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Why Should Work be “Work?”

Why Should Work be “Work?”

I personally believe we have the wrong idea about work. There is a popular concept in this country that “work” is supposed to be something you do to earn money, sustain yourself, support your family, do for a long time, and then retire to a life of leisure. In short, work is a lot of things, but it’s not fun.
 

This Has to Change

 
In my recent series of posts, I discussed why Freelancing is the job of the future. (  http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ). In that post, I listed the 10 skills you will need if you are to succeed in the coming upheaval in the job market.
 
To recap, here they are:
 
1. Complex problem solving
2. Critical Thinking
3. Creativity
4. People management
5. Coordinating with others.
6. Emotional Intelligence
7. Judgment and decision making
8. Service orientation
9. Negotiation
10. Cognitive Flexibility
 
These are all “soft skills” that can be applied no matter what field you work in. But…the one thing I never talked about was what to do.
 
So, here is your challenge for today. What do you want to do? What excites you? What fascinates you? What do you love doing so much, you would do it for free?
 
Got it? Write it down.
 
Here’s the good news. Whatever you love to do, someone will pay you to do it.
 

Having Fun at Work

 
OK. Here’s my next question. If you are doing something you love so much you’d do it for free, are you having fun? You betcha. And, on top of that wouldn’t you want to be the very best at it?
 
Here’s an example. Joseph Campbell was a Professor of Comparative Mythology at Sarah Lawrence College. Now studying Comparative Mythology sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry, right? As Joseph Campbell researched different mythologies, he became convinced of the existence of a “Monomyth.” He believed that all the world’s mythologies and religions were based on this single, original, myth. This same Monomyth could also be used to describe and explain human existence.
 
Campbell began to write about his theories. One of his first books was “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” This one book has influenced generations of writers and filmmakers. George Lucas used it as the basis for the plots in the Stars Wars movies.
 
Campbell’s philosophy of life? “Follow your bliss.”
 
And when you follow your bliss, work isn’t “work” anymore.
 

Lifelong Learning

 
Here’s the catch. Whatever you choose to do, you will need to apply lifelong learning to be the best. You will never get to the point where you “know it all.”
 
Writers read constantly. They do so to see how others ply their trade. Only by studying the masters can they improve themselves.
 
Musicians practice constantly to improve. I once saw an interview with Vladimir Horowitz, the famous concert pianist. In it, he stated that he used to practice 8 hours a day, but since turning 80, he cut it to 6.
 
Most professional athletes spend 6 to 8 hours a day training.
 
Who are the masters of your field? Find out. Study them. How did they get to be the best? How do they stay at the top of their game?
 
Here’s the best news of all. If you really love what you’re doing, this won’t be “work.” It will be fun. Because one of the mysteries of life is learning that it’s not the goal, it’s the journey that is the most satisfying.
P.S.  If you’d like to read “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, just click on the link below.  (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate.)

Countdown: Skill #2-Critical Thinking

Countdown: Skill #2-Critical Thinking

In my original post in this series ( http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I discussed the 10 critical skills you need to succeed in the chaotic job market of the next few years. Today, I would like to talk about the #2 skill, Critical Thinking.

Just What is Critical Thinking?

 
Critical thinking is one of “those terms.” It has risen to near the top of skills employers are now seeking. Go search for a good definition though, and what you get is a lot of big words and phrases difficult to decipher.
 
Here is a list of elements involved in Critical Thinking stated in simple English:
  •  The ability to analyze the way you think.
  • A self-directed way of thinking using high standards of excellence.
  • A systematic, methodical approach to problem-solving.
  • The ability to think independently.
  • The ability to separate rational arguments from emotional ones.
 

Why is Critical Thinking Important to Me?

 
You are a Freelancer. You hire yourself out to clients and companies to work on various types of projects. Robots and software technology are replacing people at ever-increasing rates. What is the one skill technology doesn’t have? Human judgment.
 
This is where critical thinking comes in. Good critical thinking skills give you the ability to:
  •  Identify a bad or false argument.
  • Build and present good arguments.
  • Think better and more clearly.
  • Develop the ability to see things in new and different ways.
  • Question the status quo.

Here is the challenge. The human brain does not think logically. It makes most of its decisions on emotion and/or preconceived ideas. Having made a decision, people then go back and justify it with logic. What’s worse is once a person has made a decision they will defend it to the death, no matter how wrong it turns out to be.

Developing critical thinking skills helps you arrive at better, more logical decisions at the beginning of the process.
 
These are the skills employers are buying today. Doing things the same old way doesn’t cut it anymore. Now clients want new and different ways of accomplishing things. Making progress requires shaking things up.
 

How Can I Learn to be a Better Thinker?

 

There are lots of online resources to get you started. Google “Learn Critical Thinking,” and you’ll get about 29 million results. One challenge here is language. Many of these resources read like college psychology texts (read boring and difficult to comprehend). My research turned up a couple of good sources I think you will enjoy.
 
The first is a website for “The Critical Thinking Community.” This link ( http://bit.ly/2xrZtj7  ) will take you to a page that starts you on a path to learning about critical thinking. If you want to take your education further, there are a lot of wonderful resources on the site. You can join the community for free.
 
There are lots of books on this subject as well. One of the most readable I found was “Critical Thinking for Dummies,” by Martin Cohen. This book delivers a plain English approach to the subject I think you will enjoy. I have included a link below if you would like to order this terrific book. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate.)

Countdown: Skill #4 People Management

Countdown: Skill #4 People Management

In the first blog post in this series ( http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I listed the 10 critical skills you will need to succeed in the upheaval taking shape now in the worldwide job market.  Today I want to discuss Skill #4, People Management.

 

Why is People Management so Important?

 

People management has always been an important skill to possess.  In the coming chaos in the job market, it will become even more vital.  As robots and software technology continue to replace people in the work force,  human judgement becomes more and more critical.

As a Freelancer, you will be involved in complex projects.  These projects will employ teams of highly skilled and intelligent people.  These teams may consist of company employees and/or other Freelancers.  And…the one thing you will all be required to bring to the table is human judgment.  It’s the one thing robots and software cannot do.

 

What Does Good People Management Consist of?

 

If there was one word I could use to sum up good people management it’s engagement.

Did you know according to Gallup research, 51% of the American workforce is not engaged?  This means they are indifferent to their job or don’t like their work.  ( http://bit.ly/2wVIZik  ).  So, the first task of any manager is to get his team engaged.

 

How do I Get People Engaged?

 

The hypothetical situation here is you are Freelancer managing a team of Freelancers completing a project for a company.  Here is how I would do it.

  • Be clear about the purpose of the project. What is special about it? Why is it important? Freelancers tend to pick their jobs. If you can show how working on this project would enhance their career or professional development you’ll be way ahead.
  • Set expectations. Let them know exactly how they fit into the team and what they are expected to do.  Show them how what they do is critical to the project’s success. Let them know you are counting on them.
  • Let them know you have their best interests at heart. Freelancers want to know they are in a situation where they can do what they do best.
  • Ask for their opinions.  And…really listen.  Reward innovation.  Value feedback.  Give plenty of feedback to them. Remember if you want to get people engaged, you have to be engaged.
  • Give lots of praise.  But, be genuine.  Too much praise can come off sounding phony
  • Figure out ways to make it fun.

Freelancers build teams.  Let your team members know if they do a good job, you’ll be sure to ask them back on the next gig you get. People love working for a well-functioning team.

Freelancers need to know they are getting paid well.  Remember companies can save up to 30% of labor costs (payroll taxes, fringe benefits, etc.) by hiring Freelancers. What kind of revenue will this completed project generate for the company?  Set your prices accordingly.  The better the pay, the higher the talent you’ll be able to attract.

 

Where can I go to learn about this?

 

Online of course.  Google “People Management Training” and take your pick.  Training resources range from free to thousands of dollars depending on what you choose.

Then there are books.  Always my favorite starting point.   One of the best is Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Another excellent book is “Bringing out the Best in People” by Aubrey Daniels.

See links below to order these fine books. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon affiliate.)

The main point here is to start now.  Assess your leadership skills and figure out what you need to improve. The People Management skill is ranked #4 for a reason.  If you need improvement in this area, the sooner you start, the better.

 

Countdown: Skill #5 Coordinating With Others

Countdown: Skill #5 Coordinating With Others

In my original post in this series (  http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm  ), I listed the 10 skills critical to your success as a Freelancer in the growing upheaval of the worldwide job market.  Today I’m going to discuss Skill #5 Coordinating With Others.

 

Why is Coordinating With Others So Important?

 

First and foremost, it is the #5 critical skill employers will be looking for in Freelancers as technology continues to eliminate jobs in the coming years.  When you think about it, coordinating with others is one of those things that appears to be self-evident. Yet, when I began to research this as a single subject for this blog, I found…almost nothing.

This is weird, I thought.  I must be doing something wrong.  So I went back and changed the search criteria in every way I could think of and came up with…almost nothing.  No books.  No courses. No forums.  Nothing.

Yet this skill is listed in almost all the lists of critical skills needed for the future.  Who am I to argue with the World Economic Forum?

Then it dawned on me.  This skill is not so much a stand-alone skill.  It really is one of the qualities of great leadership. And, the Freelancers of the future need to be great leaders.  They need to bring together companies, clients, departments, and other freelancers to make projects succeed.

At the same time, leaders need to be followers as well.  If you’re not the lead, you need to be willing to subordinate your interests to the team and the project.  For, it is the project’s success that is paramount.

 

What’s Involved in Coordinating With Others?

 

When you coordinate with others you will need to:

  • Be organized yourself.
  • Organize and describe the roles of others.
  • Create directives so everyone understands their role in the project.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Be able to deal with emotions.  Both yours and others.
  • Juggle multiple balls.
  • Deal with obstacles.
  • Build teams.

Do all of these sound familiar?  They should.  They are all elements of great leadership.  The good news is you can learn to be a great leader.  Like most skills, it takes time and practice.  There’s an old saying that great leaders are born, not made.  The real truth is some leaders are born, but most are made.

 

OK! Where Can I Learn to be a Great Leader?

 

Lots of places. For starters, if you google “Where can I learn about leadership” you’ll get about 700,000 results.  One intriguing site is Learn to be a Leader ( http://bit.ly/2x8AD8q ).  Here you can find a long list of sub-categories to search through.

Then there’s always books. (You just knew I’d have a book, right?)  One excellent book I found was Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.  This is a fascinating book that uses a fictional story to focus on a basic, but very important, tenet of leadership that is rarely discussed. Master this one skill, and you’re a long way down the road to great leadership.  There is a link below if you’d like to order this book.  (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate.)

 

 

Countdown: Skill #7 – Judgment & Decision-Making

Countdown: Skill #7 – Judgment & Decision-Making

In my original blog in this series (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm), I said there were 10 skills critical to your future success in the coming turbulent job market.  Today I want to discuss skill # 7, judgment and decision-making.

 

 

The Importance of Judgment & Decision-Making Skills

 

Futurist Thomas Frey estimates 2 Billion (that’s Billion with a capital B) jobs will be lost by 2030 worldwide. (http://bit.ly/2w4whhN) Those jobs will be lost to robots and software technology.  There will also be lots of new jobs created.  But…the new jobs will require a skill robots and software don’t have.  Human judgment and making the decisions arising out of those judgments.

Your job as a future Freelancer will be to make those judgments and decisions for your clients. And…this will be one of the most sought after skills.

You could be called upon to decide:

  • Whether a program or service will even work for your client.
  • If the program or service is desirable, how will it be integrated?
  • What departments or divisions will fill new roles?
  • What existing jobs may be eliminated or repurposed?
  • Who will be responsible for the maintenance and updating of the new programs?

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless.

 

Please define Judgment and Decision-Making

 

Judgment is the ability to evaluate a situation as objectively as possible.  Typically this will involve:

  • Defining the challenge or opportunity
  • Coming up with a list of possible solutions.
  • Listing pros and cons of each solution.

Decision-Making is: Choosing a solution and implementing it.

Sounds simple, right?

Ah, if it were only that easy.

There are a few other elements involved, such as:

  • Taking risks
  • Having the courage to put a decision into play
  • Admitting you’re wrong if it doesn’t work.
  • Gathering feedback to try again.

 

Often This Whole Process is Defined as Leadership

 

“Wait a minute!” I hear you say.  “If I’m a Freelancer, why do I have to be a leader?”

Any one who has ever been in the military will tell you; leaders exist at every level.  From the smallest unit of 3 people, to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, someone is always in charge.

As a Freelancer, you will be responsible for integrating and coordinating many things.  That means you will be leading. You should be confident in your ability to do research, implement it, and manage conflict amongst others.  You need to be a keen observer, able to spot difficulties early before they grow into a crisis.  This requires an action orientation and an assumption of risk.

The distressing part of this whole thing is that research shows most people make decisions based on emotion.  Then they try to justify that decision with logic.

It will be up to you to show your clients a better way.

 

Where Can I go to Learn About Judgment?

 

Lots of places.  As always, there are books.  One of the best I have found is by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis titled Judgment, How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls. This book deals mainly with senior leadership in large organizations. It is still a good tutorial for developing the skills needed for good judgment. Plus, there’s a nifty handbook included at the end.  There is a link below if you would like to buy this book. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate)

There are also lots of courses available.  Just Google “Decision-Making Courses” and a ton of choices will come up.

Finally, there’s plain old everyday practice.  We all make decisions.  Lots of them, every single day.  Some turn out well, others not so much.  Analyze the good ones.  What did you do right?  Learn from the bad ones.  What could you have done better or differently?

The important thing is to start now.  The better you are, the more prepared you will be when that Freelancing opportunity appears.

 

 

Countdown: Critical Skill #8 – Service Orientation

Countdown: Critical Skill #8 – Service Orientation

In my original post in this series (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I listed the 10 critical skills you will need to prepare yourself to succeed in the coming upheaval in the job market.  Today I want to discuss number 8 on the list, Service Orientation.

 

 

Why is Service Orientation so Important?

 

Service Orientation may be the most difficult of the skills to describe.  Yet in many ways, it is the most important of the 10 skills even though it’s number 8 on the list.  As a Freelancer, you don’t just want clients that are satisfied; you want clients that are loyal.  What’s the difference?  Loyal customers call you first.  Before they talk to anyone else.

 

What is Service Orientation?

 

Service orientation is a customer first approach.   It’s a mindset.  This isn’t a skill to be practiced; it’s a lifestyle to be lived.

 

Think about Nordstrom’s.  They became famous because their gift wrapping department would wrap gifts purchased at other stores.  Or, Disney, whose “cast members” sole function is to make sure their “guests” enjoy themselves.

 

I spent 20 years training Mortgage Loan Officers how to build a business based on personal referrals from Realtors, builders, and previous clients.  Service orientation was the most important quality determining their success.

 

Here’s what it takes to develop a loyal client.

 

First on the list is a high degree of empathy.  Put yourself in the client’s shoes. You need good listening skills.  Find out not only what the client wants, but why they want it.  Have patience.  Be sure you hear them out.

 

Be interested in your clients as people.  Find out as much as you can about them. Why do they love their industry? How did they come to be involved in your project?  Where do they go from here?  My experience is most people love to talk about themselves, especially if they are passionate about their work.

 

Practice exceptional follow through and follow up.  As a Freelancer, you may be acting as a go-between for two or more clients.  Make sure all are not just satisfied, but pleased with the outcome.  Make follow up calls a week, a month, a quarter, and even a year after completion.  It’s a good way to get feedback on your project in order to improve your performance the next time.  It’s also a great opportunity to ask for more business.

 

My father was a commercial builder. He made constant follow up calls to clients with finished jobs.  If something was wrong with one of his projects, he didn’t care how long ago the job had been completed.  He’d fix it.  No charge.  Guess why his clients called him back again and again?

 

People like to do business with you when you can make it easy for them.  Here’s a hint.  Don’t make it easy, make it effortless.  When I was in mortgage banking, our Loan Officers would get a referral from a Realtor.  They’d interview the applicants, and if they were qualified, the deal closed in 10 business days.  Do you think Realtors liked sending us business?

 

Where Can I Learn About Service Orientation?

 

That’s actually a hard question to answer. When you search online you will find a lot of sites that are IT oriented.

The best sources appear to be books. Jeffrey Gitomer has a great book titled Customer Satisfaction is Worthless.  Customer Loyalty is Priceless. In it, Jeffrey has a lot of simple, direct strategies to build customer loyalty.  I have included a link below if you’d like to purchase this book.  (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate).

 

Then there’s practice.  You can start now.  We are all involved in situations every day where we can strive to make sure those we come in contact with are pleased with the results.  As I said before, this isn’t a skill it’s a lifestyle.  Start today to put the other person first.  You’ll be stunned at the results.

 

 

Countdown: Skill #10 Crucial to Your Success

Countdown: Skill #10 Crucial to Your Success

In my recent blog on the great opportunities for Freelancers arising out of the rising chaos in the world job market (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I promised a thorough discussion of the 10 skills crucial to your success you’ll need to develop in the next few years.  The countdown is on.  Here is skill #10, Cognitive Flexibility

 

What the heck is Cognitive Flexibility?

 

Cognitive Flexibility is a term used by psychologists to describe the ability to shift quickly from one concept to another.  The easiest way to describe it is to think of switching channels on your TV.  Suppose you have a tennis match on one channel and a college football game on another.  As you switch back and forth, your mind must quickly adjust to a different set of rules, play, and circumstances.  People who are not cognitively flexible find this difficult.  It takes them a few minutes or longer before they can engage in the events happening on the new channel.

 

Why is this so important?

 

Millions of jobs are going to disappear in the next few years.  But, there will also be lots of new jobs created.  The problem is those jobs haven’t been invented yet.  What types of jobs are these?  Data analysts who can help decipher the huge amount of data generated by the internet of things.  Specialized sales reps who can explain new products and services to customers and clients.  Managers and consultants who can help steer companies through this process.

If you are a Freelancer filling one of these functions, you will need cognitive flexibility.  You may be working for more than one company.  Company A may be playing tennis.  Company B, playing football.

Even if you’re working for one company, Department A could be playing soccer, while Department B…well, you see where this is going.

 

How Can I Learn Cognitive Flexibility?

 

There are several things you can do to improve cognitive flexibility

  1. Read – Reading stimulates several areas of the brain simultaneously. The more complex the subject, the better. Add to this by making notes as you go.
  2. Play games. Lots of games. Word games, crossword puzzles, chess. There are lots of online games that will get you thinking.
  3. Make lists of different wild and wonderful ways to accomplish the same thing.
  4. Try breaking big topics down into chunks.

Keep going with these activities until you feel you can easily switch topics without losing a beat.  It’s easier than you think and can be a lot of fun.

 

The Challenge

 

Here is your challenge: The rise of technology is already eliminating jobs at an ever increasing pace.  As this trend accelerates, workers will be displaced in two directions.  Those who are unprepared will be pushed out into lower paying jobs.  Those who start now developing the 10 critical skills essential to Freelancing will find themselves positioned to succeed in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.  And…at much higher compensation.

Which one are you?

Start today.

 

Social Styles 5-Learning About the Amiable

Social Styles 5-Learning About the Amiable

Why are Social styles important?

 

In my previous posts on Social Styles, I have stressed the importance of understanding these styles.  Your ability to communicate with these different styles of people will make a huge difference in the profits at your bottom line.

Today, I want to discuss the last of the 4 Social Styles, the Amiable.

 

What is the Amiable Social Style?

 

Amiable are, well…amiable.  They are very people and question oriented. They are easy to get along with.  They are friendly listeners who enjoy personal contact.  They place a high priority on getting along with others.

 

Amiable have soft, pleasant voices.  Their speech is slow.  They have open and eager facial expressions.

 

They take time to establish relationships. They believe progress comes from people working together.  They like to make progress at a slow, steady pace.

 

Their natural tendencies are coaching and counseling.

 

Their motivators are seeking approval, being included as part of a group or team, and having a positive impact on others.

 

Amiables have much in common with Analyticals and Expressives, but are diametrically opposed to Drivers.

 

What does the dialogue of an Amiable sound like?

 

Remember that Amiables are ask directed.  This means you will need to ask a lot of questions.  You have to be patient.  Amiables want to build relationships first. They may not seem concerned with the time spent or deadlines.

 

Here are some other things you can expect:

  1. They want you to show them personal support.
  2. Give plenty of verbal and non-verbal feedback.
  3. They are interested in questions relating to long-term goals.
  4. They may suggest you talk to others. If they do, follow up. Not doing so may kill the relationship
  5. They want assurance as to who you are and what you believe
  6. You are expected to be open and honest
  7. You will need to sell yourself to an Amiable before they make any decision

 

How do you approach an Amiable?

 

The good news here is Amiables are easy to approach.  They are very open and friendly.

Here are several ways to approach an Amiable:

  1. Be relaxed and patient
  2. Make small talk
  3. Ask questions about their personal goals.
  4. Keep a slow, steady pace. Remember people come first.
  5. Don’t try to promote your agenda as revolutionary. Amiables like things with a proven foundation.
  6. Don’t rush your close. Let them come to their own conclusion.

 

In Conclusion.

 

The main take away from this brief outline of the 4 social styles is the need for you to learn to be flexible.  Remember Stephen Covey.  “First seek to understand, then be understood.”  Seek to understand the way your prospect communicates with the world. You will then open the door to show your prospect how you can fulfill his needs.

 

What I have presented in these posts has been the barest of outlines of these Social Styles.  To learn much, much more, I strongly urge you to click on the link below to buy Larry Wilson’s terrific book.

(Full disclosure.  I am a Powell’s Affiliate)

 

 

 

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Wilson Learning LibraryTrade Paperback
Powells.com
Social Styles 3 – Learning About the Expressive

Social Styles 3 – Learning About the Expressive

Social Styles are important because?

In my two previous posts ( http://ow.ly/Zfpn30bKoSK ) (http://ow.ly/1HcK30bYKwv)  we have discussed the importance of understanding social styles.  If you are engaged in business learning to successfully communicate with your employees, prospects, customers and clients is the key to your success.   Knowing your social style and the attributes of the other social styles is vital in building solid relationships.

Today, I want to discuss the Expressive style.

What is the Expressive Style?

 

Expressives are…expressive.  They are open, energetic, excited.  They love to share visions and ideas.  They love to talk about themselves. They like an audience and applause.  They love to tell people what to do.  They are people oriented rather than task.

 

They are risk-takers, competitive, creative and enthusiastic.  They love to get results through people. Relationships are very important to them. They love the exchange of ideas and want to get to know you personally.

 

Their primary motivation is recognition.  They want to stand out from the crowd

 

Expressives want to know the big picture. They want a good grasp of the situation before getting down to the details.  They want to know the essential details, but don’t care about getting too deep into them. They want to collaborate with you on things that support them.

 

Expressives have much in common with Drivers and Amiables. They are diametrically opposed to Analyticals.

What is dialogue with an Expressive like?

 

Here’s what you can expect when engaging with an Expressive.

  1. You should find out about their visions and how they expect you to help.
  2. Find out what other people need to be involved in accomplishing their vision.
  3. Expressives are usually very open about sharing information they think you need.
  4. They like a fast paced, focused discussion.
  5. They are casual about their use of time.
  6. Watch for openings in the conversation where you can slide in questions.
  7. Figure out a way to show support for their ideas and decisions.

 

What is the most effective approach to an Expressive?

 

When approaching Expressives, you need to quickly establish who you are, what you offer, and what they have to gain by working with you.

 

Other things to include are:

  1. Stories about people you both know.
  2. Share “exclusive” information
  3. Reinforce their vision and enthusiasm
  4. Take time to develop a personal relationship
  5. Leave time for socializing
  6. Talk about their goals and ideas they find stimulating.

 

 

In Conclusion

 

Learning how to effectively communicate with other social styles is a simple, yet amazing way to build trusting, solid relationships with your clients. Try it.  You’ll be stunned at the results.

 

Note:  The material in this blog was developed from information featured in “The Social Styles Handbook” To find out more, please click on the link below to order Larry Wilson’s great book

(Full disclosure, I am a Powell’s affiliate)

 

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Wilson Learning LibraryTrade Paperback
Powells.com
Is Knowing Your Target Audience Critical?

Is Knowing Your Target Audience Critical?

You betcha.  Knowing your target audience is the key to any successful small business.  Here’s a great post from Sivler Egg Media explaining why.

Why Is Understanding Your Target Audience So Important?

 

Many businesses think they know their target audience inside out. But if they took a test, how well do you think they would actually understand them?

Yesterday we spoke about how it’s really effective to create a balance between what is right for your business and what your audience wants. There’s no point in having a Facebook page if your audience isn’t primarily on Facebook, right?

There are so many things to consider when it comes to finding your target audience. And our post on it recently was so popular, that we’ve decided to expand on this topic more in the coming weeks. But for now, we bet you want to know why understand your target audience actually matters so much.

That’s why we’re here today.

 

What is a target audience?

 

When you type in “definition of target audience” into Google, this is what appears:

A particular group at which a product such as a film or advertisement is aimed.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

If only.

I actually think the definition is the opposite to the one above. Today, a business doesn’t create a product and say, we’re going to aim it at X group of people. They find the group of people they target (the target audience) and create products they know their audience needs.

So it’s not as simple as a one-size-fits all approach. Your target audience can be made up of people who have different needs and goals, but come to your business because they all relate to something on some level.

Here at SilverEGG Media, we write long, detailed posts about particular topics within the digital marketing industry for two different audiences:

  1. Our clients and other businesses looking for our services – through our content, we show them that we know what we’re talking about.
  2. People within the industry who either work in it or have a strong interest in it – these people want to better themselves in their field, to learn new skills to improve.

So we try to find the balance between speaking to both audiences. But some businesses have two completely different audiences to write for.

Imagine if someone had an accident and you were partly responsible for it. If you told your friends about it, it would be much different to the story you told the insurance company, wouldn’t it? Because they’re two different types of audience – you tailor your story to fit the needs of each one. And it’s exactly the same for your business.

Your target audience is made up of people that can understand and engage with what you’re saying. They’re people who come to you for a reason. They’re people who will keep coming back to you, and bring new people to see what you have to offer too.

 

 

Four Reasons Why Understanding Your Target Audience Is So Important

 

You can solve their problems

 

Why do you want people to visit your business? There could be many reasons – entertainment, advice, services – but ultimately you’re doing one thing for them.

Solving a problem.

Whenever people visit a website, they’re looking to find something. It could be something as direct as someone visiting a wedding cake website, because they need a wedding cake. Or they may not even know they’re looking for something – they’re just hoping to find it.

Once you identify why your audience is coming to your website, you can make some really good choices. You can decide what categories you’re going to talk about and what information you’re going to include. You can create and make a list of resources to give to them. You can do everything possible to thoroughly solve their problem, each time they visit your site.

 

It’s the key to effectiveness

 

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know your audience. Digital marketing today is about building strong, loyal, lasting relationships with people. Which is why it’s so useful to have an understanding of them.

You can understand them as real people, get to know them, find out what they like and where they go when they’re online. And that, dear readers, is the key to effectiveness.

Everything can be planned around them. From what time you send them an e-newsletter, to when you publish a blog post, to when you interact with them on social media.

Think about it – if your audience is predominantly busy mums with small children, is first thing in the morning or early evening going to be the right time to connect with them?

Not really.

But if you target commuters, early evenings and first thing in the morning would be the ideal time to connect as they browse their phones on the way to work. By understanding their habits and behaviours, you can maximise your appeal.

 

It enables you to define your value proposition

 

In the same way as solving problems, understanding your target audience also allows you to decide what your value proposition is going to be – what can you offer them? Why should they visit you?

Your value proposition can be seen to define what your business does, uniquely. If you find this difficult to do, it means you don’t understand your audience. Because when you do understand them, it’s easy. You know what you want; therefore you can package it to them. And what you give to them depends on what they want.

 

You’ll see results faster

 

Marketing takes time. And it’ll take even longer if you don’t know who your audience is. It’s no good assuming things about them. If you create content based around their assumptions, your audience will become lost. They’ll be alienated and forget to visit your site.

That’s why the aim with most of our content is to teach people – that means it appeals to both of our audiences. The more you appeal to your audience, the more it will grow.

 

Conclusion

 

Understanding your target audience is an ongoing task. People are always becoming interested in different topics and looking for new things – but you can be more successful and achieve more simply by understanding them. Keep with up them, and they might just stick with you.

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