Gary Halbert told this classic story in his high-priced subscription only newsletter. He challenged any business person to a hypothetical hamburger selling duel. Here’s how the rules would go…
Gary and the entrepreneur would each set up a hypothetical hamburger stand across the street from each other. Each would get to choose ONE advantage to have with his hamburger stand. The entrepreneur got to pick first. Usually he would pick great hamburger meat with superior quality. Smart entrepreneurs would copy the McDonald’s model and choose a system of cooking and serving the food as their advantage. This would obviously allow the entrepreneur to cook more burgers and sell a larger quantity.
After the entrepreneur carefully chose his advantage Gary would announce his choice. He would boldly announce that he didn’t care about food quality, systems, or any other “important” factors. The ONLY advantage Gary asked for was…
A Starving crowd.
Think about the wisdom in this. If you are standing in front of a starving crowd and you have hamburgers for sale – you are going to make a LOT of money in a very short time. If your crowd is starving they don’t care about all the “features” you offer with your burgers. They want food in their belly. They are looking for a solution to their “hunger problem.”
Your starving crowd
Who is your “starving crowd?” In dentistry it is the person with a broken tooth. If you are a roofer – your starving crowd are people with leaks in their roof.
I had my own staving crowd moment a few years back when my basement flooded. The sewer line was broken and the system was backing up into the house. At the time I didn’t have an extra $3500 laying around – but I made a way. I had to. I was “starving” for a solution.
Your goal is to pick products and services for your business that you know are in high demand. This means that you start by finding a “starving crowd” and feed them.
Most small business owners start with the idea of a great product or service then try to find customers. For example, I recently spoke with a lady who was making creative and beautiful gift baskets. I’m sure she sold a few here and there – but she wasn’t really solving a specific “starving need.” Furthermore, she had to go out and find people who wanted to buy.
The better way to approach this – the way to guarantee your path to business and financial success – is to go where there are desperate people for a solution. I’m baffled time and time again by small business owners who shy away from selling to a “starving crowd.” For some reason they feel it is beneath them to sell to customer’s needs.
How to find your starving crowd
You need to shift from a product and service mindset to dwell on finding groups of people who need solutions. It should be your primary work to obsess over finding people who need solutions. Only then can you offer solutions that customers actually need and want. Which in turn will make you very successful.
This idea of selling to needs really sunk in recently as I watched an episode of the Emmy Award winning show Breaking Bad. The show is about a high school chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, teams up with a former student to cook and sell enough methamphetamine to pay his medical bills and leave his family in good financial standing after he dies. In one scene the former student is attending a NA Meeting with the sole intention of selling former junkies meth.
Obviously this is a bad career choice and NOT the type of starving crowd your business should be seeking. But the principle is sound. I can hear Gary Halbert saying “right on” when I say…
“I want to be a bottle water salesmen in the desert – a boat captain with an island full of stranded tourists – or a meth dealer with a group of NA members meeting in a church basement.”
When choosing which business to get into – you’ll need to do some testing and research. You want to be certain that you have a good and hungry group of people BEFORE you start selling your products and services.
Think about how powerful it would be to have a starving crowd falling all over themselves to buy what you’re selling. Imagine your businesses doubling year after year as you become better and better at your marketing.
Today’s Action Step
Determine your starving crowd. If you already have a product or service you will be at a slight disadvantage. It is far easier to find a crowd and sell to them then to already have a product and try to find a crowd.
Here’s the big question – what pressing need or desire do lots of people have that your product or service solves? If you don’t have a clear, strong answer to this question you may need to reconsider your current business.
Now go take action.
This article is part of the Internet Marketing Basics series where we cover the fundamentals of internet marketing and social media.
Joel Mark Witt is the Publisher of Folk Media and author of 21 Days To Twitter Leadership. He is a producer, author, speaker and social media marketing coach who consults with businesses and nonprofits on how to use social media in marketing and communications. Get more from Joel on Twitter or Google Buzz.
*Photo by Adam Kuban