My neighbor rang the doorbell this morning and very calmly asked me what the fastest way to get to Maine Medical Center was. Taking my cues from her calmness, I assumed that she was asking me because she had a doctor's appointment there. Knowing that she was somewhat new to the area, I didn't think it wise to tell her how to take the backroads, and so instead told her to take I-95. When she looked at me quizzically, I backtracked and told her how to get to I-95. After I repeated it twice, I was about to grab a pen and paper and write it down for her. But then I had visions of her looking down to read it and rear-ending a school bus. So instead I asked her the question I should have asked in the beginning.
Me: "Don't you have a GPS in your Lexus?"
Neighbor: "Yes, but I don't know how to use it."
Me: "Oh, well no big deal, I can probably enter it in for you. Why are you going to Maine Med anyway?"
Neighbor: "Oh thank you! Paul always did it for me but he is in Maine Med now because I just got a call that he was rear-ended and he hit his head pretty hard but I don't know what happened and I have no idea how to use the GPS or where Maine Med is."
I immediately went into action and opened her car to input the Maine Med address into her GPS. (After I had cursed myself for not asking that why question first.) I had never used this type of GPS and it took me a few tries before I was confident it would get her where she needed to go as quickly as possible. And since this was an emergency, I really wanted to be sure she got there. As she drove off, I told her I would have my phone on next to me in case she got turned around or lost somehow.
You can probably identify a few lessons that relate to inbound and growing your business here, but here is the one that is on the forefront of my mind and it has to do with the weight of responsibility for setting someone else's GPS in a time of emergency. And in times of emergency, you don't have time to get all the available information, you have time only to get something to take action on.
I was able to help my neighbor even though I didn't know the fine details of how her GPS worked because I had used several others and understood how they worked. I dared to try because there was no one else around her that she trusted more to do so.
Many businesses today are in a state of emergency. They know where they need to get to, but aren't sure how to use the tools to get there the fastest way possible for where they are coming from.
What are the elements of an inbound strategy?
I am a big fan of the Lean Startup and the concept of a minimally viable product, or MVP. If you dig deep enough into the lean start up methodology, you will discover that you know enough to take action sooner than most people think. I call MVP a minimally viable persona or a minimally viable plan. Many want to wait to start blogging or interacting on social media until they have robust buyer persona created and workflows and all sorts of undeniable information.
You know enough to do something when you think you have something to test. I encourage clients to create content as they go through the process of developing buyer persona and their inbound strategy. Put it out there early and often and let your audience decide where you bring the most value. Transparency starts immediately.
When business owners who are either starting a new inbound business model or adopting it into an established business ask me what do they need to have in place to be successful with inbound, I ask them questions about:
- Destination: Where do you want to be and by when? Why? Why is the most important question. If I hadn't asked my neighbor about where she was going and why, I would not have had a clue as to what's important to do now and what could be done later.
- People: Who is a part of the team and what are they capable of doing? My neighbor had the right tools, but she had no idea how to use them. She knows how to drive, but not how to drive to I-95. Knowing the strengths and limitations of yourself and your team enables you to identify where you need help filling in the gaps.
- Process: What information is shared, where and how often? If I had continued to instruct my neighbor along my process and never stopped to ask her what her process was and why, would she have been able to get to the hospital as quickly as possible? Having your own process is not enough, you must have an understanding of the process of the person you are trying to help to be of any real value to them. This means knowing the buying process of your best customers, clients, members, patients or subscribers. And that really is as simple as just asking them.
- Tools: I knew enough about the car to know that there was a GPS inside. I knew enough about the GPS to get it to function for her so she could get to where she needed to go. If I didn't have some knowledge of the tools, I would not have been able to give her the best help. The right tools for your people and your process are key. But tools do not translate into inbound best practices without a knowledgable person behind them.
- Time: Even though my neighbor knew how to drive, if she had to take the time to learn the GPS now, she would not have made it to the hospital. It was already going to take her an hour to drive there, so she had no time to spare. There are no Star-Trek transporters, silver bullets, or magic formulas for inbound success. It will still take time. Use your time wisely and ask for help sooner rather than later.
- Budget: There has to be some gas in the tank. How far you are able to get will depend on your type of car and it's MPG (your business model) and how far you need to get (your goals) and how much gas is per gallon now. If my neighbor had to drive 60 miles, and her car only got 10 MPG, and she has 1/8 of a 15 gal tank, would she be able to get to her destination if she didn't have money to get more gas? Setting goals tied to budget ensures that your expectations are realistic and attainable. How much do you need to see in sales to support your ongoing journey to your destination?