Frames of Reference

February 26th, 2009 by | Print



In my previous post, “Why ‘Everyone’ Isn’t a Good Market”, I speak to the benefits of focusing on a specific market versus trying to grab everyone and anyone as a customer. This in turn leads me to the purpose of this post – frames of reference.


We relate to our surroundings and each other through a series of frames of reference – an association of previous experiences, feelings, thoughts, beliefs and perceptions that result in our actions. Although you and I have a unique point of reference, we do share some frames of reference. There are an endless amount of referential frames, yet the number of frames we share will depend upon the similarities in our age, race, sex, education, culture, affluence, health, location, family history, employment – just to name a few.


You must grab a hold of this concept in order to be successful as a solopreneur. It’s just you servicing your market. And unless you want the general populous to perceive you as a schizophrenic (and avoid you), you need to make definitive choices about who you are going to be as a business and the market that you will service. This doesn’t mean that you can’t derive your income from a diverse source of solutions. However, these solutions must fit within a specific frame of reference.


Let me give you an example that I hope you can relate to. I own and operate a fine dining establishment. When you think “fine dining” you already frame in your expectations as to appropriate marketing, menu and service. The figurative frame that you create is a culmination of the attributes mentioned above regarding your age, affluence, past experiences, and so on. It is likely that you will think “pricey”, “pampering”, “exclusive”, “creative cuisine”, “special occasion” in relation to fine dining.


Since I understand this, I know my boundaries for successfully capturing and keeping customers. I know the proper marketing, menu items and service that I must provide in order to be successful. It is the difference between coupons and give-away gift certificates or happy meals and prix fixe menus. Both terms accomplish the same task, but carry different connotations appropriate for my target market’s frame of reference. To pollute the “fine dining” frame of reference with marketing and actions appropriate for fast food chains will kill my business quicker than the current economy.


I don’t negate that the current economy has a significant impact on the restaurant industry. Economic experts project that the restaurant industry as a whole will experience a 34% decline in revenues in 2009 as compared to the previous year with fine dining bearing the biggest burden. To survive, many establishments will need to find new creative solutions for minimizing the impact. Those that will survive understand they must operate within their target market’s frame of reference or change their concept all together and focus on a new target market. Some will expand their offerings to create new income streams including catering, brunch, special events and private parties. However, to be successful, these opportunities must fit within the framework of fine dining.


The owners that will kill off their business the quickest are those that try and straddle multiple markets. Imagine your local fine dining establishment creating menu options or seatings to compete with a quick service establishment like Outback Steakhouse. Both have target markets that eat food, so why couldn’t they be successful? They will have the talent to perform, but will struggle to find the right balance for décor and marketing. Do the Outback diners find their experience too upscale? Do their previous regulars decide that the experience has gone down hill?


Building a business is a battle. Don’t come out shooting blanks with a bland or confused image that tries to capture everyone. Choose a specific target market. Understand your target market’s frames of reference. This will guide you to make appropriate decisions with your marketing messages and the products and service that you provide.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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