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The 3 Truly Essential Questions Every Business Must Be Able To Answer [Part 2 of 3]

This post is the second in a series on “What I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Running DigitalMarketer…”
In my previous post, I addressed the “5 Big Lessons I Learned,” and gave you 3 important (but non-essential) things that you really don’t need to focus on during your first few years in business, specifically:

  • Your Logo
  • Your Business Model, and even…
  • Your Team

If you missed this post, I highly recommend you read it BEFORE you move on to this post.
OK, if you’re still here, then you know that we left the previous post with one, gigantic, unanswered question…
“If none of those things (i.e. logo, business model and team) are truly essential, then what is?”
In this post, I’ll answer this question, and in particular give you…

The 3 Essential Questions That Every Business MUST Answer If They Want To Succeed

Let’s get to it…

Question #1: What specific value do you bring to the market?

This seems like such an obvious question, but in my experience, it’s a question that few businesses (even successful businesses) ever take the time to really answer.
So today, you are going to answer this question.
But before we answer this question, I first want to point out some questions that I’m NOT asking…
I didn’t ask, “What makes you unique?” (USPs are selfish and antiquated.)
I didn’t ask, “What does the market want?” (It’s not a terrible question, but as I mentioned in my previous post, just because you know what the market wants, that doesn’t mean you’re the person who can give it to them.)
I also didn’t ask, “What do you want to sell?” (Again…selfish.)
And I DEFINITELY didn’t ask, “What do YOU want?” #ijustthrewupinmymouth
This last question is so damaging, and yet so prevalent that I think I need to spend a little time addressing it…
Let’s get 100% clear on this: What you want is utterly irrelevant to your customer.
Seriously. They don’t care.
If your hopes and dreams are what motivate you to work your butt off to create “something” that truly adds value, and then work even harder to market and sell that “something,” then great! But the mere fact that you want money (or something that money can buy) has no bearing on the desirability of your product or service.
If it did, it would be called charity.
But this isn’t charity.
This is business.
If you want money, then for the love of all that is good and right, create something that is valuable and sell it for some amount that is substantially less than the value it brings. That’s how business works.
Do that, and you will make money.
If you fail to create something that adds value over and above what you’re charging, then I can’t help you. This blog can’t help you. Even the DigitalMarketer Lab community can’t help you. No one can help you…
…because you don’t deserve to be helped!!!
Does that sound harsh?
I’m sorry, but that’s reality. So if your business plan is based on you “wanting it more” or worse, you “needing it more”…
…then I’m sorry, but you’re doomed to a life of failure and bitterness.
Never forget that YOU are the one asking THEM for money, therefore it is up to YOU to add value. In other words, it’s up to YOU to give them what THEY want.
So I’ll ask the question again…
“What value do you bring?” Or to put it another way…
“What are you willing to offer your customers in exchange for their money?”
Don’t answer this question with a list of features. Instead, answer this question in a way that describes how your customers will be CHANGED FOR THE BETTER as a result of doing business with you.
(That last sentence was a biggie…I suggest reading it again. I’ll wait.)
For example…

  • What will they have tomorrow, that they don’t have today thanks to investing in your product or service? (Or conversely, what negative thing won’t they have that they currently have today?)
  • How will they feel when they’re done consuming your product? How will your product or service alter their emotional state for the better? And finally…
  • What will their average day be like after they have consumed your product or service? Will they have considerably more “good days” than “bad days?” Will the story they tell about themselves be happier now that they’ve experienced what you have to offer?

These are the questions you must be able to answer if you want to clearly articulate the value that you bring.
These are the questions you must be able to answer if you want to show the world that you DESERVE to succeed.
So answer it!
I’m serious, right now answer this question: What specific value do you bring to the market?
By answering this question, you’ll be able to articulate the value you deliver to the market, which is the first ESSENTIAL thing every business must have.
And speaking of the market…

Question #2: Who do you serve?

I’m going to make a suggestion, and if you take this suggestion to heart, I truly believe it will give you an edge over your competition.
The fact is, most businesses define themselves by the products they sell.
I believe this is a HUGE mistake, and I’m going to prove it to you by asking you one, simple question…
“Which brand would you rather own…the piano key tie, or Chanel?”
pianotie Blake-Lively-for-Chanel-DesignSceneNet-01
I hope you answered Chanel. If not, you have not only failed a very basic business test, you have also proven yourself to have very questionable fashion sense.
But in all seriousness, the answer is obvious, isn’t it?
Chanel is a multi-billion dollar international brand. It’s been around for decades, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be around for many, many decades to come.
The piano key tie, on the other hand?
Well…at best it was a one hit wonder.
So what was the difference?
I contend that it had less to do with fashion, and more to do with the decision of the business owner to focus on product instead of market.
The piano key tie was a product.
And undoubtedly, the company that came up with the idea made a fair bit of money while the piano key tie was hot. But as soon as it went out of fashion, they had nowhere to pivot, because their business was just a single, ugly tie.
In contrast, Chanel doesn’t make just one type of clothing.
In fact, a quick scan of their catalogs will show that their styles have changed drastically over the years.
Screenshot 2016-06-02 14.53.21
Screenshot 2016-06-02 14.54.09
Screenshot 2016-06-02 14.54.39
So how were they able to do this? How were they able to stay “current” in a business where the “product” changes with each and every season?
The answer is, they don’t define their business by the products they sell.
They define their business by the people they serve.
In other words, Chanel knows who their “woman” is, and they know what she wants. And when her tastes change, they change, too.
They don’t dig in their heels and say, “Well, by God, our business was built by the mini skirt. It defines who we are, and despite what people say we’re going to keep selling mini skirts!”
No. They didn’t do that.
When fashion trends changed, they changed, too, because again, they don’t define their business by the products they sell, they define their business by the market they serve.
Another company that gets this is Apple.
Apple doesn’t define themselves as a “computer company.” They understand that they serve a very specific type of person. And because of this realization, they are able to sell their market computers, and music devices, and phones and watches, and in the future…
…cars (and who knows what else?)
The point is, Apple is MARKET-CENTRIC…NOT product-centric.
And the same is true for DigitalMarketer.
Last year we made a pivot into certifications. Why? Because our customer’s “tastes” were changing. They no longer wanted only trainings that they could consume. They wanted trainings that they could give to their teams.
They asked. We delivered. And DigitalMarketer HQ was born.
But again, we didn’t launch this product because we wanted to do it. We launched it because our customers were asking for it. And that’s why it’s been successful.
But to pull this off, you must know WHO your customers are, or you might risk listening to the wrong people.
(If you’re unsure of who your customers are, where they’re hanging out, and what they actually want you to sell them, you can start to drill down into those answers with our Customer Avatar Worksheet.)
So right now, answer this question: Who do you serve?
You can pivot your business model, product line, even branding all you like as long as you stay true and “dance with the ones that brung you.” But if you ever decide to completely pivot into a new market, just know that you’re effectively launching a brand new business.
Ok, so we’ve identified ESSENTIAL #1 (our value) and ESSENTIAL #2 (our market). Now let’s move on to the third and final ESSENTIAL QUESTION that every business must answer…

Question #3: How will you say, “No?”

As I mentioned in my previous post, we floundered A LOT during our first 3 years. We tested a half a dozen business models, had insanely high turnover, and spent or lost almost every penny we earned in the process.
In short, we were floundering.
To put it another way, we were a boat without a rudder…just floating along wherever the winds and currents were taking us. And as a result, our day-to-day goal was to simply “stay afloat.”
But “staying afloat” isn’t very rewarding.
I was getting burned out, and so was the team.
And the scariest part was, I didn’t know how to say, “No.” So instead, I just said, “Uhhh…yeah…sure…I guess…” to every idea and opportunity that came along.
No wonder we were so burned out!
It’s exhausting to wake up in the morning, and know you’re going to be insanely busy that day, but not know for sure exactly what will be keeping you busy. And worst yet, and at the end of the day, the only direction you’re given is “DON’T DROWN.”
Survival is exhausting (and not particularly rewarding from an emotional standpoint).
That’s why you must have a mechanism for saying, “No.”
If you don’t, your business will be destroyed not by bad luck…but by OPPORTUNITY.
Read that again, because this is perhaps the most important lesson in this entire post.
So how do you do it?
How do you develop the systems and capacity to say “No?”
That’s exactly what I’m going to teach you in the next post in this series.
Stay tuned…

Ryan Deiss

Ryan Deiss

Ryan Deiss is the Founder and CEO of and Founder and Managing Partner of, a digital media and ecommerce group that owns dozens of properties. Ryan has been called one of the world’s leading digital marketers by Shark Tank star, Daymond John. A best selling author, founder of multiple companies collectively employing hundreds around the globe, and one of the most dynamic speakers on marketing in the United States today, he is undeniably a recognized expert on the digital era. Connect with Ryan on Twitter.

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