The Problem with Starving Crowds

“If you and I both owned a hamburger stand,” Gary Halbert famously asked, “and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?”

You’ve probably heard this one before.

The answers vary. Some entrepreneurs want the freshest beef. Others go for the tastiest buns, a high-traffic location, the lowest prices, etc.

Gary only wanted one advantage: a starving crowd.

When people are hungry, they need to eat. If they’re starving, they’ll pay anything, there won’t be objections to overcome, and the food doesn’t even have to be that good.

There’s a lot of wisdom in that idea. If YOU want to sell something, you gotta find some customers hungry for what you bring to the table.

But…

Is a Starving Crowd Enough?

The part of the story that usually gets left out is this: Halbert’s imaginary burger-selling contest is, well, imaginary. There are starving crowds everywhere – but in most cases, the market is teeming with burger joints competing for the same customers.

How do you keep from becoming a commodity?

You can’t just step out there, expecting people to throw money at you. Having a high quality product doesn’t guarantee success, either. You have to do something unique. Something

  • better
  • faster
  • more specifically targeted
  • easier
  • more glamorous
  • funner
  • less painful

…or you have to be cheaper. Or engage in hand-to-hand combat with the “big boys” (and a bunch of smaller competitors who probably want it just as bad as you do).

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing is a great example making of a very “boring” business, where competition is fierce, much more interesting. It involves one of the strongest guarantees you’ll see in anywhere:

Ben Franklin Plumbing USP Guarantee

Businesses only exist because there are problems that need fixing and desires that need fulfillment. There are starving crowds out there. Are you serving what they’re hungry for? Is there a good reason they should buy from you instead of anyone else?

Think about it. Then commit to do something about it.

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What A Wet Floor Sign Can Teach You About Your Business

What’s the purpose of wet floor signs from the perspective of a business owner?

Believe it or not, your answer to that question can tell you a lot about how you run your business. It doesn’t matter if you have a brick-and-mortar retail location or you sell strictly from your website. This exercise is purely hypothetical.

So what do you think? What’s the purpose behind wet floor signs?

If your answer is “to protect the business from legal liability if anyone should happen to slip on on the premises,” you may have uncovered a dangerous mindset that could threaten the vitality and growth of your own business.

What might this sort of response tell you about yourself? To put it plainly, you’re focused on the wrong thing.

What’s at the Center of Your Business?

If you’ve got a “protecting what’s mine” mentality (as indicated by the aforementioned response the the wet floor sign question), you’re exhibiting symptoms of an defensive-minded, self-centered entrepreneur. You place your own interests at the center of everything you do.

On the other hand, if you said that the purpose of the wet floor sign is to protect people in your store from getting hurt, you’re showing that you’re a customer-centered entrepreneur.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with protecting your business or yourself. It would be foolish not to. But when you focus on your business instead of your customers, you’re putting the cart before proverbial horse.

You’ve heard it a hundred times: “The purpose of business is to create a customer.” Not to build a store, invent a product or make a name for itself. If you want to get good at creating customers, you need to make them the most important thing.

Playing It Too Safe

It’s hard to grow your business proactively when you’re playing defense. If you’re too invested in protecting your reputation, image, your perceived upper-hand in relationships, etc., you’re probably playing too safe.

Risk-taking empowers you to make bold promises in your marketing. Playing it safe makes for boring advertisements.

Customer-centric courage frees you to offer strong guarantees, which can often increase sales by 300% even while inviting buyers to ask for their money back if they’re not fully satisfied. When you put your customers first, you’re willing to reverse the risk back on yourself.

Self-centered businesses hesitate before giving value in advance.  They’re worried about getting ripped off by cheapskates or copied by sneaky competitors. Customer-centric businesses know that offering value in advance brings more leads in, develops more trust and establishes more authority in the marketplace. Sure, there’s a little more risk involved, but the upside potential is worth it.

Business isn’t about you. The companies and solo professionals that really make a difference are usually those that make it their priority to take care of their customers. They want to make the world a better place, not just put money in their bank accounts.

Which description sounds more like your business?
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This illustration probably seems overly simplistic, but I think it’s also rather instructive. I’d love to hear what you think about it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section.

P.S. If you’d like to hear about some of the most courageous marketing and guarantees you can imagine, you might like to listen to my interview with Space Shuttle engineer-turned-consultant Mark Fox.

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My Talk with Mark Fox

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mark Fox, CEO of Sly as a Fox, LLC and author of Da Vinci and the 40 Answers. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of purposeful creativity. Oh, and he is former Chief Engineer on the Space Shuttle.

He enlightened me for 35 minutes and let me record the conversation.

Here’s why it matters to you.

We’ve talked about how improving your offer will improve the response you get from your marketing and sales propositions. Mark gives two of the best examples I’ve ever heard of “better than money back” guarantees. One involves a million dollar payout.

You can definitely learn something from these ideas.

The broader context of our discussion was how to become creative on purpose instead of having to wait for your muse to show up. We’re all well-accustomed to accidental creativity. But what if you could reproduce those times of inspiration predictably, on demand?

You’d start to see problems and obstacles dissolve right before your eyes.

On top of all that, I make a total anus out of myself in the first 5 minutes of the recording. I was so embarrassed I almost canceled the rest of the talk. I’m getting over my pride, because there is some really great content that I think you’ll benefit greatly from hearing. It’s worth the shame.

Check out the audio here.

You don’t want to miss this.

P.S. While you’re at it, you should go to Mark’s site. His is one of the only newsletters I haven’t unsubscribed from. He’s also offering the full text of Da Vinci and the 40 Answers in PDF form for free. No opt-in required.

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