As my regular readers know, I’ve recently spent some time refining my content creation process for Bredemarket’s clients. As part of this, I’ve made a point of emphasizing some key points that need to be established at the beginning of a client engagement with someone like you, including the following:
- Your overall GOAL. The content Bredemarket creates must advance your goal.
- Your perceived BENEFITS. The content Bredemarket creates must communicate your benefits.
- Your TARGET AUDIENCE. The content Bredemarket creates must speak to your target audience.
To use a simple example, if your goal is to have local law enforcement agencies request formal quotes from you, your benefits include your experience working as a certified latent fingerprint examiner, and your target audience is the forensic, records, and/or IT departments of local law enforcement agencies, then I have failed if Bredemarket’s generated content talks about general business topics with no reference to law enforcement or fingerprints.
Beyond goals, benefits, or target audiences
However, I realize that there’s an implicit assumption that there is something that is at an even higher level than goals, benefits, or target audiences.
That “something” is your beliefs. (I speak in a business sense here, by the way, although your beliefs in general can impact how you do business.)
Because your beliefs underpin everything that you do.
They are the (sometimes unspoken) foundation that effects the goals you set, the benefits you offer, the audiences you target, and even whether you will meet with a client at 6:00 in the morning local time. (There are pros and cons to taking 6am meetings; it’s not a one-size-fits-all decision. More about that later.)
Beliefs of sole proprietors
The influence of beliefs on a business is obviously clearest when I as a consultant deal with other sole proprietors, because sole proprietors by definition have great control over how they do business.
Because of my background, many of the sole proprietors that I know are people who were formerly in the corporate world, but left it for some reason (sometimes by choice, sometimes not). Universally, these sole proprietors have seen things in the corporate world that they like, but have also seen corporate practices that they DO NOT like. Now that they’re in business for themselves, these sole proprietors have resolved that their business will never do these bad things.
I don’t want to single out any of the sole proprietors that I know, so I’m going to make up an example.
Beth Smith spent two years working for Pay By Touch, an early pioneer in digital identity that was in some respects ahead of its time. Even when founded in the early 2000s, the concept was solid: rather than having to drag out a credit card to make a payment, a grocery store shopper or other consumer could simply touch his or her finger against a fingerprint reader, securely allowing the consumer to pay by touch. Unfortunately, the leadership of the firm was not so good, and the company itself eventually went bankrupt.
Several years later, when digital identity became a hot topic, Beth Smith decided to re-enter the industry on her own. But she decided that a key belief of her business would be ethical behavior. No cocaine binges or unpaid bills would sully the reputation of Beth Smith Identity Services.
From this key belief, you can extrapolate how it would be reflected in Beth Smith’s goals, benefits, and target audience. For example, if you’re an illegal drug dealer, don’t even bother to ask Beth Smith Identity Services for a quote. She won’t talk to you.
Perhaps my made-up example is outrageous (then again, Pay By Touch’s founder John P. Rogers was pretty outrageous himself), but I’ve seen how similar beliefs (shaped by experience) have influenced other sole proprietors that I know.
- If a sole proprietor is angered by the glacial nature of multinational decision-making, that proprietor will emphasize quick delivery to accelerate client business and satisfaction.
- If a sole proprietor is disheartened because their former employer ignored a specific product, service, or market, that proprietor will prioritize that product/service/market and bring their unique talents to that market.
- If a sole proprietor is frustrated by the prevalence of one-size-fits-all cookie cutter solutions, that proprietor will prioritize responsiveness to a customer’s unique needs to ensure that the customer receives the best possible service.
But how do you discover a sole proprietor’s beliefs?
If I were interviewing you, I probably wouldn’t ask you what your key beliefs are. Perhaps I should (although that’s a rather personal question), but so far I haven’t needed to do so. If I already know you from past associations, I already know what your beliefs are. And if I don’t know you but just generally ask you about yourself and your business, your beliefs will probably come through in your conversation with me. If you spend a half hour talking with someone, you can learn all sorts of things. (But if you’re talking with me, my Calendly calendar doesn’t include 6am appointments.)
Beliefs of corporate employees
In terms of beliefs, a corporation is very different from a sole proprietor.
I know this from personal experience. The first multinational corporation that employed me was Motorola. This was before Motorola split into two entities, Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility.
During my period as a Motorola employee, the company had three leaders: Christopher Galvin, Edward Zander, and Greg Brown. While these leaders could set the direction for the company, they could not completely influence the beliefs of every member. It isn’t like all of the tens of thousands of Motorola employees immediately changed direction when Zander replaced Galvin, even though the two had distinctly different styles.
Galvin is a quiet, reserved, man who is perhaps contemplative and reflective to a fault. He believed in layers of management and many meetings that often kept Motorola from responding quickly to dynamic market circumstances. While not prone to take credit for successes, he always said the buck stopped with him when things didn’t go well. Zander, a freewheeling showman, is a boisterous, energetic, fast-moving Brooklyn native who often shoots from the hip or the lip.
I have never spoken with Galvin, Zander, or Brown, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in the same room with Galvin or Zander. Greg Brown advanced in Motorola’s hierarchy before becoming CEO, so I’m sure that I was in the same room with him at some point in my Motorola career.
So Galvin’s, Zander’s, and Brown’s influence on me and my beliefs was somewhat limited.
I was much more influenced by my direct supervisors, other directors and managers at Motorola’s Anaheim and Irvine offices, and selected people from Schaumburg, Plantation, Phoenix, Canada, and elsewhere who interacted with me on a daily basis.
The same holds true with my consulting business.
While I am technically delivering Bredemarket’s services to companies (including some large multinational companies), in reality I am delivering my services to Director Jim at Company X or Vice President Carol at Company Y. Director Jim and VP Carol have their own goals, perceived benefits, and target audiences…and their own beliefs.
When Bredemarket is delivering something to Director Jim, and is considering various options, there are times when I say to myself “Director Jim wouldn’t go for that.” Or if I’m delivering something to VP Carol, it will occur to me that she would really prefer a particular way of doing things.
Again, a consultant may not explicitly ask a corporate employee about their beliefs, but if the consultant regularly talks to the client, those beliefs will come out in the course of conversation.
What are MY beliefs?
This is the “physician heal thyself” portion of the post.
As you may have gathered from this post, I don’t always expect a sole proprietor or corporate employee to explicitly delineate their beliefs, perhaps because I can’t envision myself doing something like that. If I were talking to you as a potential client, it would feel brazen for me to declare, “This is what I believe.” Beliefs are personal, after all.
But even if I don’t explicitly state my beliefs, I need to make sure that they are reflected in Bredemarket’s goals, benefits, and target audiences.
How is my self-proclaimed status as a biometric content marketing expert and a biometric proposal writing expert influenced by my underlying beliefs?
What are YOUR beliefs?
For this post, I’ll dispense with my usual call to action to contact me if Bredemarket can help you. (Actually, I didn’t dispense with it, since I just wrote it.)
But I WILL ask you to think about something, whether you are a sole proprietor, a corporate employee, or a guy who used to be everyone’s best friend and is now having fun.
Think about your beliefs.
- What are they?
- How do they influence how you conduct business?
- Finally, would you explicitly state your beliefs, or would you prefer that your beliefs be reflected by what you do?