Most folks think that building a product or packaging a great service is the hardest part of becoming a successful business owner. The thought is something along the lines of, “If we can just build the web site, or open the restaurant, or create the widget—then we are going to start making money!” Building it, opening it, or inventing it is most often the easy part of the Startup Journey. The hard part is usually what comes next—connecting with customers, communicating your value, and convincing them to pull out their wallets to give you money. Figuring out exactly how you will connect the product with enough customers in a short enough time span so that you survive, and grow to thrive—that’s where the real work awaits.
To be successful in business you do have to have a great product. This alone takes a great deal of time, effort, and investment. However, this great achievement is nothing more than a ticket to the game. It is the cost of admission that allows you to enter the coliseum and fight the battle for the attention of your customers. And this is competition against those who are already in the market trying to make a dollar in your chosen space. This process of connecting your idea with customers is your business. Not only that, you have to connect your idea given a rigid set of constraints:
- Time: How long can you go before you establish a base level of product sales?
- Money: How much money you have for marketing determines what strategies are available to you. Never use your whole budget for product development—make sure to allocate a significant amount of money for the marketing effort.
- Product Category Awareness: Is there already awareness in the market for what your category of product does?
- Brand Awareness: Do you have any market awareness associated with your particular product or service that you can leverage? Are you starting from scratch?
- Competitive Messaging: How much messaging is already being directed at your customers by competitors?
- Non-competitive Messaging: How heavily is your customer base being messaged by other businesses that are not related to what you are offering? (You are in competition with them, too, when you are trying to get a customer’s attention.)
Takeaways: Building a product is nothing more than a step in your business. For most companies, the hard part—the business part—is the process of connecting that product or service with customers given a limited set of resources.
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