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Three Questions That Will Change Your Business

So much of the branding, strategy and marketing advice I see around the web answers two questions – what and why. What do you need to do and why do you need to do it.

But there’s a third question that I see rarely answered. That question…how! How do you actually do what and why?

For instance, if you have a business, you need to market your business. Perhaps you learn what types of marketing would work best for your business. You even learn why those types of marketing can help you be successful.

But when you get to the most important part – how – often it’s not as clear. Yet how is about implementation. How are the detailed steps you take to put into action, measure, assess and refine your efforts. So how is about getting it done – it’s about actually accomplishing in your business what you set out to do. It’s about taking your vision, your dream, your ideas and making them into reality.

So why is so little spent these days on how?

If you could ask Seth Godin, Tom Peters, Andy Sernovitz, Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan (insert any name you consider an expert) any one question – wouldn’t it be ‘how? Wouldn’t that one question be – ‘how do I do…(whatever)?’

So what are the questions you’d ask about how to implement some piece of advice in your business or on you blog? Perhaps we can find some answers together.

(note: image from TheAlieness GiselaGiardino23on Flickr)

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Comments

  1. I’d say an other great question is WHO. As in WHO are you to be running this business, marketing your stuff, etc. And the second WHO is Who wants to buy it. Who are they, on a core level. Once you know the intimate details of who you are the how and even the what and why are much easier to process.

    Best,

  2. This is actually one of my pet peeves – people who provide advice without providing instructions.

    When I began blogging many people would stop by my site to offer their free advice – you ought to do this, you ought to do that. Rarely, if ever, did they tell me how to actually implement their suggestion.

  3. How do I: Do PR for my startup? =)

  4. Peggie,
    Without a doubt, who is an important question. The ‘who’ that’s most important, though, has nothing to do with the business owner. The who that needs to be focused on is ‘who needs what i have to offer?’ Better question yet is ‘who has the problems I have solutions for?’

    Thoughts?

    Laura,
    Implementation, for me, is where the rubber meets the road. I can tell you all about theory and why, but nothing matters until I show you how. But not how I would do it – rather how you can implement it based on who you are, your abilities and your tendencies.

    Look for more coming soon…

    Vladislav,
    Depends on what you mean by PR. Do you mean PR (public relations) when you’re really talking about marketing?

  5. Dawud,
    I mean promotion, publicity and establishing relationships with evangelists, mavens and users. )))

  6. I’ve been focusing on the how of graphic design in my blog recently. I like real world examples and then explanations of how the results were achieved. I think few people explain the how for two reasons: 1) if you knew how to do it, you wouldn’t need them anymore and 2) a lot more thought has to go into a step by step, especially for a new person who doesn’t know about the process.

    So what question of “how” do I want answered? Hmm… how do you, Dawud, spend time with people through your blog (writing articles, answering comments) and social media (SU, Twitter, etc) without sacrificing the time you spend with your clients and, more importantly, with your family?

  7. Dawud, you and I spoke about this earlier in the week, and I agree that the “how” can often be the most difficult piece.
    I am looking at putting together a little media property and my “how” question is about how to market it properly, and build the content so that it searches well.

  8. Mari Adkins says:

    Thanks for this piece, Dawud. As always, you gave me something to think about. I’d like to see more on this theme, actually.

  9. I wonder if people typically leave out the ‘how’ b/c it’s the hard part. It’s fairly easy to talk general concepts; it’s a lot more time- and energy-consuming to lay out details.

    I think, too, there’s a fear about giving away the store. Which is silly, to me. Unless you’re Coca-Cola giving out the syrup recipe, people are probably still going to come to you even if you give them the how. (And frankly, while I don’t drink it, even when I did, I wouldn’t bother making my own Coke when the real stuff was so cheap and widely available.)

    It’s interesting you bring this up b/c I have a project in the works to do just that: give people all the knowledge they need to do it without me. Crazy, huh?! But really, it stems from a need to reduce the amount of time I spend answering the same questions, and to weed out clients who aren’t really in the market for my services (in other words, people who are not ready financially or emotionally for my services.)

    Look for it in Q4 :-)

  10. If I may step in and answer Vladislav, with your permission Dawud.
    your question is the big one for all startups who rarely have the funds to do some really good PR as per your definition. I have found that you insist on 100%+ customer satisfaction for every one of your customers. That is the best PR you can have initially – just word of mouth. Build up cash and go for more elaborate strategies later.

  11. @Home Recording

    Absolutely. thanks for the answer!

  12. housebuyer says:

    Your words let me think about 4p concept of marketing – products, place, people, promotion. I feel what, why, and how are too simple to be the business strategies online.

  13. Vladislav,
    Biggest thing is to focus on your audience and their needs.

    LaurenMarie,
    Great question. First off, I don’t work/blog all day long. I have a family, a home, etc and things that I do off of the computer.

    So I do all this by staying focused and organized. Since I look at social media as part of my marketing, it becomes part of my workflow. That means I have to know when to turn it off so I can focus on my client work. So it’s about organization and focus for me.

    @Stephen,
    Are you planning to test your product so that you can be sure it’s usable for your audience?

    communicatrix,
    One secret – I’ll bury this in a comment – when you show them they can do it themselves, most often they’ll want your support to implement. People want to be led – remember that.

    Home Recording,
    Exactly. I know a number of people who have reached a nice level of success just through word-of-mouth. Just gotta know how to nurture it.

    housebuyer,
    Dig in. Take a deep and long look at where each question can lead you. My clients do…and they’re successful for it.

  14. The “how” is indeed the most difficult part of doing and managing the business simply because the answers to this question require realistic matter and concrete guidelines which must be doable and feasible.

  15. Hi Dawud, I think the question is really clever seen, but also find it easy to answer – or put in another way. I don’t think the answer is so secret :o) The way I see it, people leave out the “how” simply because of one reason: It is by far the most difficult question to answer. But they still want to contribute with something and therefore “only” helps with the “what” and “why”. Just my 5 cent…

  16. I have to agree that the “how” seems to be left out quite often. If somebody offers up a suggestion, I will have to spend quite a bit of time researching how to get it done. You have to love the internet because if you look hard enough you can always find an answer!

  17. I think “how” is the most important aspect. When you think how, you will think what and why. Normally, when one does business, he will think about these questions.

  18. You have to be careful when asking the why because you might end up getting suckered by one of those so called internet gurus for lots of money when you get interested in their how to information.

  19. James Xocai says:

    I see alot of advice that give you general info on what and why you need to do something. But that is no good if you are left clueless about how to do it.

  20. FinanceConsult says:

    And HOW?
    Only general info on this!
    Where can I read how to earn money step by step!

  21. Mike,
    Exactly. And the ability to communicate it.

    Michael,
    The difficulty to answer is what makes it a secret.

    Jonathan,
    But why do you think it’s left out so often?

    appel,
    You do, but do you share it with your audience? Do you show your clients? Do you produce products that display it?

    Sleep,
    Sure. But there’s no harm in making mistakes. Don’t you have to try something to learn something?

    James,
    Most of the information you’ll find does this – it gives you a taste and make promises, but never shows you how to reach what you want. Why do you think that is?

    Finance,
    What methods do you want to utilize to make money? There’s lots of ways.

  22. Jay Ramirez says:

    I think the how question I see missing most is how to create a blog content strategy. I see lots of posts on how to drive traffic, how to make money, how to increase readers, etc. I think I’m going to figure it out and write about it because I don’t see a lot out there.

    Do you have any sources on creating a blog content strategy?

  23. Baby Swings says:

    My question would be, okay so if you make great blog content, hire content writers and do things in a way that the site is insightful and uniquely interesting, how do you actually get people to read it?

  24. Jay,
    Have you gone through Liz Stauss’ archives?

    Baby Swings,
    There’s a number of strategies you can use.

    When I started blogging, I first got people interested in my site by using a couple of the blog networks – like MyBlogLog and StumbleUpon. That drew readers to my site and my content kept them.

    The other thing I did was use my site as a source for interesting conversation. Not just comments, but asking questions and responding to comments as though we were sitting around a coffee shop.

    Lastly, link out. The more links I’d put in a post, the more bloggers I’d have visit the post. And if the content was helpful, I’d get people writing about it and linking back to me.

    There’s three ways. There are many others. Best to decide what you want from your site/business and create a strategy that best fits your needs and meets your audience.

  25. Jay Ramirez says:

    @Dawud I haven’t and I added to my RSS. Thanks!

  26. “Do you mean PR (public relations) when you’re really talking about marketing?” Very cool answer to PR. A real business need real PR. :)

  27. baby swings says:

    Thank you for the insightful response!

  28. Jay,
    Thanks

    Yiwu,
    True. And a real business needs real marketing. They’re just different things.

    baby swings,
    Sure…what did you get most from the post?

  29. I’ve hired college students to write articles in the past, it is great to fluff your sites, but contain little to no value when actually trying to squeeze a lead. Unless you can find great ad copyrighters, you will be best to do it yourself, because you know what your business is about.

  30. Paula Thornton says:

    Think, Conceive, Plan, Do

    The majority of ‘workers’ are relegated to the ‘doing’ and thus want to ask ‘doing’ questions. True design will define that via the ‘what’ and ‘why’…because the ‘do’s should be optimized to those answers.

    We’re struggling not with the ‘do’ gap, but with the working together to transition to the ‘how’. It’s not a ‘feakin’ recipe…anyone in Colorado can tell you how horrible following a recipe is (I had to give up making peanut brittle the whole time I lived there).

    Everything has a context and we’re too much in denial about it all.

  31. Great conversation here — I’m learning a lot. And yes, the Who is always (or should be) about who the business is serving.

    In reading all these comments I’m laughing at myself, because all my life I’ve been asking “HOW” and am trying to learn that the idea and then the implementation is key. Meaning, if I don’t know all the rules, nuances and ways at the very beginning of my endeavor, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t start. It means that I need to learn the how as I go.

    Now I’m also realizing that documenting my “how” is important for serving others that may come along and need that information.

    Thanks for the great dialogue!

  32. One thing about “how” is that it takes a whole lot of scratching around, trying things out, and seeing what happens. I love how. I don’t always love the, “Okay, now let’s do that for several months,” but I like the part where we figure out how.

    The reason I correct people when they call me a consultant is that most consultants that I’ve observed try hard to come up with projects that keep them busy for months and months. My method is different: I like for someone to pay me once, and for me to give them everything I think they could possibly use to solve their problems, and then let them do it.

    Give a man a fish, and he’ll have smelly hands. Teach him how to fish, and he’ll learn how to make excuses. : )

  33. design,
    I’ve found that if you’re selling a service where people get access to you directly, than the best way for them to get to know you when they’re still prospects is by you creating your own content.

    Chris,
    How does take a lot of ‘scratching around.’ For me, that’s one of the exciting parts of being in business – I get to come up with concepts, put them into action and then test how well they work. Do this again and again and you’ll learn what works for your specific business.

    I know what you mean on being considered a consultant. I don’t like the term either. And I certainly don’t give my clients busy work to justify my fees. Rather I think of myself as an advisor. I engross myself in each client’s business, help them create a track for success and then monitor their progress. The whole time they’re with me, since I’ve learned how their business operates, I can guide and advise their choices, actions and solutions and help them decode what’s working, what’s not and why.

    A little different than a consultant. Love to compare notes on how each of us work sometime.

    Paula,
    I agree. Once you’re clear on what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for, it gets down to strategy, tasks, action and tracking.

    So why do you think it is that so many small business owners focus on tasks so much and strategy and tracking so little?

    Peggie,
    It is important. Just be sure you’re asking how at the right stage of your business’ development. You want to ask how after you have a clarity in your offer, your market and a solid strategy for how the two meet. Then ask how and see what happens. So many small business owners are asking how before they ever get to what or who.

  34. i think this “how” is something usually people hide, especially talking about businesses — successful business…
    What and Why can be answered but how might be a secret.. so usually where there is success in question we usually have to sort things out ourselves to find out “how’.

  35. It is important. Just be sure you’re asking how at the right stage of your business’ development. You want to ask how after you have a clarity in your offer, your market and a solid strategy for how the two meet. Then ask how and see what happens. So many small business owners are asking how before they ever get to what or who.

  36. If you have a business, you need to market your business. Perhaps you learn what types of marketing would work best for your business. You even learn why those types of marketing can help you be successful.

  37. I’ve been focusing on the how of graphic design in my blog recently. I like real world examples and then explanations of how the results were achieved. I think few people explain the how for two reasons: 1) if you knew how to do it, you wouldn’t need them anymore and 2) a lot more thought has to go into a step by step, especially for a new person who doesn’t know about the process.

  38. Most marketing seems to be based on results of past experience or testing. Finding the how takes a lot of experimentation. I think most companies go through this to some degree when they’re trying to plan.

  39. These questions are really important, and indeed those who publicize your business, whatever without a shadow of doubt must pay attention to all these details, congratulations on your publication.

  40. I think in present world everything changes so fast and because of these our strategies should also change according to current market trend. The base of all business is customers so think according to it not traffic or visitors.

  41. I think an important “how” question(s), whether you’re a start-up online or off, is how do I set myself apart… how do I hone in on my USP?

    Without this uniqueness, many businesses will simply fail in an over-saturated market.

  42. If you have a business, you need to market your business. Perhaps you learn what types of marketing would work best for your business. You even learn why those types of marketing can help you be successful.

  43. Clair Anderson says:

    It is very important to focus on who when why how to etc etc. Unfortunately people sit down a write report about this things and forget to actually promote and sell their product. I would say planning tasks and money making tasks should be divided 20/80

  44. We are surrounded by blogs all around us claiming to answer all our queries but the truth is all blogs do leave some or the other question unanswered. This blog, very different from the rest, itself asks readers to put up their questions which will be answered. No doubt, it is a different blog. So if you have questions on your mind, put it up on this blog.

  45. Asking a lot of “How” questions is pretty darn important, but its also important to remember the “why” – its almost just as important, or thats atleast what I believe.

    If i had a single question to one of the experts, i would probaly ask: “How big (in percentage) should my budget for marketing be, to benefit the most from it?

  46. The how question keeps me going. I got the what and why figured out but how is the question I want to answer everyday and still haven’t answered.

  47. Definitely agree with the people who say ‘who’ is an important question to ask. There are so many ways to market these days – the ‘how’ is extremely important as what works for one person may not work for another.

  48. I see a lot of comments here about the “How” and my theory in business is to give people good information, help them with their problems, have integrity as a business owner and never be scared of telling people “how” to do it. It is the best way to establish authority – the more you give the more you get. Business is not like days of old when you covet everything you can and be afraid of your competition. Share everything you know about your product and others if they have the answers. People will then think ” wow, if they give this amount of information away for free, imagine what they can do if I pay them?

  49. Hmmm… I’d say these are the questions one actually should ask BEFORE one starts its own business. However, yes I agree it’s good to ask yourself them once a couple of month to see whether you’re still on the path you’ve chosen at the beginning.

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