Ascending From Entrepreneur To Leader

Aaron Hoos

For years I wanted to be an entrepreneur. To me, that meant owning my own business and doing my own thing; not having to commute to a company and work for “the man”. (Truth be told, I’m just not wired to thrive in that kind of environment).

But building a business was hard. I struggled, failed, then tried again and figured it out…

… to a point.

Problem was, years down the road, I found myself in a different place: I was successful by some measures but also struggling by other measures: I began to discover that I was the bottleneck in my own business. I was hitting a ceiling because I was trying to do it all.

So I specialized, starting more focused companies like Real Estate Investing Copywriter.

Later, I built systems to help me create better content and serve more clients faster.

Later, I started building replicatable, duplicatable products and commoditized services that allowed me to shorten the timeline between client acquisition and deliverable.

Later, I started building a team—first an assistant and then writers, even going so far as to create what might be considered an agency.

Although my goal has always been to be a business owner and entrepreneur, I realize that I’m ultimately becoming a leader:

  • A leader in the industries I serve: by being a thought leader and influencing brand
  • A leader for my clients: by helping clients elevate their knowledge, make decisions, and see results
  • A leader of people: by building a team and providing them with an income while having an impact
  • A leader of innovation: by leveraging what I know and do to create new opportunities for my clients and team
  • A leader of the future: I lead my industry, my clients, and team, toward a bolder, brighter future

It’s a journey for me. If you’d asked me years ago if I thought I would be a leader, the answer would be a resounding no… simply because the only thing I wanted was to be a self-employed writer.

But I realize now: that “self-employed writer” was just step 1. And since that realization, I’ve been on a path of ascension and am constantly learning to embrace my new role as leader.

Want to make the same ascension yourself? Make this simple change to your thinking to get you moving in this direction: Find more people to rely on you. Whether it’s the industry at large, your clients, or your team; build a business that compels other people need to rely on you for your expertise, skills, compensation, etc. It’s weird; there’s not a “thing” you need first before becoming a leader, just build a business that gets people to rely on you.

SUMMARY

When I was “just” a self-employed writer, my job was to wake up each day, sit down at my computer, and writer. Today, as a leader of my industry, clients, people, innovation, and the future, my job is much different: I must constantly build; growing my knowledge, authority, and business to fulfill my role as a leader.

It’s a higher level and a bigger challenge but if I want to take part in a bigger and more opportunitistic future, being a leader is the only way.

Price and service: The two worst things to compete on

As a seller of things, I’ve tried to compete on price or service in the past. (“We’ve got the lowest prices” or “We’ve got the best customer service”). As a buyer, I’ve had other companies try to sell me on price or service.

It doesn’t work.

STOP TRYING TO COMPETE ON PRICE AND SERVICE

Competing on price is a dangerous game because your margins are so low that you aren’t very profitable, you can’t invest in in marketing and growth, and you attract the least loyal customers who only care about price and will leave you in a heartbeat as soon as someone else offers a lower price.

Competing on service (I mean: customer care, not the services you might sell) is just as bad but for different reasons: It’s so easy to SAY that you offer better service than your competition. However, everyone is saying it so it lacks meaning, especially since most companies that claim to offer “better” service are actually offering the exact same quality of service that everyone else is offering (even if they think they’re offering something better). And to make matters worse, customer expect flawless service from all vendors all the time as the default requirement of doing business with them. You can say you offer better service but you only truly do when you have metrics that prove it and when you make your service so ridiculously awesome that people are left weeping at how wonderful you are.

In both cases, you might be able to compete on price and service for the short term but someone will come along and out-do you.

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO INSTEAD?

There needs to be something else. It needs to be a competitive factor that only you can do. It needs to have a moat around it.

I like the “cluster approach” to competing: That is where you compete on a cluster of things rather than on price and/or service. You should cluster some of the following things together:

  • A target market that is more narrowly defined than your competition. For example: If you can’t sell to all the business owners in your city, why not sell to those who have started a business 5 to 10 years ago, make $100K to $320K, and are looking to expand. See how that’s different? You’re narrowing the market and that allows you to compete on expertise. (Hey, if you want to read more about this, why not check out my blog post 55 questions to answer when defining your sales funnel’s target market).
  • A great offer. Yes, your competition will probably tell you that their offer is just as great. However, the value of your offer is far more measurable (and there are far greater opportunities to innovate) than when you try to compete on service. That measurability can give you an edge if, indeed, your product is better. And the more unique your offer seems, the better.
  • Compete on the relationship (but there’s a catch). This is probably the closest thing to customer service, although there is a difference in my mind. Customer service has more to do with how you handle a customer before, during, and after the sale. A relationship is far more intimate. Your customer truly feels that you have their best interests in mind and they’ll invite you to their kid’s baseball games. (For more about this, check out my blog post Customer service and customer relationships are similar but different. Customer relationships are better). Okay, I said there was a catch and this is it: You SHOULD NOT promote yourself as offering better customer service or customer relationships. This is one of those “show don’t tell” situations. Since every business SAYS they offer great service, you can compete and succeed by being the one company that truly connects in a meaningful way to your customers.
  • A shocking guarantee. Lots of companies offer guarantees. But most of them are lame. 100%, no questions asked. Whatever. Give your guarantee some teeth. Make it a no-brainer for someone to do business with you.
  • Measurable marketing. This one might surprise most readers because we tend to think of competitiveness as being a “customer facing” aspect to our business. But you can become far more competitive by turning on the metrics and making every marketing effort more effective. It feels arduous to do, and some marketing efforts aren’t as easily measured but there’s an added bonus: You’ll sell more and save money.

Are there other things you can compete on? Of course there are. I’m only getting warmed up here. But if you start with these five, you’ll see

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Branding, e-newsletter value, and video marketing’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here are some of the things I’m reading this week…

  • Does the value of e-newsletters diminish over time?. Larry Keltto writes a very interesting blog post about e-newsletters, and then he performs an experiment on his own list to determine the answer. I love that he brings in some real metrics to support his conclusion that (spoiler alert) the newer the subscriber, the more active they are. This is true in other forms of selling as well. The lesson here: Make more offers at the beginning.
  • The ABCs of branding: RCD. Brand Insight Blog delivered a really compelling post about three key components required for a great brand — Relevance, Credibility, and Differentiation. (You know I love writing about differentiation!). What struck me about this post was that each of these components have an attraction quality and a retention quality to them, which means you need to really build an “RCD” brand if you want to effectively attract new customers and keep current ones.
  • Video marketing via Facebook. I have been paying attention to videos, video production, and video marketing because I see it as a key trend that will continue to rise for the near future. But how do you use it effectively? This case study by Marketing Sherpa outlined how one company in Dallas is combining video marketing and social media and saw a 30% increase in the results they were measuring. Impressive!

Financial advisor article published at Agent eNews: Develop an expert status that attracts your target market

I’m co-writing a series of articles for financial professionals, along with my colleague Rosemary Smyth, an international coach to financial advisors.

One of our articles was posted at the Agent eNews. The article explains the importance of an expert status in differentiating advisors from their many competitors.

Check out the article at the link below:

Develop an expert status that attracts your target market

How to eliminate marketplace saturation

I was asked a really good question on a forum and I wanted to share that question here. Given the subject matter of the forum, I wasn’t able to get into all the specifics but I have a little more space on my blog to talk about it.

So here’s the deal: Saturation is a concern that businesses have. They’re worried that there will simply be too many competitors in the marketplace. In the forum I was on, it was one freelance writer concerned that there would be too many other freelance writers but of course that’s not the only place where saturation is a concern. I’ve heard of book authors and SEO firms and foreclosure consultants all concerned about saturation; I’ve worried about it in a number of industries I’ve worked in as well.

But here’s the thing to remember: Saturation is only a problem when you are exactly the same as the majority of other competitors. If you offer the same freelance writing services as 100,000 other people then saturation is a problem because you’re competing against 100,000 other people. Your prospect will be overwhelmed by 100,001 proposals and pitches and resumes and C.V.’s all touting superiority (but demonstrating similarity).

If you want to avoid saturation, you need to make one simple tweak: You need to differentiate your business. Identify a smaller group of prospects (perhaps a subset of the larger group that your competitors are fighting for, or a completely different group that is overlooked by your competitors) and focus your offering exclusively on the needs of that group.

You’ll sell more because your marketing communication is focused on that group and your product is more in sync with what they are looking for. You’ll reduce or eliminate the competition because they’re all scrambling against many other competitors or a big group while you are connecting in a more relevant way with a smaller group.