This week Peter and Jonathan debate whether your should stick to your plan or change it. Lara Galloway (@mombizcoach) joins the show to discuss niche marketing.
Finally, is the “Internet of Things” the sign of progress, or pushing us toward a grim future?
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Listen to Episode 7:
- We debate whether you should stick to the plan or change it – (:31)
- What is niche marketing (with Lara Galloway, the @mombizcoach)? – (9:47)
- The “Internet of Things” (IoT) – (22:06)
Peter: Jonathan should you stick to the plan or should you change the plan?
Jonathan: Why are we talking about that? What are we doing here?
Peter: Well Tim Berry posted an article this week titled Should you Stick to the Plan or Change it …
Jonathan: That’s a good title.
Peter: … on Bplans. That’s a good one I think. I actually almost every day I use this analogy of this classic business plan being problematic in the sense that a lot of folks out there will create a plan. They’ll put tons of time into a plan. They’ll pour over it. They’ll think over every section. They’ll create it often just once. They’ll print it nicely and maybe they’ll get a loan with it, maybe they’ll start that business, maybe they’ll get out there and finally be that entrepreneur they always wanted to be but the plan goes in the drawer and occasionally maybe is referred to.
It’s this worse case scenario. You should indeed revise the plan and I think maybe the question here is how often, how frequently?
Jonathan: Does Tim come to a conclusion on that, maybe you know what I have an idea. How about this?
Jonathan: Let’s not share what Tim’s conclusion is just yet. Let’s do a good old fashion debate, you versus me. Which side do you want to take? Sticking with the plan or changing it?
Peter: I mean I’ll play devil’s advocate and stick to the plan a little bit here at least for a while within reason.
Jonathan: I guess I’ll take the other side which is you should revise your plan and not be afraid of it. Before we do that let me just look up these rules real quick about debates.
Peter: How does a good old fashion debate work?
Jonathan: No personal insults.
Peter: It’s just that your opinions are terrible.
Jonathan: Shut up.
Peter: Oh, oh.
Jonathan: We’re off to a good start.
Peter: Podcast over.
Jonathan: Uh oh. Now that we’ve got that out of our system …
Peter: Let’s talk a little bit about staying the course. Now again there’s a big difference between understanding a plan, sticking to it, staying the course, keeping the ship on track, whatever kind of analogies you want to use there and not using the plan like I was talking about before. Using the plan as a way of knowing what your touchstones are in the future, that’s hugely important. I think Tim really summarizes it here great. It’s better to have a mediocre strategy consistently applied over three or more years than a series of brilliant strategies each applied for six months or so.
I think we can all relate to that right? We can all relate to the ever evolving landscape that ever evolves so quickly that you have no footing, you have no grounding. I think most importantly you don’t even know if the experiments you put out there into the world are validated or not.
Jonathan: That’s a reason why you should stay the course, how does staying the course help?
Peter: Staying course gets you to the point where you can get results from your experiments. It lets you ask big complicated questions and get to the end point and say this does work. This doesn’t work. At the end of the day, these complicated questions, these larger initiatives, these big ideas that take time and effort and results to prove or disprove are what create great lasting businesses.
Jonathan: Now Peter on the other hand though Tim says, “There’s no virtue in sticking with a plan for its own sake. Nobody wants the futility of trying to implement a flawed plan. That’s true. You’re innovating and if you’ve created a plan that just doesn’t work what’s the sense in sticking with it? Not being afraid to take that plan off the shelf, not let it collect dust and say, “Yep in this area we miscalculated some things. That was a wrong assumption.” Not being afraid to fail, but to learn from that failure over and over again and revise as you go. I think that there’s a lot of value to that.
Peter: A well executed plan that you should stick to should have highs and lows. It should have adjustment factors built into it. It should have an understanding that some of the components within that larger plan are experiments and the results of those experiments will drive the further stages of those either marketing programs or business models or customer segments. I think that that all works into the idea of sticking to a good plan.
Jonathan: Now from my opinion I think the two groups of people who seem to be the most resistant to revising or changing the plan are either those who like you talked about went through this whole process, created the plan and then set it aside maybe because it was such an ordeal to create the plan they felt like okay I answered all my questions now I’ve just got to do it. That’s a new experience for them and so they are afraid of I just went through all of that. I can’t change that. I’ve set it in stone. It’s there.
Then the other group is people who have been around for quite a long time. They’ve already established a method and a way of success. The idea of changing it is like “Well if it’s not broken don’t fix it.”
Peter: Yeah, those are both great examples. They both represent a type of flawed thinking that I think people can fall into either by stress or comfort or just a misunderstanding of what their own goals should be. That first group the one that puts what I would call too much work into the initial plan, that’s a flawed approach because as the lean planning people would say by the time you get through with a plan that that’s complicated the world has changed underneath you.
Peter: Yeah, you have to put in the minimum amount that is appropriate for the amount of planning that you need to do. How minimum? Well that’s where the lean planning comes in. That’s where maybe the lean startup mode comes in. Tim Berry the author of this article has a book coming out about lean planning so we can maybe post a link to that maybe.
The second example was this one of a business that’s up and running, things are going basically good and so there’s no real reason to either create a new plan or adjust. It’s almost the third case. They’re just staying the course and there isn’t really a plan in place. They’re just staying the course with whatever the status quo is. This is of course dangerous for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is you are not ready for changes which will occur. You haven’t done the experiments. You don’t understand where your market is coming from and going. You don’t understand what changes are already happening if you’re not participating in the conversation.
The conversation comes from running experiments with your audience, testing new markets, understanding the dynamics of the current market that you were occupying. This is where the having a plan versus revising the plan concept would come into play. I do think there are a lot of businesses out there that are complacent maybe too much so in the business that they have.
Jonathan: Of course the problem with that is before long those things pass you by because you weren’t willing to test things out and revise what you were doing.
Peter: Jonathan are you saying this kind of experimentation, this audience outreach is the equivalent of this plan revision side of the argument that you’re sticking to?
Jonathan: I would say testing, constantly testing, looking at the results gives you the ability to with some science and with some precision, make decisions about what you should and can change.
Peter: I think maybe we could agree to this.
Peter: Maybe we could close this debate with the following concept. If your plan is so rigid that straying from it seems like a diversion and you don’t have any flexibility and in fact you’re stuck with it, then maybe your plan isn’t the best type of plan for your company, but if you don’t have enough direction that your plan can’t extend three months into the future, six months into the future then maybe you need to take a step up a level, go a meta level higher and start thinking about the plans for your business at that level.
Then third I think the one that we don’t address in this article if your plan is get more of the same or increase my sales by getting more customers in my door. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I just hope they come. Then we really need to recommend that you are looking at something more holistic, more plan oriented and that does let you take advantage of some of both the lean planning philosophy and the idea of having something that you can use as a touchstone over time like a financial plan, a financial forecast, that kind of thing in place.
Jonathan: I think that sounds like I won then.
Peter: I think we both win.
Jonathan: Oh, we both win. I like that outcome.
Peter: We’ll just forward the win to Tim Berry author of this week’s focus article. Let’s ask our listeners if you’ve got a business plan in place have you been sticking to it over the last three, six, nine, twelve months? Do you feel like you’re constantly changing it? Do you feel like it can’t do without a revision every few months out there? What’s your story and how is it working out for you?
Jonathan: You can email us email@example.com or if you want to send us a tweet at bplans just use the #bcast and we’ll see that.
All right. We’re excited today. We have Lara Galloway, an author, speaker, business coach here with us to talk about niche marketing so hi Lara. Thanks for joining us and can you tell us more about yourself.
Peter: Wait a second is it Lara or Laura. You just said both.
Jonathan: Did I say both?
Peter: Lara Laura [crosstalk 00:10:05].
Lara Galloway: It’s a little ambiguous so all the way you can always remember it is just Lara rhymes with Star-a. There you go.
Peter: Star-a. I put the a at the end of most sentences so that’s easy for me.
Jonathan: Thanks for joining us Star-a.
Peter: It’s like Lost Boys.
Jonathan: That’s right.
Lara Galloway: Love it. Love it. I’m so happy to be here. Thanks for having me guys. Yeah a little bit about me. I am a mom of three, a wife and an entrepreneur who started coaching other business owners how to be successful and have a pretty awesome life about 2005 is when I started doing that. My business has just continued and grown and grown and grown over the years. I finally pulled it together and started offering do-it-yourself coaching through a book I just published called Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and a Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur.
The joke guys is always if you can get past the word mom in the title, if you’re man enough for that there’s some really golden gems in there for people who aren’t women so there you go.
Peter: Jonathan and I will test our manhood during this podcast for the [crosstalk 00:11:13].
Lara Galloway: I threw down the gauntlet so you’ve got to right?
Jonathan: That’s right.
Peter: Absolutely. We wanted to talk a little bit about this idea of niche marketing and niche business but why don’t we just start with when I say niche I mean I know what that means in the real world but really in this business sense what do I mean when I say niche marketing, niche products that kind of thing and I guess what do we mean when we’re talking about it today?
Lara Galloway: My Canadian friends roll over dead every single time I say niche. They’re like, “It does not rhyme with itch. It’s a niche market.” They get mad at me and correct me.
Peter: That’s going to help our international market.
Jonathan: [Exactly 00:11:48].
Lara Galloway: Absolutely. Yeah, they’ll know where they stand with us right? To me what that means and what I talk about with my clients all the time is really knowing what you sell and to whom. Everybody who’s in business for themselves wants to believe that their stuff could be bought by anybody and everybody but of course the huge challenge is that there’s not a single person out there that would raise their hand when you said who is anybody or who is everybody? None of us identify ourselves that way.
Niche marketing is the beauty of being able to help your ideal customer, your target audience know that you’re talking specifically to them and that your products and solutions are tailored to solve their problems.
Jonathan: When it comes to small business owners and entrepreneurs you’ve obviously carved out a niche with moms and mom business owners. How do you go about picking a niche?
Lara Galloway: One of the things I tell my clients is let’s base it on one of these things. Number one let it be a target market that you are already a part of. For me the moms thing easy. I was a business coach again easy, so I’m a business coach for moms and oh by the way there was nobody out there telling me how I could successfully run a business without having to sacrifice every other priority I have in my life to make it successful as an entrepreneur, so the business coaching side of things became that real sub-niche general or specific focus for me.
I would say first of all pick something maybe you’re already a part of that target demographic and you already have that need that you’re going to be providing the solution for. If not that then take a look at your past experience and your current network, your community, either geographically or maybe you’re very well known on social media or maybe you’re very well known in your industry or from a past job experience and see if what you’re choosing can leverage both the contacts that you have there as well as the experience so people will see you as an expert sooner rather than later.
Peter: Let me ask you this. When we are talking about this niche, this smaller, this segment of the larger population why would I want to not market to the largest possible group? If I’m Nike and I and I want to make shoes that people want to wear why don’t I just say my shoes are for everyone? What’s the benefit of shrinking down my potential [readership, buyership, customership 00:14:17]?
Lara Galloway: You simply as a small business owner, entrepreneur do not and I really don’t care, I don’t have to assess it much I’m going to say this pretty boldly you don’t have the resources to garner the market that Nike does period. For us small business owners, for entrepreneurs who do and even if you do have great venture capital, great angel investors, great funding for marketing, for you to spend the amount of money it would take for you to reach an audience as ubiquitously as Nike can is just an outrageous amount of dollars.
Instead if you can understand the idea of being a big fish in a small pond that is where you get leverage. Perhaps you can’t appeal to every single person who like Nike maybe they started off just appealing to athletes, maybe after that they went for athletes and the people who want to be athletes, well by now Nike is in every household. I don’t care if you’ve never put on a pair of gym shoes in your life, you probably own something made by Nike at this point. What Nike probably started out as and I don’t know, this isn’t a great case study so don’t quote me, but what Nike started out as probably had a bit more of a specific focus. That’s what I always invite my clients to do and it’s certainly what we did with our book.
People say all the time, “Well why didn’t you just call it Entrepreneurs Mean Business or Women Mean Business, that’s a lot bigger pond of people and you’re really limiting yourself when you say Moms Mean Business and it’s all about mom entrepreneurs.” It’s like well you know I’m competing to be the biggest fish in that pond. Once I’m the biggest fish in that pond and I become a household name, I become known and recognized and trustworthy to that group, then guess what? I get some really great leverage and I’m able to spring out of that pond and I start working with men or I start working with women executives or I start working with people who train small business companies.
There are so many different possibilities once you really secure your footing and build a strong foundation in a smaller pond by being that big fish and really getting known as a household name there first.
Peter: Fantastic. It sounds like this defining, this niche helps that small business owner really stay focused which is a thing that we love to encourage, that idea of staying focused on the goals that you can set, the goals you can achieve. It also sounds like there’s a little overlap here between a popular article on bplans.com called TAM SAM and SOM where this idea of defining the total addressable market.
In Nike’s case everyone with feet and then the segmented addressable market, people with athletic interests like you said, but then there’s also the third component which is the share of market and it sounds like that’s really where the niche comes in those last two steps where you’re defining that funnel and saying “Okay well I’m not going to reach everyone in the world with feet. We’re only going to get people with athletic interests but we’re also only going to get five, ten percent of them,” and like you said then dominate that smaller sphere because that’s still quite a lot of people.
Lara Galloway: It is. You made a … Oh I can’t wait to read that article. I love the acronyms. It’s so memorable. I love the idea that we’re talking both about narrowing the audience, but also there’s the other piece of it that maybe you just start out with shoes, but as of right now I think both of my kids are wearing T-shirts that have Nike on it. I wore a hat this morning that had the Nike [swoosh 00:18:00]. You can also once you dominate whatever product line or whatever market you’ve gone after once you’ve built that up you can also pivot in another way and add on more lines of business in your business plan, so absolutely.
It’s such a great way to say, “Look at which segment, both a segment of people and a segment of the market and a segment of the products that you can eventually offer.”
Peter: That’s interesting. Yeah. I guess how do you when you become an expert in a niche this idea of people knowing and trusting your expertise in that area I have a problem where I am generally unlikable [to people 00:18:36] is that right? That’s what Jonathan tells me most days.
Peter: If I were to go out and say, “Hi people,” who should know and trust me I might have a problem and it might take about a year to figure that out or thirty so how do we know whether your expertise is sticking. How do you know whether folks are really picking up on what you’re laying down out there?
Lara Galloway: Yeah, one of the things again about focusing on niche marketing and really getting that focus that narrowly defined group and becoming a big fish in a small pond is about really cultivating the know, like and trust factor with your audience. One thing that we like as I said before we can’t compete, we small business owners cannot compete with ginormous brands like Nike when it comes to marketing dollars. One place we can compete is in the personal likable, knowable, trustable arena. You can actually do a great job Peter, maybe there’s something we should discuss or maybe you just need to find new friends if Jonathan tells you you’re not very likable.
Peter: It’s a hard room here.
Lara Galloway: I guess so, but if you are showing up in person and online in way that lets people get to know a little bit about you that is absolutely relevant and on target with your branding, so at Bplans you’re a business professional so you’ve got to have a bit of that in there but you also need to have something that is going to let your people know that you can understand them and trust them. If [your 00:20:17] posts on social media, if your meet ups that you host in town, if your workshops, your seminars, your articles that you write, if all of those reflect a bit of your professionalism, you’re relating the type stuff that you’re an expert at but also a bit of your personal side so people can go, “Yeah I like that guy. You know what he’s hard to like, but I do trust him because what he says is right on.”
People can develop relationships with you based on how you show up. When you are a smaller brand, you can absolutely put a face and a personality to your brand in a way that big companies can’t do so there could be some I know some women that make little tiny leather baby slipper shoes and such, they cannot compete with Nike, but let me tell you their customers love them and they love marketing. They’ve got this crazy volunteer marketing army going for them because they’re making these little tiny shoes and they’re blogging about it all the time and they’re showing up at all the fairs and people get to hold them and touch them and try them out and they love them.
I think that’s one of the best ways we can compete is by being small and being personable and being honest so that our clients can really relate to us.
Jonathan: Excellent so Lara great to have you on here, just for our listeners where can they find more of your work?
Lara Galloway: Oh I’d love them to connect with me on social media. You can find me all over the place at mombizcoach that’s M-O-M-B-I-Z-C-O-A-C-H so that’s my website mombizcoach.com. It’s my Twitter handle. It’s my Facebook page. It’s my podcast on Blog Talk Radio, my YouTube, my Instagram. It’s all over there.
Jonathan: You’ve got the branding down.
Lara Galloway: Thank you.
Peter: Lara, sounds like Stara had a good point about finding new friends. I think that’s an excellent transition to some friends I’ve been making around the house, robots, computers and all of my appliances really these days.
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. Peter those aren’t your friends but that sounds like it’s conversation for maybe another podcast or maybe just after this is done.
Peter: No I would suggest that my house is becoming friendlier as things evolve, more devices, more ways of interfacing with it. I can check what music is playing in my living room from right here if I needed to. Really I think what we’re talking about here what we’re transitioning seamlessly to is the topic of the internet of things. Jonathan what things are connected in your house and what do you know about this thing?
Jonathan: I’ve seen that phrase used around, but I’ve never really dug into what it actually means. Do you want to share with our listeners who might be in the same place that I am? What’s that phrase mean? Maybe we’re familiar with the actuality of it, but what are we talking about?
Peter: Certainly, Webster’s Dictionary defines it. This whole movement has been around. I think the things that people would recognize the most are things like the Nest which is an intelligent thermostat for the house. They also make a smoke detector that is intelligent. These distributed sound systems, Sonos, distributed lighting systems, door locks that you can activate from your phone or mobile. Really the broader sense is that your house is full of things and the internet of things really asks the question can all of these things be connected to each other? What benefit do humans get from that and how can they communicate to each other?
It’s really almost at a sci-fi level, but I think it’s important for our listeners to know about this because frankly it’s happening it’s happening now. This isn’t just theory. This is products that are rolling out right now as we speak.
Jonathan: Lara while you’re here with us what do you think about the internet of things?
Lara Galloway: It’s funny. I was thinking about it’s like the way I would describe it is your smart phone is connected to your air conditioner is connected to your smart watch is connected to your smart car. We used to just call it smart stuff. Now it’s the whole internet, the whole network of interconnectedness that makes things smarter, makes them more intelligent and capable of working together and ultimately saving us efficiency, steps, energy, money, time all that kind of stuff. I think it’s cool. I definitely think it’s coming. It’s the way to go.
I think I watch things like how the Fitbit or the Apple watch have totally gotten some really sedentary people I know in the world moving and accountable for their activity and really truly interested in tracking so much about what they eat and how they sleep and how they move each day. I think wow there’s so much benefit to that. They upload it and then they tie it into their smart meal plan. The Samsung refrigerator can tell you that you’re running low on milk and almond milk and all of your protein shakes and whatever you need.
I mean it makes great sense in order to be more efficient and to not have to remember to order toilet paper, like “Oh yeah it’s low.” Great just order it. Get it handled. Why do we waste our time on things that we don’t have to. I’m a huge fan of saving time because that’s the thing we can never get more of.
I know when I start talking like this my husband for instance he’s very much more conservative than I am about putting out things that can take our privacy away. He doesn’t want us connecting every one of our credit cards and bank accounts and whatever for mobile banking and it’s so easy to do. He doesn’t want us to do that because he really wants to be mindful about hackers and think, “Well if I connect all of these systems together then really one little password gets you in and you can wreak havoc in a big way.”
I think that’s what the resistance you always get with stuff like this is “Well yeah it’s helpful, but what about hackers or what about advertisers or what about people who want if employers have ability to tap into my Fitbit and see when I’m being more productive here or there or how I spent my time is that going to impact whether I get a raise or if they give me better insurance or whatever kind of stuff like that. It’s a real concern and I get that.
Jonathan: I’m really excited about all of the possibilities. Each time I see a new innovation about it it’s really cool. Oh I didn’t even realize that that could be connected and wow that’s really awesome, but I think we’re proceeding without caution if I can be so bold as to say that.
The reason why I say that maybe I’m biased but I have read a little a while ago, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Wait But Why website, long in depth articles about some really interesting topics, but they have a two part series on artificial intelligence. It paints a picture that you could say is either grim or optimistic. I think the lack of caution that we’re proceeding with connecting everything and doing it just because it’s cool gets us a lot closer to that grim future.
Peter: You’re scared of robots.
Jonathan: I am terrified of them.
Peter: [That’s good 00:27:37].
Jonathan: Yes, yeah.
Peter: That’s good. Lara how scared of you of robots?
Lara Galloway: I’m not that scared.
Peter: Jonathan great discussion but this is a small business podcast. How can these small business owners out there start to use either the internet of things or the knowledge of the internet of things to benefit their small business?
Jonathan: That’s a great question and actually I’m going to pass it right back to you and ask what are your thoughts on it?
Peter: That’s great Jonathan. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Jonathan: Yeah, no problem.
Peter: Lara, let’s start with you. What’s one tip? I’m going to think of mine while you’re talking?
Lara Galloway: Just pass the buck. No problem. Well while you guys figure that out, I did have a little thought. I guess it’s going to be, you know what we see with small business owners is we see entrepreneurs who grow really fast when they very clearly find an opportunity, a problem, a challenge, a gap in the existing market and then they come up with something that very nimbly fills that gap. I can see with the companies that are studying with the high tech companies that are studying all of these trends and watching what’s happening we’re going to keep seeing a lot more apps that are these maybe I mean when you talk about a niche honestly as we’ve been doing today is there anything that better defines a niche than app development honestly?
You get a game that only flings birds out of a nest and makes them blow things up. They’re so basic in what they offer and I think entrepreneurs and small business owners have been able to really jump into the market in the tech arena because all they have to do is focus on a very smart but smaller scale idea that bridges a gap or makes a connection or fills in a hole in what’s currently already a market like so many small apps do that have been developed and gone really big on the market. I think we’re just going to see a lot more of that.
I think there’s a huge opportunity for play for small businesses because they are able to really stay abreast of industry trends and they are really able to meet the need very quickly in a way that a lot of big businesses can’t.
Peter: I think the niche component is really a key thing there. I think that’s going to be my takeaway point. I started beekeeping recently and one of the things was I installed a small android Arduino component in there with a couple of sensors and it connects …
Lara Galloway: My son does Arduino stuff. That is so cool.
Peter: There you go. You should tell him about opensourcebeekeeping.net. The idea here is that this little device takes a couple of measurements and connects to my WiFi. It not only lets me know how my beehive is doing but it lets a undefined network know how the state of Oregon is doing, how the United States is doing, this kind of thing. It’s a fascinating little project, but the tip is this is the kind of thing that could be developed by Lara’s son and installed by a niche market like me.
I think there is tons of open ended potential here for the small business to either modify what they’re currently offering and think about it how it fits into this new thing that is really happening and is happening now or to develop new innovative approach to how they do their normal business as it applies to this market. I think the takeaway here is this is happening. Is that right Jonathan?
Jonathan: It is happening. Yeah.
Peter: It’s happening. We can’t stop it.
Jonathan: Yeah, why don’t you go ahead and email us firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet at bplans and tell us what you think of the internet of things, what’s the coolest device you’ve seen connected? What’s an idea that you might have for something that should be connected? Yeah you can loop in at mombizcoach conversation as well. I’m sure she’d love to hear your thoughts.
Peter: Yeah, Lara if people have questions about niche marketing who do you want to hear from and when and how?
Lara Galloway: Oh, I want to hear from people who totally believe they do not need to have a niche market and believe that their target audience is everybody who has money. Please call me. I will help you. You need my help. It will be awesome to chat. You can email me Lara, that’s L-A-R-A@mombizcoach.com or find me on the social platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram whatever and also on my website, laragalloway.com, that’s L-A-R-A G-A-L-L-O-W-A-Y.com.
Jonathan: All right thanks for joining us.
Lara Galloway: Thanks guys. It was fun.
If you have a question you’d like us to answer on the show, send us an email at Bcast@Bplans.com or send us a tweet @Bplans.
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