Call me old fashioned, but I built my first business before the internet. Back then we used the telephone, direct mail and face to face meetings like trade shows or events to cultivate relationships with customers and generate sales. My business grew at 20+% every year for over 10 years before consumers were routinely surfing the net.
Today on social media, most every day, I find someone asking me the best way to build their website to attract customers, market online to make a sale, or which shopping cart will work best to increase their close rate. Often that conversation begins and ends with some variation of ‘When I figure this out I will be engaging with my potential customers..’
While all the technology we have available to us can certainly make doing business a whole lot easier, a website, SEO, Facebook ads for marketing your products or a shopping cart do not make your product desirable, needed or ensure whatsoever it will sell. Nor will any technology you use or one you have invested 1000’s of hours into building matter either without customers who love what you do for them.
The only objective a startup has is happy paying customers who will refer others to you. Period. Nothing more and nothing less will do.
As Steve Blank says:
Your startup is essentially an organization built to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. As a founder you start out with:
1) a vision of a product with a set of features,
2) a series of hypotheses about all the pieces of the business model: Who are the customers/users? What’s the distribution channel. How do we price and position the product? How do we create end user demand? Who are our partners? Where/how do we build the product? How do we finance the company, etc.
Your job as a founder is to quickly validate whether the model is correct by seeing if customers behave as your model predicts. Most of the time the darn customers don’t behave as you predicted.
And the best ideas that are desirable and sellable often don’t need any technology either to prove they can be repeatedly closed. Most of the time you need nothing more than a series of scripted activities that will demonstrate to your potential audience how your product or service will fill their needs and create their happiness. Most of the time technology just gets in the way of YOU experiencing your early adopters experience of your products and its desirability to them anyway. By closing your early sales without technology you can perfect the steps any technology you need to use or build needs to take to prove your MVP is worth building.
And price is not a very important factor either. It really does not matter what you charge- too much or too little, either works. Just charge something. If you are successful in demonstrating to someone who you identify has a need for what you can deliver, and you demonstrate beyond their own expectations that you can deliver, customers will work very hard to find a way to afford or pay your price.
With that said, your sole objective is to understand your customer and make them happy with your product. All you need to do that, at first, is to FOCUS on them and solving their problem. So the next time you find yourself saying that your technology, or the lack of it, OR the price you set is the reason your customers are not buying from you, think again. Stop making excuses and start understanding the real needs of your customer and filling them friends. That’s how you build a business and make repeatable sales with customers who tell all their friends how much they adore you.
To your highest purpose and best startup self, friends.
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