For those of you who are on their path to entrepreneurship, there are few things more exciting than these first few steps. So you have a logo, a name and a product or a service and you are now ready to hang the proverbial shingle and start doing business. How do you launch when you are the dedicated Marketing, PR and Advertising departments in your new business, all in one?
Market test, market test and…ah, yes, market test.
While some might think this method is too “old-school” and obvious, I have the perfect story to prove otherwise; I was recently talking to someone in California who was very interested in investing in a new method of producing healthy snacks. Except the patent had been created before and it was unsuccessful. Also, nobody bothered to do a basic market survey, even ask friends whether they would buy the product of a previously failed patent.
Asking the potential customers what they need, instead of assuming what they “should” need, is called doing your homework. Whether it's asking for opinions on social media, focus groups or more advanced quantitative online surveys, pick one that you can identify with and be prepared to adjust your brand accordingly. Who are your customers, where do they live, what do they spend on similar items and also, when do they purchase these products? Make sure you have answers to these questions.
Get out of the selling business and get into the re-ordering business
This one comes from John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell Systems, who recommends making sure that your product or your service is of such high quality, that people will be compelled to purchase it again. This idea comes in handy especially when you have a low budget and marketing is not necessarily in the cards, in the beginning.
Avoid the “Valentine’s Day Syndrome”
It's a simple equation: your customer is 90% of the business and the product is only 10%. Focus on that 90%.
We all know the friend who gushes over their loved ones once a year, on February 14th, but what about the other 364 days of the year? You have to see your (future) customers the same way; they are the 90% of your business, all the time, every day. Every time you sell a product or a service, at least in the beginning, try and send hand written notes to those customers; follow-up over the phone to hear what they think. That first core of 100 satisfied customers will be easier and cheaper to retain than attracting 500 new ones.
Ditch the lofty-sounding goals and focus on delivering real value to the clients
Whether it's just you (for now) who is launching your product or service, or 1000 of your employees down the road, keeping it simple will reach customers more effectively. Tony Hsieh, from Zappos, recommends that, instead of having big words in glossy frames hanging on walls, it's better to actually choose wholesome, simple values that everyone can relate to. Here are a few they are currently using:
“Deliver WOW Through Service”, “Create Fun and a Little Weirdness”, “Pursue Growth and Learning”.
Like these two young entrepreneurs, dedicating yourself entirely to your business, will become the core value you can deliver to your future clients.
Whichever method you choose (I hope all), please leave me a comment on Twitter at @paulathorby.
Paula is a New Yorker, caught somewhere in between Gen X and Y, who is passionate about career change. She is currently developing an innovative hair care product that will cater to the multiple needs of women's hair.