By Michelle Celander, Founder of Nectar Nutrition

Working in corporate for over ten years has taught me many valuable lessons. One of them is how to successfully influence others.

No, I don’t mean persuade them all fancy-lawyer-like, I mean how to add value to them – so much, that it logical for them to move in the direction you desire them to.

Ok, but what does this have to do with starting up a nutrition business? Only everything.

As dietitians, we collectively share the desire to help others, and that is beautiful. But the ugly reality of owing a business is that you only make money if someone cares. What makes them care? It’s usually because you solve a problem for them.

Every business in the world exists because it brings value to someone, and that’s usually to help them solve something that your competitors haven’t solved better (yet!). Think about when you buy sponges: why do you do that? Don’t want to wash dishes with your hand? Problem solved.

So, back to my days in corporate. What do people want? The managing director wants more sales. A journalist wants more great stories. The point is this: as business owners, we need to find ways to give people more of what they want — which is absolutely not the same as what we want to give them. Big difference.

After watching many a manager bluff his way out of sticky questions from the boss, I also learned another lesson in business – and that is, when you are outside your comfort zone, go back to what you know. As dietitians, we know science. We know research. Which IS beautiful: the best way to work out what your potential clients want is to ask them. Ta da! That’s research and we can do that. On SurveyMonkey. With little time. And little or no money.

So create a short survey, maybe 10 questions long. Post it in social spaces that your potential clients hang out (nope, not just your Facebook page or website). Ask them what their major challenges, problems and frustrations are when it comes to their eating. And ask them how they want the challenges to be solved. And if you operate like me, offer to give them a copy of the findings in a report, when you have analysed all the data, as a thank-you for their time.

You now have a cost-effective, time-effective way of gathering data on how to build out your offer to them, and you also have a report of findings for future clients for when they come across your work.

The most important piece of information in business is deep consumer insight. And for dietitians on low budgets, short of running 100 one-on-one interviews, this technique is a super-easy but massively value-adding way all of us can leverage our research skills for business building.