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In my work with clients over the years, one thing I’ve observed is that most marketing mistakes made by businesses both small and large come from a fundamentally poor understanding of the real identity of the business. If you don’t know who you are, how can you properly introduce yourself to your future customers? In truth, how can you have any real clear idea about who your future customers are if you aren’t crystal clear on who you are? It’s an extension of a personal identity crisis that gets carried over into the business world, and it’s much more common than I ever would have imagined had I not observed it first-hand again and again.

To illustrate this phenomenon, I’ll let you in on one of the processes that I take nearly every client through to help them better understand who they are. It’s actually a very simple process, but is typically overlooked. It begins by asking the very simple question:

What is your true product or service?

Before you respond with the most obvious answer, let me ask it a different way. What business are you really in?

Most companies (and this is particularly true of small businesses) define themselves too specifically and do not think about the answer behind their answer.

Bag of Coffee BeansTo illustrate this, let’s use a well-known company as an example. Starbucks roasts coffee beans purchased from growers all over the world and sells them primarily by making drinks out of them in their local retail stores. What business is Starbucks in?

a. Coffee
b. Beverages
c. Legal Addictive Stimulants
d. Entertainment

Give it some thought. We’ll pick this thought up in Part 2