This article was written by Ed Hatton for the column the Start up Coach and published by the South African edition of Entrepreneur magazine in March 2013 and is posted here by their kind permission.
The subject must be important to potential buyers
This entrepreneur was the victim of a horrific motor vehicle accident that left him brain damaged. He has beaten the odds and gained several tertiary qualifications. He asks how he can turn his inspiring story, as well as information about brain injuries into a career as a speaker.
This entrepreneur is very passionate and knowledgeable about his subject and has researched the high prevalence and management of brain injuries. He believes everyone should be aware of this information. He also has an inspiring story to tell, of overcoming huge obstacles on his way to his qualifications. His problem is getting paid speaking assignments.
Many entrepreneurs have products and services in which they believe passionately, and think potential customers should share their enthusiasm, but consumers at every level have the choice of more products and services than they could ever buy. They select those which are important, which may not be the services the entrepreneur believes in so passionately. So they do not come asking for the entrepreneur’s services and that can leave the him bewildered and frustrated.
The entrepreneur must accept that the consumer is not irrational for not buying his service. The consumers own needs and beliefs must be respected. This is a hard but necessary lesson for entrepreneurs to learn: Consumers will part with their money for goods and services they perceive as being valuable. It makes no sense to argue with them; either supply something they want or find a way to convince them that they need the ones offered.
The key to thinking of solutions is in a change of mindset, from bewilderment to acceptance that people do not automatically share his passion. Then he can plan how to overcome this problem.
One such way is to focus on very narrow niches of people who are likely to need the products or services. In this case that means people who are likely to want to hear his story. Medical professionals engaged in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and strokes are likely to want to learn as much as they can. Families of those with brain injuries would value hearing an inspirational recovery story and information on how best to care for a loved one. HR management and worker supervisors should be aware of the incidence and behaviour of people with brain injuries. He needs to actively sell to these groups, they will not automatically approach him.
Another way of attacking the problem is the so called ‘missionary sell’ where the entrepreneur first educates the market on why they need to know these things, and only then starts selling. The education can be in the form of written articles, speeches to NGOs, blogging, participation in forums and interest groups and individual networking. If the message has relevance the need to hear more will grow.
It is difficult to break into the speaker circuit. As with other services it may be necessary to start small, to give away some ‘free samples’ especially where there are influential people in the audience who may later become paying customers. Networking is vital, and especially in discussion groups of social media. This is time consuming but free. A well promoted blog with compelling content would lead to enquiries. Most important is personal approaches to likely customer groups, and this has to be done continuously.
The problem with all of these ideas is that they require a lot of learning and even more time. There are also costs to be paid. It may be difficult for this entrepreneur who has already achieved wonderful things to start on new and difficult challenges, but the next hurdle needs to be overcome, as the previous difficult ones were. Resilience is one of the best traits of the entrepreneur. I encourage this brave young man to use the grit and determination which saw him get to where he is to take him to new heights.
© copyright Entrepreneur Media SA (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without prior permission of Entrepreneur Media (Pty) Ltd. Permission is only deemed valid if approval is in writing.