Most corporate new business development teams, most inventors, and most start-up entrepreneurs – whether they’re building the newest medical device, 3-D imaging software, or a neighborhood cupcake and cookie business – are stretched just too thin. Under-resourced, under staffed and under-funded, the typical new venture is forced to prioritize and sacrifice.
Perfecting your product design and development and attending to the financing are vital – but just getting them right isn’t nearly enough to assure the success of your new venture.
Here are 8 often neglected areas that every new venture should be addressing – from your individual small business start-up to corporate new business teams – to assure that the customers will be there, $$$ in hand, when you open for business:
1. Early, Early, EARLY in the life of your new venture, map out the landscape of potential customers, and figure out who will be the most attractive segments of customers for your new business to target. Who is most frustrated with the status quo? Who has the $$$ – and the enthusiasm – to buy a new product or service like yours? Where are you likely to find them? And even more important, where are they mostly likely to go – on the street or on the internet – to discover a product like yours?
2. Understand what your potential customers love – and what frustrates them – about products or services like yours. Then, build your offering to provide a solution to the things they hate about the status quo and to emphasize the things they like. Don’t waste your time and resources on things customers don’t care about (no matter how exciting or ‘sexy’ they seem to you).
3. Test your concept, early and often, and adapt you offering to what you learn. Ideas that seem obvious on paper or in your discussions around the company coffee pot are often far less than obvious to outsiders – to your potential customers, investors, suppliers, or distribution partners. Entrepreneurs sometimes fear that competitors will ‘steal’ their ideas or derail their new venture. Perhaps that happens, but for most start-ups, the much bigger danger is sinking all your hard work and $$$ into a venture that customers just don’t care about.
4. Your new business will not be operating in a vacuum. You’ll be relying upon a host of people and tools outside your organization to help connect your creation to the rest of the world – suppliers, existing computer systems or software platforms to link in to, distribution channel partners, formal and informal publicity and promotional voices …. Understand which external tools and partners will be critical to your success – especially the linkages between you and your potential customers – and begin building those relationships long before you launch.
5. Nothing jump-starts a new venture better than an early success, so focus, Focus, FOCUS! That dazzling set of opportunities that you envision is seductive, but the temptation to pursue them all is an invitation to doing none of them well enough. Pick a particular offering, a customer segment, and channel to market that is an especially good fit with what you do well. Then, invest all your effort in making it work. The credibility, confidence, publicity, and knowledge – not to mention cash flow – that comes from your first success will make it that much easier to pick off the next and the next and the next opportunity.
6. Remove the hurdles that make it inconvenient for your customers to do business with you. Look at your business through the eyes of a customer: Is it easy to find and get into your store – on the street or on the internet? Does your website and your storefront signage clearly and succinctly explain your business? How can potential buyers learn more about you, your product, your business? Once potential customers have come through your physical or electronic door, is it easy for them to make their selection and purchase? Do you offer a convenient assortment of payment options and customer-conscious quality assurance, return and refund policies?
7. Get to know, understand and appreciate your customers. Organize your business so that it’s a positive, rewarding and hassle-free experience every time a potential customer touches your business – beginning with their first phone call, email, or their first step inside your digital or brick-and-mortar store. Reach out to your customers – and especially to those who decided not to buy from you – to learn what you’re doing right and what you could do better.
8 Share your success. You deserve to be amply rewarded for your creativity, hard work, and persistence that transformed your idea into a business success. Don’t, however, forget the ones whose help was vital to getting you there. It’s the right thing to do – and it’s darned good business. The more closely that your partners’ success is linked to yours, the harder your employees, your suppliers and your distribution partners will work to preserve and expand your success.
Remember – Your business exists in a complicated marketplace, where customers have lots of distractions and plenty of alternatives for spending their attention and their $$$. What you think about your business is ultimately a lot less important than what your customers, distribution partners and suppliers think, and their experiences with you.