Do You Honor Your Business?

Black background with a light shining down on a golden grail that is standing on top of a stack of books

One of my favorite things about helping small businesses with their marketing is seeing an ugly duckling become a swan.

Businesses with no marketing materials, or ineffective ones — OK, ugly marketing materials — come to me for help. Either I help them directly, or they use my branding products, and over time, I see a transformation take place. The ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan.

Their marketing materials make them stand up straighter and feel more confident selling. They’re proud to share their web site URL. They can’t wait to press a business card into a prospect’s hand because it’s so beautiful!

I never tire of seeing this transformation. It fuels everything I do.

When business owners want to honor their business, they invest in marketing. When they take that leap of faith and spend the time and effort to give their ideas the best chance to succeed, amazing things happen.

The process always starts with defining the vision they have for their business. Who are they trying to reach? What problems or challenges does this market have to deal with? How will their business provide a solution?

Extraordinary questions lead to unforgettable solutions

Most people think the marketing process starts with talking about what their favorite color is, or what kind of logo they need. They don’t expect to spend time thinking deeply about their target market. Students taking my course were surprised to be tackling these questions at first, too.

If you want to honor your business by creating unforgettable marketing solutions that express your vision and attract the kind of audience you want, you can’t start with mundane questions.

If you want to create targeted, effective marketing pieces that move your market to act — to buy, sign up, take action or promote a cause — you have to understand intimately who they are. And that starts with asking good questions.

1. Who do I serve?

Who exactly do you want to reach? What gender are they? What age group do they belong to? What’s their marital status and education level? Are they in a particular geographic location, or are they all over?

If you’ve been in business a while, you may have started out with a market in mind. As the months and years have passed, your original market may have changed. Is it time to revisit your description and update it with who your customers really are?

Think about who wants and needs what you offer. Form a clear picture in your mind of this person. Imagine what a day in their lives must be like. Then speak to them, and only them, with every word you write, and every image you use.

2. What do they struggle with?

When you imagine the daily lives of your target market, think about what they struggle with. What causes them stress? What keeps them up at night? If they could make a wish, what would they wish for?

The answers to these questions will lead you directly to …

3. How can I help them?

Once you understand what they’re struggling with, think about how your business could help them. Will your product or service bring them more security? Make them more attractive to the opposite sex? Offer them greater peace of mind? Prestige? Money? Time?

It’s important to define the benefit your offering delivers. Your marketing will always be more effective if you emphasize the true benefit rather than the features alone. Remember to keep asking “And that’s important because?” until you can’t answer any more.

Do you honor your business by investing time and effort in your marketing materials? What helps you to get to know your market better? I’d love to talk about it in the comments.

And now, a favor. I installed fancy-schmancy share buttons below each of my blog posts. Would you mind sharing this post if you enjoyed it? You have a choice of where you can send it: Twitter, Facebook and a host of others. I’m trying to get the word out, so if you can help me spread it I’d appreciate it!

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson coaches people to build profitable online businesses. She's an online educator, author, and keynote speaker. Read reviews of the tools used to run this site and business. Have you taken the free Focus Finder quiz yet?

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18 thoughts on “Do You Honor Your Business?”

  1. These questions are the toughest to answer, but I totally agree, understanding your customer’s needs is the most important thing. I used to focus on my skills (and lack of skills), comparing myself to others, thinking that if I was better at this and that, my business would grow. It didn’t work very well.

    Funny enough, the more I focus on my customer, listen to their problems, and help them to solve those problems, the more my skills and my sales increase.

  2. Pamela, I am constantly struggling with this! As a novelist, every choice I make as I write is focused on giving my audience the greatest enjoyment/pleasure….but how do I translate that into marketing materials?

    I write character-driven thrillers for women.

    The value I provide is: escapism, entertainment, and empowerment (through my strong female protagonists)….but those are all pretty vague notions. How do you take the next step and translate them into concrete marketing aids?

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise!!!

    • I wonder if you can take the descriptors even deeper, CJ. For example, what are they escaping from? Why do they need to feel empowered?

      If you can think through what their underlying situations might be that are causing them to escape and look to be entertained, I’ll bet you’ll hit a gold mine of information you can use to market to them.

      And as a novelist, inventing a story about why they’re searching for these things should be easy-peasy. 😉

        • CJ, I just came across Cindy Ratzlaff’s blog. She specializes in building author platforms and has some amazing success, especially with non-fiction. And it turns out we live in the same region, so she’s my “neighbor!”

          Here’s her site:

          She shares lots of great information, and has author interviews, too. You might find it interesting: I hope it’s helpful!

  3. Excellent post and so very true. I work at a University and do a lot of web-based work. It’s crucial that we know our audience and what they need. If we don’t develop something that serves our users, we’ve wasted our time and the problem remains unsolved. Too many University websites look like this:

  4. You’re so right went you say:

    “Their marketing materials make them stand up straighter and feel more confident selling. They’re proud to share their web site URL. They can’t wait to press a business card into a prospect’s hand ”



  5. Hi Pamela,

    I have found that those 3 questions are foreign to many business people. Their idea of marketing copy is a description of their own awesome ninja superpowers.

    Prospects don’t respond to that. They want to know that you understand their problems and know how to solve them. Your questions are designed to uncover that.

    It is no coincidence that when I work with more successful businesses, they invariably have a stronger sense of who their ideal prospect is, what they need, and how to help them.


    • Marketing is much easier when you have a clear picture of who you’re talking to: I’ll bet that’s why those businesses are more successful.

      Thanks for your comment, Jack.

  6. Hi Pamela,
    Thanks for reminding me of these very important principles,
    very timely for me.
    Hope to check into your course one of these days,

  7. G’Day Pamela,
    I’d already made a note of “and that’s important because” from one of your previous posts. Now I’ll add “honour your business.”

    A crystal clear business focus and an equally well defined target market are just so important to business success, offline or online. Another is Al Ries’ and Jack Trout’s Law of Sacrifice; what are you going to give up in order to clarify your focus and further define your target market?

    I see so many websites that have more colours than a kaleidoscope, more fonts than the Trevi Fountain and more bullet points than a bullseye but no indication of whom they’re aimed at, except anyone and everyone.

    Years ago I heard a university professor say, “the best theory is practical.” I think that the same applies to design.

    Keep hammering away Pamela. I wish more designers had your breadth of understanding.

    And, of course, make sure you have fun.



    • Giving up part of your market so you can focus on the ones who really need and want what you offer is so difficult. I think that’s why I keep talking about it! I’ve seen great things happen when people get that target in focus, aim and shoot for it.

      I am a deeply practical person, actually. I don’t know if that’s an odd trait for a designer, but that’s the way I am. So of course I agree: the best design is practical, and — I might add — functional.

      Thanks for stopping by, Leon!

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