One of the biggest problems we have as soloists, especially when we are starting out, is that we find it hard to say no to any opportunity that comes our way. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can help us discover some new directions and push us out of our comfort zone.

However, if we are constantly doing things for people who aren’t really our ideal customers or we take on tasks that aren’t within our zone of genius, we can get off track pretty fast.

Sooner or later, certain products, services and customers creep into our normal business lives, leaving us doing more things we don’t enjoy, making less money and feeling pretty miserable.

So how do we get back on track?

The Product Portfolio Matrix* is a simple marketing tool that helps small business owners categorise their product and service offerings (and even your clients) and create a marketing strategy for each of them.

It uses a simple 2×2 matrix to map out your current offerings by measuring PASSION (how much you care about this offer, product or client and how much you enjoy this work) and PROFIT (not cashflow!) This matrix can then help you choose an appropriate marketing strategy (STAR, CASH COW, PROBLEM CHILD, DOG) for each product, service or client.

It allows you to set priorities and put together a marketing plan that lets you grow your business doing what you love most.

Stars (High Passion/High Profit)

These are what you want in your business, so you want to GROW your Stars! Ideally, to have a business you love and that makes you more money, you will have only Stars in your portfolio.

Focus your marketing promotion efforts on your Stars to continue to grow this business. Centre your content on these products or services, and spend the majority of your advertising budget on them (even if it is just a little Facebook ad every now and then). If you struggle to promote your business consistently, you may like to pay a VA or social media specialist to ensure these products or services have an ongoing promotional presence.

Invest in your relationships with Star clients – build a real lasting bond with them (they might even become friends), keep them in the loop, bring them in on new product development and at the very least catch up for coffee or a phone call from time to time.

Cash Cows (Low Passion/High Profit)

These are where you make money, but you don’t always love what you do. They’re possibly products that have been with you since the beginning, services you have offered for some time, or clients who are loyal but provide work that is not terribly exciting.

Of course you want to keep the profit in your business, so you need to add some passion to turn your Cash Cows into Stars. Here are some options:

Outsource – find someone else who has more passion for this product/service/client, and pay them to look after it for you. Of course, make sure there is sufficient profit to make it worthwhile for both of you.

Freshen up your offer – invest in a little innovation to create a new product/service that is more exciting to you and your ideal customers. Invite your best customers to help you come up with new ideas about better ways to solve their problems.

Or try packaging up your Cash Cow with something you’re really passionate about (check out your Problem Child section) to even things out a bit.

Change your Mindset – is it really all that bad? Maybe you just need a holiday, a new hairdo or a new outlook on life! Look for the silver lining – it may be that this product/service/client provides you with the steady income you need, or the client is great to work with, even if the tasks are sometimes a bit dull. Maybe with a different attitude and a bit of polish, these are Stars after all.

Problem Child (High Passion/Low Profit)

You have this fabulous idea that you really want to take off, but it’s not going anywhere! Or you have clients you love working with, but you are spending way too much time on their projects and problems for nowhere near enough financial reward.

It’s time to take a reality check, assess and regroup.

Be honest. Is this really a viable business opportunity, or should you pursue it as a hobby or on a volunteer basis instead?

Are you charging enough? Will your ideal customers pay more for this offer in its current form, or can you still help them by offering something smaller, simpler or less customised at a lower price point, or even as a ‘freebie’ as part of your marketing.

That said, this is also the zone of innovation, so maybe your Problem Child is too new and people don’t know about it yet. So share your passion by creating videos, writing a blog or article and doing some interviews on podcasts. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the word out. Give it a red hot go!! This could be a Star in the making.

Dogs (Low Passion/Low Profit)

Just STOP it! Now! If you’re not in love with your business, my guess is that there are some Dogs in your life and you need to move them on – experiments that didn’t work, things you said ‘yes’ to when you should have said ‘no’, bright shiny distractions that are not even vaguely in your zone-of-genius. Let them go!

More often than not, Dogs are actually customers. You know the ones – they are a pain to deal with, expect the world and then don’t pay on time. Of course, you can’t tell them that they’re ‘Dogs’ because that’s not very polite! But it doesn’t mean you have to keep working with them. If you are not a good fit, that’s not good for either of you. Be kind but firm. Refer them on if you must.

Life is too short to spend in the dog-house!

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This process may sound a little overwhelming, but if you know your numbers, it is easily knocked over in a few hours. Like most other work ON your business, it’s an investment that will pay off over and over again.

Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once – small steps in the right direction are better than none at all.

By taking a little time on this exercise now, you will gain clarity about what you want to do more of in the future and create Stars consistently. You will learn how to avoid the Problem Child and how to turn your Cash Cows into Stars. Over time, you will spend the majority of your work time doing what you love AND earning more.

Now that’s what I call a thriving business!

*The Product Portfolio Matrix is loosely based on the Boston Consulting Matrix which measured Growth v Market Share – not really the best measures for soloists!

This article was originally published on Flying Solo – Australia’s Micro Business Community.

Hi, I'm Cath Connell

Wholehearted Business and Marketing Consultant, and Creator of Wholehearted Marketing

I'm passionate about helping micro and small business owners take a more 'wholehearted' approach, and build a successful business WITHIN a life. Through Wholehearted Marketing, I provide 1:1 consulting and mentoring, training workshops, practical resources and hands-on support. I hope you enjoy reading my posts and find them relevant, helpful and interesting. Feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, and make sure you register for your free BIG Marketing Questions Cheat Sheet - it's the perfect tool to get you started!