Seven Steps to Mastery of Your Marketplace

If you follow these steps, a thunderstorm of money can rain down on you and your business. Can you handle that? If not, you'd better stop reading, because these steps are like the combination of an overstuffed safe: once you learn how to open it, money just falls out. Really, these are seven steps to…

If you follow these steps, a thunderstorm of money can rain down on you and your business. Can you handle that? If not, you'd better stop reading, because these steps are like the combination of an overstuffed safe: once you learn how to open it, money just falls out. Really, these are seven steps to freedom – because when you do business the right way, you have the freedom to do what you like, and that makes life a joy.

Without further ado, let's run through these simple steps.

Step # 1: Give the customers what they want. It does not get much simpler than that. It just seems like common sense, but somehow, many businesspeople do not really understand it. They ignore what the customers want; basically, they offer what they like, and hope enough other people want it that they'll make some money. Well, they've got the formula precisely backward. The real money lies in selling people what they want. We all know customers have needs and wants; and believe me, they'll spend a lot more for their needs than on their needs.

Sometimes it's hard to tell what their wants are. Sometimes the customer will not tell; and even when they do, they may not tell you the truth. They may not know themselves. But you've got to figure it out to master your marketplace. Maybe that means reinventing your business or dropping some products from your product line, then launching new products in their place. Mastering your marketplace means giving people what they want . The bigger that need or desire is, the more money you can make.

Step # 2: Create offers that make them salivate. That's the crave factor. If you're not creating offers that you want to respond to, then why are you in business? This goes above and beyond just having something available for sale. You have to create an offer. Package it neatly, put a bow on it, make it presentable so they want to respond. Make them crave it through the best copy you can get. If you can not write it yourself, hire someone who can, because the competition in all media these days is truly fierce.

Step # 3: Maintain good sales margins. When in doubt, raise your prices and focus on your best customers and prospects. No one ever went out of business from making too much profit. These are tough times, and trying to sell things on the cheap or appeal to everyone can get you in big trouble. Wal-Mart has been able to get away with it so far by selling at big discounts, but even their business is down recently. That's scary, because Wal-Mart is the largest, most successful retail business in the world.

Step # 4: Continually improve your follow-up marketing methods. You must rain mail on your prospects. You must keep in touch with buyers on a regular basis, because you want to turn them into long-term customers. Invite them to do more business with you more often. Sometimes people ask, “How do I know how much mail is too much?” Our response is, “Whenever it stops being profitable, stop mailing.”

Most people stop following up too soon. You may be able to mail 4-5 follow-up letters to people, or you may be able to mail 15-20. If they're still responding and you're still making a profit, why would you stop? Most people do not get this right. If they follow up at all, they do so far too infrequently. Even if you're not in the DRM business, you have to have some way of following up on the leads you've captured. Whatever it is, keep at it. Pursue them relentlessly, as if their life depends on them buying your product or service. If you focus on the benefits you're able to deliver, you should feel totally confident and comfortable doing so.

Step # 5: Constantly strive to know your customers better. This is key, because if you do not know your prospects well, you will not be able to sell to them. This goes hand-in-hand with Step # 1, selling them what they want. The only way to know what they want is to know them better than they know themselves. People lie about things; they even lie to themselves. If you're a really innovative marketer (and you should be), then try to figure out exactly what they want at all times and under all circumstances.

Step # 6: Plan all your marketing campaigns so you can make a profit even with bad percentages. In other words, arrange things to make money even when response is poor and people are not coming into your store. One of the problems we entrepreneurs have is that we think too much of our promotions, overestimating how well they're likely to do. Try to get away from that mindset; spend some time thinking about worst-case scenarios. If you can make a profit even when the numbers stink, then you're onto something. That's why it's important to get a good price for everything you do or make, because you never know when response will fall. When it falls for someone who's doing business on the cheap, they're in a world of hurt and often go bankrupt.

Step # 7: Continually test. This is most marketers' least favorite activity, and even we experts sometimes do not do it as much as we should. But it is vital to your success. Constantly seek to replace ideas, systems, and initiatives with bigger, better, stronger ones. Testing is the only way you develop even better promotions. So once you have something that's working, keep looking for ways to improve it.

If you're in the mail business, run controls against the main piece you know is working, trying to beat it with new tests. Always look for ways to make something work better than it works now. We usually do head-to-head tests, so if we're mailing 10,000 pieces of mail, we might mail 5,000 of our control and 5,000 pieces of a new idea we think might work better. Sometimes that means reinventing the offer in a major way; other times it means testing a new headline or a new hook, angle or offer in an attempt to get them to respond in higher numbers. You see, what's working now will ever stop working – and you've got to have somewhere to go after that, some new offer to attract customers.

These seven steps lead to mastery of your marketplace. Of course, we could add others; but these are seven critical ones, the ones you have to push at if you want to master your market. Most business owners will tell you that's what they want; but the reality is that all too often, they're just doing the bare minimum to get by. They exist in their marketplace, but are not driving to master it.

They may not even really think about their business as being in a marketplace. They have whatever they do, and of course they have customers, but are not really thinking about their marketplace as something they could master, or even do a better job of reaching. They just do what they do, the days and the weeks flow by, they limp along as a business … and they never really try to get better at marketing.

Mastering their market is a completely foreign subject to them. All they're thinking about is how they're going to pay their bills and survival. They're just following the follower, never even trying to think outside the box. They actually that they have not spent any time thinking about mastering their marketplace is actually good news for you, because it means your competitors are very easy to beat when you follow these seven principals – especially the last two.

Learn to make good money with bad numbers. Crack the world of possibilities wide open and think outside of the box. Test rigorously and religiously – even things that are a little outrageous. You never know what's going to work the best, so you need a lot of ideas. Try to answer the question, “What if everything fails? What will I do then?” Lay out five or six of your best strategies – and then ask, “What if they all fail?”

Ultimately, your goal is to take a small amount of money and see how far you can stretch it. If you can make a profit on little or no money and the market is big enough, the sky's the limit when you roll out in a big way. These seven steps are crucial in accomplishing that – so consider deeply what it takes to dominate the marketplace you serve, to truly give the people in it what they want and need.