?

Well if we were in a crowded street with people of all backgrounds and from all walks of life, who would you point out and say “they would be my typical customers”?

In other words, what are the unique characteristics that make up your targeted customer groups? What are their ages, their professions, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and aspirations?

Still not sure?

Well let me explain why knowing your customer avatar is critical in this day and age.

To do this, we must understand that there are two types of marketing approaches…

  • Transactional
  • Relational

For transactional marketing, basically a customer purchases your goods and services for the exchange of something tangible – like money. It is one object being transferred to another party for the receipt of a different object, but perceived as equal value (well in economic terms each receiving party generally perceives that they are getting more value from the exchange – otherwise the transaction would not occur). The vision of both parties, is generally not beyond the initial transaction.

For relational marketing, the “customer” perceives additional value or intangible value, than just the object itself and the seller generally holds a view of maintaining that specific customer relationship for the longer term – hence the vision is way beyond just this first transaction.

Today, we are moving toward more relational marketing. Customers are more informed of product features and for many products (and services) they are becoming more commoditised – hence to compare on price alone, is no longer effective. One must consider the “complete package” or value proposition, that is on offer, but critically more so, the “value proposition” perceived by your customers.

Since the perception of value from intangible benefits will vary from person to person, it is therefore important for you to define specific customer groups or avatars, so that you can position your products and services more effectively.

Now I know a lot of this is marketing 101, but it is always good to go back to first principles to reinforce the importance of such concepts.

When you start defining the specific customer avatars that your products and services will then target, you are putting in place an intent to engage in a long term conversation. You are seeking to build rapport because you are now more intimately involved as you are coming from their side of the “transaction”. You understand their “pains and gains”, you are walking in their shoes.

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