Many years ago someone said to me “find your voice if you want to create a real business”.
At the time I had a multi location business that was doing well when the industry was collapsing all around me. Instead of finding my voice I escaped with the shirt on my back, while 99% of my competition and 75% of my vendors weren’t so lucky. 2008 was a tough year for a lot of companies. Looking back I skated by on skill alone, the business and I had no “voice”.
I bring this up because now that I have a new business that is doing well and now growing at double digit rates, there is a key thing that I am doing differently. Saying “no” to a lot more work.
When your business is very thin on cash flow you are more tempted to say yes to any work. Is that the right way to grown the business? When I ask the question, I get “but we need the money”.
In business there are a few different directions you can go. Those that find their voice, tend to do the best. Steve Jobs had a voice that is what we know of as Apple. Bill Gates, Microsoft. Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook. Their “voice” guided the companies to stellar growth rates.
Some companies can experience stellar growth by solving a problem. Without a voice they implode and are overrun by competition. Do you still remember AOL? Great idea, worked well at the time, but it had no where to go. Steve Case had no “voice”.
Another way to describe “voice” is “purpose”. I don’t like to use the terms interchangeable because I believe you voice comes from your purpose. It is the essence of it.
When I built my current business, I had a broad background in website design, management and internet marketing. It was easy to land clients, and beat the competition. That is until a few figured out their voice. One for example decided “online ads suck”. They focused only on creating better performing ads.
Their voice was along the lines of “better ads make better business”. They flew buy us in growth and then took many of our clients before we flipped and agreed they were better for our clients and handed the rest over.
I still wasn’t using my “voice” to say “no” to my clients, I was simply saying “no” I could not compete with them. It did help me focus though because that was one piece of my business gone.
Eventually another competitor did the same and started hosting websites that were faster and less expensive. We moved our clients accounts over to them and sold our website hosting to a different competitor. For the first time ever I lost clients. Ironically we started making more money. Sales were flat the next quarter but profit was up.
We had lost online ads and website hosting, and were somehow making more money. My “voice” was becoming clear to everyone but me.
In college my professors would say that I had the ability to take the complex and make it digestible. That never made sense to me until recently when a mentor put it all together. That is why I am sharing this with you. My mentor grows wine. His voice and purpose is to bring Old world style wines to California. We both like old world wines better. We both also like his wines.
My voice is telling simple stories. Finding a way to give people more than a feeling in a short period of time. I give them understanding. I do it through some writing and advertising, but mostly I do it with videos and occasionally photos.
Many people and many companies make good videos for their clients. the difference is that by using my “voice” I help people understand my clients. That is an entirely different situation. If you don’t have a voice, or purpose, how can I possibly help you grow? How can I give your customers a better understanding of you.
An SEO review of your website is a great test. If I can’t find your voice there, I probably won’t find it. If you are trying to just get anyone to your website, you probably lack voice.
Every SEO company out there talks about getting your site to number one, or bringing in millions of views. The first video from CoolToysTV.com is number one in its category and has an 85% completion rate. The number two video has a 21% completion rate. I know because that company is now a client.
It has become very easy to look at a business and business owner and tell them I can’t help them. When I interview them, if they are building a lifestyle business, or a job for themselves without any direction, purpose or voice, I will say so. I am told I can be a little harsh saying so too. The best franchisees can say why they want to be a part of their franchise. What they have is a great job, they are in charge of.
If you don’t have a franchise you still might have just built a job for yourself selling other peoples stuff like I did in the home theater business many years ago. I took the risk, they got the rewards. All because I had not yet found my “voice”. If you want to find your voice, ask yourself a few simple questions.
What makes my (insert business here) different?
Why is that important to a customer?
Why should they choose me over the competition?
Is that a good enough reason?
You can own a cupcake business selling $8 cupcakes in the same shopping center as a supermarket selling four cupcakes for $3 and still have a line out the door if they have the right a reason. If they don’t hear your “voice” loud and clear, there is no “reason” for them to leave the supermarket.
“Because cupcakes can and should be better” might be all the voice you need. If you own a cupcake shop that is.
Look at your favorite stores. Ask your self why you go there and chances are good you will hear their voice in your head. Some don’t even have to say it out loud for you to hear it.
Scott Bourquin is a serial entrepreneur and Best Selling Author©. His company creates videos that connects businesses to their customers.