How do you respond when someone asks you, "What business are you in?"
Like so many business people, I bet you respond by explaining what you sell, or what you do. For example, "I'm in the pizza business," says a woman who operates a small pizza shop. "I'm in the hardware business," says another woman who manages a hardware store. "I'm in the PEOPLE business," says a clever man who sells clothing. He's in the PEOPLE business, he says, because he deals with people all day long.
Notice, however, that no one said what business they're in. Instead, they explained what they sell or do. People sell pizza and hardware, and while they don't sell people, they learn to work with people to try to satisfy their desires.
There are two problems with these answers. First, they're not correct. Second, they beg the question: "So what?"
If you consider that a business has but one purpose, and that is: to create a customer, then it's quite clear that there's only one business to be in...the business of creating customers! Or, as I like to say: the business of capturing and keeping customers.
Regardless of what you sell: computers, training, books, bicycles, furniture, office supplies, etc., you don't have a business until a customer BUYS something from you. The emphasis is on capturing and keeping customers. That's really the only business to be in. Successful businesses, by the way, recognize that fact and focus on capturing and keeping their customers. If your business is successful and you don't focus on capturing and keeping customers, then just imagine how successful your business will be when you get in the right business!
The second problem that occurs when you tell people what you sell is lack of differentiation. Ask 15 hardware store owners what business they're in and there's a good chance a dozen of them will say: The hardware business. The other three are likely to say: People, Customer Service, and Profit. But thousands of other business people could say the same thing, and in fact, do!
There's nothing wrong with the hardware business, or any other business mentioned. What you sell is not the point! How you differentiate what you sell IS the point! Who cares if you're in the hardware business? Only someone who needs to buy hardware. But if they run into six people who all say they're in the hardware business, which one does the customer choose? Where are they going to shop?
I'll tell you where: at the store or the restaurant or the office that differentiates itself.
Want to differentiate yourself? Get out of the business you think you're in and get in the right business: the business of capturing and keeping customers. Your competitors aren't in THAT business! You've got it all to yourself.
John P. Hayes, Ph.D. is the co-author with Zig Ziglar of Network Marketing For Dummies.