May 2015 was a landmark month for me: I celebrated the first anniversary of Verbaccino. When I look back at the year gone by, I see the steep learning curve I’ve climbed as a first-time business owner, with many personal and professional accomplishments along the way. Looking ahead, I envision all the things I still want to accomplish, and I’m more eager than ever to keep climbing – especially now that my path has come into focus. That’s because I’ve been asking myself the most important question that any entrepreneur – anyone in business, for that matter – can ask himself or herself. Can you guess what that question is?
Like many startup entrepreneurs, I had been spreading myself too thin, trying to be all things to all people, not wanting to miss out on any opportunities. I was relying on other people’s suggestions (often unsolicited) to figure out what my next step should be. My strategy was to say yes to most everything that came my way, regardless of whether or not it aligned with my vision for Verbaccino.
A few months after launching my website, I became a Founding Member of the Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals (CAMP). My original motivation for joining was to learn more about how to market my own business to potential clients, i.e. how to put myself out there and sell my services. But I soon discovered – to my surprise – that I had a real passion for marketing, which I could apply in a unique way for the benefit of Verbaccino’s clients. Digital marketing – and content marketing in particular – is now the paradigm I use to frame Verbaccino’s multilingual services. It has become the cornerstone of my revised business model.
I joined several other groups besides CAMP, and soon my schedule was filled with networking events, one-on-one meetings, educational opportunities and volunteer commitments. Along the way, the occasional paid project fell into my lap, usually through word of mouth. I was acquiring all the knowledge, business connections and practical experience I could, and I was truly enjoying the process. I was so busy constantly rushing from one thing to the next, that I barely had time to think strategically anymore. Eventually, I realized that I needed to take a step back. I needed to ask myself where all this activity was leading me. The answer was: not in any particular direction. In the words of George Harrison: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
My problem was pretty basic and all too common among first-time entrepreneurs: I hadn’t figured out who my ideal client was. I realized that I had to answer that crucial question first, before I invested more time and energy into finding those clients, wherever they were, and getting them interested in Verbaccino’s services.
This point was driven home to me again just recently, when CAMP CEO Nadine Evans gave a talk at an event hosted by the York Region branch of Startup Canada. “What’s the most important question in marketing?”, was the teaser question. The answer, of course: “Who is your customer?” Seems like a simple enough question. Yet so many startup entrepreneurs forge ahead without being perfectly clear on what the answer is, even in their own minds.
So in recent weeks, I’ve taken some time to really reflect on who my ideal client is. Or rather: who my ideal client is now, in light of my new marketing-centered business model and of everything I’ve learned so far. And I’ve developed a much clearer vision for Verbaccino as a result. The path forward is coming into focus, and my next steps seem obvious to me now: a Spring-cleaning of my schedule; learning to say “No” to certain things so that I can say “Yes” to others; networking in a much more strategic way; and reclaiming the time I need to create high-quality content and to share it effectively.
Time is my most precious commodity: there are only so many hours in the week. Going forward, I plan to make sure that all my business activities have a clear purpose, and that they’re leading me in the direction I’ve set out for Verbaccino. Now that I’ve asked myself the most important question and worked out what the answer is, I can set specific goals and chart my course. There’s more than one path to choose from, and that’s part of the adventure. But as long as I keep going in the right direction – always with my ideal customer in mind – Verbaccino will keep growing according to my vision. Stay tuned for exciting new developments!
Have you answered the most important question yet? Have you found yourself re-evaluating who your ideal customer is, after being in business for a while? Have you had to adjust the direction of your business efforts as a result? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please feel free to share them in the comments section, below.
For valuable tips on how to grow an international audience online, subscribe to Verbaccino’s monthly newsletter, The Worldly Marketer. It’s free!