Starting a Small Business: Be a Muppet, Give Your Customers a Handle

By Naomi Gora

Gosh, can I just start by saying I really don’t like the words ‘customers’ or clients’? Possibly this is because the people I work with usually end up feeling just feel like mates who happen to pay me. Maybe that’s not a sensible big/growth business idea, I don’t know, but I like it that way.

Saying that, I don’t really have an appropriate word to replace ‘customers’ or clients’ without sounding wanky woo woo. Revenue eliciting tadpoles? Friends with commercial benefits? As much as my whole business premises relies on finding unique things, I’ll somewhat begrudgingly stick with tradition for this one… for now at least.

This week I’ve been focusing on refining the packages I offer to my customers/clients.

Over Christmas I read a book called Make Art, Make Money. It’s the story of how Muppet creator, Jim Henson made his art into a business (and then made eleventy million dollars)… but so many of the principles can be used for any business proposition, not just artistic ones.

The one quote from that book about selling that’s been stuck in my mind ever since is ‘You’ve got to give people a handle’. It’s sort of along the lines of the marketing principle of features versus benefits of goods and services but with a whole muppet-like storytelling twist that my brain likes more than boring old text books.

As business owners and experts in our fields we can forget how much we know because it seems like second nature to us.

But our customers need us because they DON’T have that knowledge and experience.

What we do isn’t always obvious to them like it’s obvious to us.

We have to give them a handle to experience the utter rawness of our awesomeness.

Lol. Ok, I may be going a little over the top there, but the products and services we offer are so often communicated in terms of what we know our customers need. Because it’s our job to know what they need. But they may not be there yet. They may only know they have a problem… they have no money, they’re worried about their children’s future, they have to make this business work in six months or damn it they have to take another corporate job that will destroy their soul… Again, I may be exaggerating… or you know what, maybe I’m not, anyway… Instead of communicating what they need, if we communicate in terms of they problem they need solved and do so at a time where the price of not having that problem solved outweighs the cost of our product or service, it’s like giving them a handle to work with us…

The tangible features of our product or service are like a big old bubbling, brewing pot full of everything we do.

The intangible stuff, the promise, the solution in emotional, story-like terms that reflects our customer’s life view back to them…. That’s the handle. That’s what makes our customers say ‘Yes, I need to have that!’ instead of ‘Why the flick are you handing me a pot of stuff that’s sort of scary and I don’t quite understand what’s in it and it might burn me if I touch it?’.

Steve Jobs didn’t give us video calls (the pot), he let us see our loved ones when they’re a thousand miles away (the handle).
My friend, Clarissa The Happy Family Lawyer, doesn’t give us legal services (the pot), she helps us believe that life can be happy again after divorce (the handle).
One of my mentors, Leonie Dawson, doesn’t give us goal setting books (the pot), she let’s us believe that you don’t have to fit the norm to be a raving success (the handle).

You get it…

So let’s look at my Small Business Start Up Package. Where’s my handle?

In my bubbling pot of features I offer brand frameworks, logos, stationery design, social media profiles, websites, online stores packaging, storytelling and book/publication production.

What are my handles?

• A brand framework makes business decision making easier. When you start a small business you start juggling a thousand balls at once. You’re often the head honcho as well as the coffee getterer (and yes, I’m proclaiming that ‘getterer’ is a word today). A brand framework gives you parameters of what your business stands for and what it won’t stand for. It’s your path, your clarity. If you can’t make a decision, whip out your brand framework and see which potential outcome most aligns with it. I have mine pinned to my wall. With an estimated 50% of small businesses failing in their first two years, making good decisions fast is essential. So, the handle? I help people make better decisions about their business so they can grow past that failure rate.

• A strong brand means you look more professional and trustworthy. So, the handle? I help people charge higher prices and have a better quality customer.

• A unique brands means you’ll be remembered by potential customers quicker. So, the handle? In a world where potential customers need to connect with you, on average, seven to fourteen times before they’ll purchase from you, I help people stand out from the crowd so potential clients purchase from them sooner.

• Having a business/brand that matches your personality type and values means you’ll attract the right customers. So, the handle? I help people build businesses that have higher conversion rates and more personal satisfaction.

• A website or a book gives you credibility. So, the handle? I help people feel like unique experts in their field.

Ok, so that’s a good start on handles.


Hang on…

Just from doing this exercise, I’ve think I’ve discovered my big handle of all handles.

The people I work with are professionals who have spent their career building up experience and skills for other businesses and now they want to be their own boss, to work in a way that suits them, their values and their lifestyle. They need their business to succeed so they don’t have to go back to the corporate world.

So my big handle is… I help people achieve business success in a way that is authentic to their personality and values (and so they don’t have to go back to corporate jobs… but I can’t say that because that’s a negative/not statement which apparently is bad in the world of coaching and stuff… look at what you want not what you don’t want and all that… that’s my woo woo tip for the day).

Hmmm. I think it might still need some work. But I’m good with that for now. I used to have this burning need for things to be ‘perfect’ before I released them to the world. Now I know that everything is a work in progress. If it’s not you’ll get stale, lose relevance and die. So yay for imperfection but being on the right track. Eeek. Awesome exciteamendo. Thanks for helping me figure that out all y’all.

So my take away today is to look at all the products or services you offer and figure out what your big handle is. Are you communicating your products or services in a way that will solve your customers biggest problem?

P.s. Here’s how my daily rules to reach my end of year goals are going

1. Commit to income producing activity for a minimum of 1 hour a day: I’ve been doing this consistently. Although I think I may not have been focusing on the right areas. I’ll talk more about this next week but I have had two new clients this month. 17 to go!

2. Track my income daily: This habit is life changing. I not only track how much income I have coming in, but also the value I receive (in discounts, freebies etc) and how much I have out in quotes. It keeps your mind focused on keeping your business growing. All. the. time. And takes less than five minutes.

3. Be creative, in any way, for a minimum of 5 minutes a day: I’ve been fluffing around with illustrations of monsters and mountains and looking at new techniques for digital inking.

4. Turn off my phone between 9am-1pm and 5pm-8pm: Ok ok, I’m a disgusting digital addict. This is hit and miss… but I’m trying and will continue to try.

5. Do 20 minutes of back and core strengthening physio so I’m super fit for snowboarding fun: The sucky things about core strengthening is that it gives me a really sore stomach for days afterwards. And I’m not talking the usual muscle type sore when you’re getting fit, I mean full on stomach cramps that make me want to vomit. I’ve been to the Doctor. She told me to roll around on my spikey physio ball more. Adding ‘roll around on spikey physio ball more’ to my daily to-do list. I told my Doctor this may mean I don’t have time to cook for my child anymore. I don’t think she cared… or took me seriously. I’m not sure. Can someone send over pizza?

See you next week!

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