“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” I Corinthians 14:8
When I meet with small business people and we discuss the type of people they want to do business with, they very often have the wrong approach to finding the people they seek to attract.
The Wrong Approach
When I ask who they think that their customers are, I often hear, “Everyone.” They want to be all things to all people. But this is exactly the wrong approach. Whether they are seeking employees or customers the key to success is to speak directly to the people that are on the same page. Limiting yourself is the key to more.
Your offer is like the frequency on the radio. Different station attract different customers—easy listening, news, country, classical, religious, rock, talk radio, Spanish, rap, etc. If you are interested in classical, you’re probably not that interested in country music, and vice versa. Speak to your audience. Clearly tune into their frequency and you have the best chance of connecting with them.
The Right Approach
When Ernest Shackleton was preparing the first Trans-Arctic expedition, he needed a certain type of man. Ordinary men would not do. Ordinary sailors would not do. He needed a different type of person. So, he placed the following advertisement in the London newspapers:
MEN WANTED: for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. -Earnest Shackleton
Thousands of men applied. These were the type of men needed to make such an arduous journey. Shackleton spoke directly to the type of men he needed and he received an overwhelming response.
Shortly after Captain Charlie Beckwith received the authorization to initiate Project DELTA, the original unit that would eventually become the counter-terrorist unit known as Delta Force, he created a flyer that read:
WANTED: Volunteers for Project DELTA. Will guarantee you a medal, a body bag, or both.
In his book, Delta Force, Beckwith recalled:
I stuffed fifteen or twenty flyers into each of the mail sacks that went out to the ninety of so detachments of Green Berets spread all over [Vietnam]. Then next week my problem was turning people away. I was inundated with replies. Commanders in the field screamed, ‘My best guys are trying to get to go to work with Beckwith in Delta.’
Delta Force went on to become the premier U.S. Army counter-terrorist unit. Colonel Beckwith helped form the Joint Special Operations Command.
Shackleton was not so lucky. En route to Antarctica, his wooden ship was trapped in the ice-flow and crushed. The crew escaped to the sea ice. From there, they rowed to a deserted island while Shackleton and the strongest of his strong men rowed 720 nautical miles in a lifeboat, to the Island of South Georgia for relief. Argentina was closer, but they could not row against the currents. They navigated by dead reckoning and had they been off by half a degree, they would have been lost forever. But they made it to South Georgia, completing one of the most amazing feats in maritime history. They soon obtained a rescue vessel, saving the lives all of his men.
How About You?
Shacketon and his crew were saved because he found the right people. Are you communicating on the frequency where your audience is listening? Or, are you trying to speak sing the news in Spanish to a country music tune? OK that was a bad metaphor—perhaps my worst—but you get the idea.
 Perkins, D. N. T., Holtman, M. P., & Murphy, J. B. (2012). Leading at The Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition. New York: AMACOM. (p. 2). See also Shackleton’s Voyage of Endurance (2002). NOVA [Motion Picture].
 Beckwith, C. (1983). Delta Force. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (pp. 55-56).