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Hone Your Edge, Stay Focused

By Duane Gordon
Posted Thursday, September 9, 2004

A common hazard faced by new entrepreneurs is a lack of faith in the power of their offer. Many business people lose focus because they are worried they won't generate enough cash flow from their core product. They attract potential customers with outstanding expertise but then muddy the water by trying to sell anything those customers want, regardless of how it fits into their business plan. This is confusing, both for the customer, who doesn't really know what type of business you have, and for yourself. Here's how to stay on track.

Many business people lose focus because they're worried they can't generate enough cash flow from a small group of products or services. You attract potential customers with your outstanding expertise but then muddy the water by offering anything those customers want, regardless of how it fits into your business plan. You lose focus. If you don't focus, you won't have the knowledge you need to help your customer. You need to solve problems and offer a complete solution. You can only do that well in your area of expertise.

Losing focus sets you up for failure. If you can't solve your customers' problems, your business won't earn a reputation as a good resource. This applies to any type of business. Imagine that you offer computer accounting services. You are an excellent accountant; you have a good reputation and an excellent rapport with your customers. If your customer needs a new computer, chances are they will ask you if you sell computers. Lose focus and you may be tempted to say yes. After all, you know computers... you use them all the time for your computer accounting business.

However, while you may use computers in your business, you are not necessarily an expert in the computer retail business. You may not know the best wholesalers. You're not equipped to deal with repairs. You probably won't make money selling the computer after you invest all the time necessary to learn how to do it properly, and the time you invest takes time away from your already successful business. What's worse is that a customer dissatisfied with your service won't tell other people not to buy a computer from you, she'll tell them not to deal with you at all.

If you lose focus and try to be all things to all people, you will not be as successful as you could be in any business. Successful businesspeople tell you to focus on what you do best. Master your business and give your customers value. If your customer comes to you looking for something that is not part of your core business, refer her to someone else. In fact, you could even make a deal with another Web site and have them refer customers to you as well.

Affiliate programs do exactly that. In the end, you serve your customers better and they will continue to value your advice, your products and services. There are ways to offer more products and services to your customers and increase your cash flow without losing your focus or diluting your brand. Let's look at a concrete example.

Marie-Lynn and I were talking about a new business she wants to set up. Marie-Lynn is interested in mobile entertainment systems. In fact, she's looking for a DVD player for her car. She often travels by car with her husband and daughter, visiting family in other cities. Her daughter is now old enough to ask the dreaded question, "Are we there yet?" She thinks it would be interesting to get a VCR or DVD player for her car to keep her daughter (and husband!) quiet and entertained.

Doing some research, she quickly realized there was a business opportunity here. Buying a car that has a DVD player included costs about $10,000 more than average because they tend to be luxury models. That's a bit expensive for a DVD player! She looked for places that sell kits for DVD players, much like the kits you can get for car stereos. She found there were very few stores that would add a DVD player to a car, and she couldn't find any "do-it-yourself" kits on the market. She was sure other people were having the same problem.

As we discussed it, I agreed this was a perfect business opportunity! I pointed out that this was a high-priced, high-margin product with relatively low shipping costs. We base our business strategy on establishing relationships with our customers and we can do that best with fewer customers. After all, we're not trying to be a Wal-Mart or a Dollar Store.

It had the advantage of being a product that requiring a good deal of expertise. Which DVD player is best? Which models fit in which vehicles? There was even potential for information products like plans for customizing older vehicles to accept a DVD player.

Imagine the long-term potential for offering DVD movies that play well to a traveling audience. Marie-Lynn will be able to warn her customers about movies with car crashes and high-speed chases that may give the driver a nervous breakdown, and she can recommend movies that keep her own daughter occupied. Moreover, whom do you think her customers will come back to when they change vehicles? As we talked, we both became excited about the possibilities.

I was convinced "DVD Players for Your Car" could be a perfect application of the Ride the Wave philosophy. Then Marie-Lynn also told me her research showed her that mobile and wireless networking products were selling well now. Everyone wants an always-on Internet connection, and more and more people have multiple computers in their house that they want to network without drilling holes and running wires.

She was thinking about starting a business selling mobile and wireless networking technology and she would include the "DVD Players for Your Car" business with it. After all, there isn't any type of device more mobile than a car, is there? She was worried she might not sell enough car DVD players to make a profit and mobile networking was a high-end market and there weren't many people doing it. She was also worried that she might not have the expertise people were looking for when it came to DVD players... after all, she didn't even have one in her car yet. She was still shopping!

There's a good chance many of you will have the same experience, though not necessarily with DVD players and mobile networking products. You will have doubts about your idea and doubts about your expertise. You will worry that you won't make enough sales of one product and you'll be tempted to add other products to your online store. I'll tell you the same thing I told Marie- Lynn.

Don't lose focus! The "DVD Player for Your Car" idea is excellent. It would only get lost in a "Mobile and Wireless Networking" Web site.

Remember: Your brand, your business name and its reputation, is your most valuable asset. Your must build and protect your brand over anything else. Your brand will be the true secret of your success and the source of the long-term security of your business and your income. Think of your brand as your position in the hearts and minds of your customers. Where are you in the hearts and minds of your customers? Remember your business strategy and you have every chance of success. It's easy to get distracted and lose your focus. Stay on track!

About the Author
Duane Gordon is a personal e-Business Coach and Author of "RIDE THE WAVE, How to Succeed in the Next e-Business Wave" Learn to turn your passion into a successful Internet business. (


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