There are 2 kinds of customers out there: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) customers.
As a small business mentor and counselor, I focus on nascent entrepreneurs who are DIY type folks. I don’t sell people fish – I teach them how to fish. When it comes to service, the way I see it, contractors sell fish (DIFM) while counselors and mentors teach you to fish (DIY).
The DIY/DIFM distinction is very important when it comes to marketing, especially in service industries. Specifically, here are two questions you need to ask yourself:
- Are the customers I’m targeting DIY or DIFM type customers?
- Is there an untapped opportunity to target the other type of customer?
To explore this idea a bit more, let’s consider a Business to Consumer (B2C) company such as a lawn care business. For most lawn care businesses, they are most likely to think that all their customers are in the DIFM camp. Their customers have a lawn and they offer a service to take care of it for a fee.
However, let’s face it – most homeowners are DIY people that do their own lawn care. Therefore, if you offered these DIY homeowners a DIFM solution, most homeowners would simple decline your offer. Most B2C lawn care businesses would see this as a “no sale” and just move on to the next potential customer.
However, rather than just doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for better success, there are 2 paths you can take to better business success: change the customer segment or change the offering.
What I have seen with many DIFM businesses, like our lawn care businesses example, is that they start out with a B2C model. This is because they see their consumers as they see themselves. However, over time, the ones that don’t quit decide to change their business model from a B2C model to a Business to Business (B2B) model. They come to realize that there are more DIFM opportunities in the B2B world than in B2C community.
While this is the logical path that many service businesses evolve to, unfortunately, the B2B market is often what I would call a thick market with lots of competition. Consequently, the services of these companies will likely be treated as a commodity and the business squeezed on price.
Going back to our lawn care example, the savvy B2C lawn care professional (with an understanding of DIY vs. DIFM customers) would see that there is a blue ocean opportunity that they could capitalize on when they meet rejection. Rather than only finding a market for their DIFM solution, the savvy owner would look for a way to deploy their lawn care expertise in the far less crowded DIY market.
For example, as a professional lawn care person, you have a much more in-depth knowledge than the average DIY homeowner does about lawn care issues. For example, most homeowners just have a basic understanding of how to maintain a lawn. They often have trouble controlling weeds, suffer from bare spots in their lawns, or water too much or too little. Moreover, these DIY customers might need their lawn care equipment serviced periodically. They don’t have the expertise to create and maintain a first-rate lawn like a professional lawn care company would.
As a DIY customer, most homeowners are not receptive to DIFM services. However, you as a lawn care professional know about fertilizers, aeration, pesticides, and other chemical treatments that could solve the typical homeowner’s lawn care problems. Moreover, as a lawn care professional, you know how to maintain lawn care equipment to keep them working more efficiently.
Many homeowners would agree to pay for your knowledge if you offered a DIY focused product (book, video, chemicals, etc.) or a consulting/maintenance service that would help them understand their specific options.
By providing DIY advice or services for a small fee, you at least cover some or all of your sales call expenses while building trust with the customer. Moreover, you might also get the DIFM work as well in the end.
Most businesses only consider the known market space and look to compete in overcrowded markets. As a result, they unwittingly accept the competitive rules of the game. They try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of product or service demand, which results in less growth potential and tighter margins.
Most service businesses only think to offer DIFM solutions while product companies only think to offer DIY solutions to their customers. As a result, few businesses see the potential to offer alternative solutions.
Why not use a tool such as the Business Model Canvas to locate and capitalize on a miss match of solutions in your industry.
How can you use your expertise as a DIFM provider to create a DIY solution and vice versa to claim your own niche market?
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