It Pays to Know What You Don't Know

By Eric Gilboord

[caption id="attachment_2573" align="alignright" width="181" caption="Eric Gilboord"]Eric Gilboord[/caption]

Knowing what you don't know means having an understanding and a respect for all the knowledge you do not currently possess. It would be difficult for any of us to have all the answers and know all the questions. Two major stumbling blocks can stand in the way of small business success: The arrogance in thinking you have it all figured out; the belief that nobody else was smart enough to see the great opportunity you discovered; that nobody knows your area of business as well as you do.

Conversely, burying your head in the sand and not admitting that there are unanswered questions about your business is equally harmful. There is nothing worse than being blind to need. Thinking you know it all is a big downfall. This is a time of rapid change: e-commerce, instant communications and changing attitudes. Some companies are entering the same marketplace as you and making millions. Where do you think this money is coming from? It's coming from your customers—current ones and the ones you'll never meet.
Customer needs change; they evolve and grow with the familiarity and ongoing use of your products and services. Order the same size pizza from the same location with the same toppings week after week and eventually, you will develop a need for something different. Will you simply change your order or try a new pizza place that recently advertised a new crust or some unusual toppings? Customer needs change to reflect weather, holidays, family growth and changing tastes. Opportunities abound for you to find more new ways to satisfy a customer's needs.
If you ran a pizza operation, you could easily poll your customers as they call in their orders, to ask if there’s a topping they like that you don’t currently offer. Maybe they tried a pizza from a competitor and discovered that the taste of a new topping was the change they were looking for. Look for some common requests and begin offering this new topping.

8 Tips For Determining What You Don't Know

1. How Is Your Competition Doing? Ask yourself if your competition is doing better than you are. What do they know that you don't? Are they asking questions and responding to the answers? Have you seen your competitor try something new, and realize you thought of it years ago? Thinking about it is one thing; taking action separates success from mediocrity. Thinking about it doesn't make the cash register ring.

2. Ask Your Customers. Your customers know their own needs, likes and dislikes. It's up to you to draw that information from them. One customer may have a specific need shared by many others. If you satisfy that one customer, you may have found a product or service desired by many others. The opportunity is right there in front of you, waiting to be recognized.

3. Question Suppliers. Talk to your suppliers about new ideas. They see what your competition is doing on a regular basis and have a greater awareness of newly developed, proven opportunities within your industry.

4. Unhappy Customers. Turn a negative situation around. Have you learned to spot an unhappy customer? Do you try to find out what is wrong or just assume they are grumpy? Is your first reaction short-term—solve the immediate problem—or do you invest time to get to the root of the concern?

5. How Big Is The Problem? Is the problem bigger than the one customer who voiced it? Studies show that 80% of unhappy customers will never tell you they are dissatisfied. They may tell their friends about your inability to satisfy them, but they won’t bother telling you. Sometimes, a problem can be turned into a huge opportunity. If you understand that you do not have all the answers, you will be more inclined to take that unhappy customer aside, buy them a cup of coffee and ask for their help. People are flattered to know someone values their opinion and will usually give you the time needed to explore the problem and help you turn it into an opportunity.

6. Go Outside Your Industry. Don't restrict yourself to your own industry. Expose yourself to other businesses in different industries and investigate how they promote themselves, deal with customer service and gather information. Review magazine ads, visit websites, read brochures and go into their stores. What are they doing right and what are they doing wrong? What turns you on as their customer and what turns you off?

7. Trade shows. Trade shows are goldmines for new ideas. They are where you want to go to ask questions and get instant answers. Explore ideas, both new to your industry and new to you. Be selective of the shows you choose to visit and use your time wisely. Identify specific questions and look for specific answers.

8. Comment Cards. Comment cards from past customers are filled with ideas, directions and opportunities. There are no guarantees. Some ideas will be good, some bad and some great. Keeping an open mind is the most important part of the equation. Accepting the fact that someone else may have the answer is the first big step.

And That's According 2 Eric


Eric Gilboord is a specialist in making marketing easy for business owner/operators and any staff with sales or marketing responsibility. He demystifies marketing to help clients generate sales today and grow their businesses faster. Eric believes in blending traditional marketing with new media/social media. ROI is a must. Eric is a popular speaker, coach, columnist and author of many articles and books on moving a business up to the next level. The Expert Business Calls for Marketing Advice... That's Easy to Understand. For more information, to sign up for Eric’s marketing tips newsletter and to read his blog, please visit: Follow Eric on Twitter (ericgilboord). Find Eric on LinkedIn. Check out Eric’s ‘Get It Done’ Treasure Map, Marketing Plan Workshop at

By Adam

September 10, 2010