Truth Bomb: It is easier to sell something people want, than something they don’t.
Now this sounds obvious, right? But how often do small businesses create products based on what people want?
Validating your Small Business Idea
A business is often started when the founder identifies a perceived gap in the market. Let’s say Andy is having trouble finding nice clothes made with natural fabrics in Australia (honestly, this is a challenge). Being handy with a sewing machine, he decides to start a label specialising in natural fabrics.
Being creative, he designs a range of clothes that he LOVES. Everything made with natural fabrics. Unfortunately, when he tries to sell his range of beautiful clothes he discovers that the target customers aren’t interested in paying extra for clothes made with natural fabrics. His unique point of difference isn’t something that many customers want which translates into difficulty selling products.
Now let’s look at another example of a fabulous success story.
Stand In Baby is a prop designed for newborn photographers to practice their photography on (without needing an actual baby!). The photographer, Sandra from Moffatt Photography, identified a gap in her business. She created a solution to her problem but then (this is the crucial part) instead of going straight to the manufacturing stage Sandra involved other photographers (who were influencers in her niche) and received invaluable feedback from them in the design stage.
Now she had a prototype that solved a problem, AND validation from like-minded professionals who were emotionally engaged with the product, because they had helped with the design. When she launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money for the manufacturing she made half a million dollars in sales due to the support of the highly engaged future customers and industry influencers that she had collaborated with. What an effective way to nail your product design and create something that people want!
Collaborating is the Backbone of Successful Small Businesses
The bit I love about this is the collaboration. Very often when entrepreneurs come up with an idea they become very protective of it. They don’t want someone else to steal the idea and beat them to the market, so they keep it to themselves and create this product or business without bouncing it off other like-minded people.
In this example, another photographer could have stolen Sandra’s idea and beat her to it, however Sandra took a leap of faith that paid off. Sandra may have also had them sign confidentiality agreements or an agreement that they wouldn’t copy the idea before getting them involved which would be a great way to create intrigue and protect yourself while you’re collaborating and sourcing feedback.
Collaborating requires a shift in mindset from one of competition to one of abundance, that is, believing that the world has an abundance to provide for us all and that by working together we can create something wonderful. Plus, it’s just more fun to work with everyone and share your successes, than it is to feel as though everyone else is out to get you and squash your small business.
You need to take sensible precautions of course, because sometimes there are bad eggs out there (there’s always one) who feel entitled and competitive, but overall, other small business owners love collaborating!
Testing and getting feedback before you start
So, the first step to a successful and sustainable small business is to rigorously test and source feedback on your products and services at every stage. When they’re at idea stage, when you have a prototype, when you’re creating your customer experience, when you’re creating your branding, your copy and your imagery.
This is the difference between small business and art. Creating art for art’s sake is beautiful and amazing, however you don’t rely on it to pay the bills unless you have a wide and highly engaged customer base that loves everything you do.
If you own a small business you don’t want to be pushing products and services that people don’t want, you’ll end up feeling like an unsuccessful used car salesperson with no friends. What you want is to be doing is giving people what they want so they are sourcing you and telling their friends about it. The only reliable way to create that situation is to test and act on customer feedback at every step of the way.
How much feedback do you get from your customers every day? Is there a way you can build feedback systems into your business (such as automated reviews)? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.