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When I was searching for a career, my dad gave me advice I still follow today: Find what you do brilliantly, and do more of it. Over the years, I've learned that this philosophy enables you to find your niche and discover unique methods to achieve your goals.
As an entrepreneur, you often jump at any chance to expand your business. However, your business's biggest and best asset is you. It's your expertise that makes your business unique and leads to the most efficient growth opportunities.
The owner of a jewelry store frequently updated the gems she carried but was never able to dramatically increase her sales. She thought her clientele might buy a broader line of products, so she added religious statues to her store. But ultimately, her lack of familiarity with these items caused the strategy to fail.
On her second try at expansion, she decided to delve further into her core area of specialization. She bought jewelry designed and made by local artists. It paid off. Her current customers and her new artists spread the word about her updated business, and her store became a shopping destination.
Creating product extensions within your area of expertise expands your customer roster. Increase your chance of success by focusing on what you do best--and do more of it.
1. Tap into the innate power behind what makes your business unique. Growing your business based on your inherent strengths allows you to discover dynamic expansion possibilities. Use your intuition, and ask your employees and colleagues for help on how to rework or redesign your core product to appeal to a broader market. For the jewelry store owner, it was her expertise in gems that allowed her to sell the stones in multiple ways.
2. Shift from selling to actively listening. Become relentlessly focused on broadening the appeal of your core product by engaging your customers. What new uses have they discovered that may not have occurred to you? Ask them to be direct and truthful, and keep a log of their suggestions. Tapping into this rich vein of recommendations allows you to jump-start new growth opportunities.
3. Convert the benefits customers share into product features. Use the recommendations offered by your customers to construct new uses for your core product. Regularly re-inventing your product with fresh benefits keeps your customers interested and excited. It was Arm & Hammer's customers who informed the company of alternative uses for its top-selling baking soda product. The company has now expanded its core product into numerous other uses, including cleansers, deodorizers and beauty products.
4. Gain loyalty by thanking people creatively. Thanking people for sharing their ideas deepens customer loyalty. It also increases word-of-mouth advertising for your business. A sandwich shop owner who was famous for his use of cheeses decided to name his weekly specials after customers who made distinctive recommendations. They brought their friends and families into his store to see their names and pictures up on his "Say Cheese" board.
Keep your network of customers and colleagues informed of your product enhancements. Your enthusiasm will encourage them to tell others about your business. And more important, it will inspire them to share even more product transformation ideas with you.
Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author ofKick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business.