There’s one big thing that far too many business owners do that’s hugely risky – and one simple tweak that not only cuts business risk substantially, but also has serious potential to significantly increase your profits.

Less risk, more money? You heard me. Read on.

Here be me

The popular idea that you can publish a website, get a professional email address and then sit back and wait for your ideal clients to find you is part of the mythology that makes up the internet. And why wouldn’t it be? Aside from your website, it doesn’t require much from you outside of counting your cash.

And isn’t that the dream we’ve all been sold? Make money while you sleep. Take your laptop on holidays. Hell, relocate to the Bahamas, Bhutan, or Bali and join the worldwide tribe of digital nomads, intrepidly heading to where no laptop has ever been?

I’d love to tell you that this is all possible with a $3000 website and a backpack, but my integrity won’t let me. In theory, it is possible, but there’s a bit (a lot) more to it than picking an exotic destination.

This coveted lifestyle is built on things like regular social media marketing and email marketing, community building, pitching and outreach, and asking people to buy.

So say you’ve got all that down pat: you’re doing regular, consistent marketing and methodically growing your community. And you want to earn more money, so what do you do?

The risk of creative isolation

One of the biggest risks I consistently see business owners making is to nut out their latest offering or launch in isolation. Typically, the person is struck with inspiration: “This is what my clients need! I know exactly what I’m going to do!” The excitement is palatable, the feeling is hugely motivating and the owner retreats to their creation cave to nut it out by themselves.

This is one of the biggest risks you can take in business.

Time and again, I’ve seen owners emerge from their caves for the big reveal: the group email gets sent, the new offering is promoted on social media, and … not much. Oftentimes, the response is so lackluster that the owner becomes disgruntled, annoyed or depressed and retreats, sometimes vowing to never again do X.

The difference between wants and needs

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I began my business was to focus on what I perceived as the needs of my target market rather than listening to their wants.

When we start a business or create an offering to cater to a particular want, we’re making life hard for ourselves. First, because we’re oftentimes making assumptions on behalf of our market – we think we know what they’re struggling with, we believe we have the solution and we feel that this is their biggest problem. Second, selling to a need is far harder than selling to a want.

Think about grudge purchases such as electricity, toilet paper, milk and bread. There’s no doubt that we need these things, but we don’t enjoy purchasing them – we haggle over the cost, we begrudge the money we’re paying and we don’t enjoy the process of purchasing.

Now think about something you do enjoy purchasing. I love buying books, theatre tickets, greeting cards, massages, airplane tickets. Many of these things are far more expensive than typical grudge purchases and I certainly don’t need them. But I don’t resent paying for them – in fact, I’m feeling damn fine when I hand over my money. The buying experience is a pleasure. That’s the difference between selling to a want rather than a need.

Becoming part of your community

To lower your risk in business, the first step is to become part of your community: the group of people you’ve identified that you’d most like to work with. You may have identified these ideal clients because: they’ve gone through struggles that you’ve also gone through; you share a similar attitude or perspective; you come from the same or a similar industry; or you have shared experienced.

Whatever the reason – you need to intimately understand the mentality of your ideal clients if you’re to reach them.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever before to do this. In fact, it’s one of the lesser-recognised strengths of social media. While countless marketers talk about the reach of social media, its no or low-cost, and the scale of its numbers, far fewer talk about the ready-made market research opportunities available, if only you looked.

Facebook groups are a great source of information. A quick search should reveal many groups that have established around the particular problems that your business seeks to solve or the solutions that it offers. Good quality Facebook groups are intimate and generous-spirited, composed of individuals who can give you direct insight into the problems and challenges you’re seeking to solve.

Oftentimes, you don’t even have to ask any questions let alone set up a formal poll or survey – people are already talking about the issues that your business addresses. The best skills you can cultivate here are listening and discerning.

Listening enables you to take note of the nuances of the conversation including the particular turns of phrase and words used by people, underlying attitudes. You may even find people talking about your business or your competitors.

Discerning is necessary to help you bridge the gaps in the conversations, to see whether certain individuals are likely speaking for the group or renegades. Discerning enables you to spot opportunities, understand the deeper desires and fears of your target market and the best case scenarios they may describe.

Opening up your creative process

Once you’re clearer on the psychology of your ideal clients and the current debates and conversations that are relevant to your business, the savvy operator opens up their creative process.

The difference between an artist and a business owner or entrepreneur is the creative process: the artist creates art and then seeks an audience for it; the owner or entrepreneur finds an audience or community that they wish to serve and creates for it.

Part two of this series looks at practical steps for reducing your risk in business by opening up your creative process.

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