Tag: entrepreneurship

Salesmanship: Where Entrepreneurs Fail

So you’ve had a brilliant new idea for an entrepreneurial venture. Whether you’ve designed a must-have product, or conceptualized a service that satisfies a major need, you’re sure that your new business will find its audience.

But not so fast. Many fledgling entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming customers will come to them. But even if your product really is the solution to all ills, that still doesn’t mean people will find it without the proper marketing.

The problem is, while aspiring entrepreneurs often (though not always) have experience in some aspect of business, they rarely have experience in salesmanship. And even those that do their research may discover that much of the advice out there is directed at established businesses, not start-ups looking for recognition. Even when they begin making sales, start-ups often make mistakes in dealing with their first customers that they regret later. So let’s talk about some common sales mistakes made by entrepreneurs.

Some entrepreneurs assume they need to establish their brand fully before looking for customers, but the truth is, if you don’t have any customers, it’s difficult to properly establish your brand. Start talking to potential buyers on day one. Not only will it create interest, but it will help you find flaws in your product.

Which brings us to the second point. Even entrepreneurs that start getting their ideas out early sometimes fail to listen to feedback from potential buyers. They’re too concerned about proving themselves to these early prospects to take note of concerns. Or, they’re too attached to their project to admit its flaws to themselves. But these customers provide valuable critique that you can’t get anywhere else. Ignore your potential buyers at your own risk.

Of course, some customers’ feedback is more valuable than others. Some entrepreneurs begin by selling their products to family and friends. This can be satisfying in the short term, but in the long term, it’s not beneficial. Family and friends are not likely to give constructive feedback: their motivation in buying it is solely due to their relationship with you. Instead, seek out buyers who are likely to further your business by offering referrals, beta testing your product, or promising repeat business.

Finally, be aware of things that might be seen as weaknesses, and address them. No matter how well you plan, the smallness and newness of your start-up will cause it to be met with some suspicions. Do your best to assuage those doubts, by proving what your product is capable of and appealing to clients who can vouch for you.

What the Cable Loft Teaches us About Good Business Ideas

Kikkerland, a Dutch design company, hosts an annual Design Challenge, in which students compete to create a product to be sold. Although Kikkerland has a reputation for whimsy, with past products including maraca-shaped cocktail shakers and a barbecue grill that collapses into a suitcase, this year’s winner is surprisingly utilitarian. The Cable Loft is a charger cable organizer that can attach to the edge of a desk. It’s not the kind of design that turns heads, but it is a simple solution to a consumer need.

The lesson of the Cable Loft: good ideas can be boring. Too many entrepreneurs today, while looking for a need to fill, forget that many problems are best solved by simple solutions. Additionally, the Cable Loft is only one product in a long line of cable organizing products. But business ideas don’t need to fit into a new, never-before-conceived niche. Clever entrepreneurs can get the same payoff (if not the same attention) by presenting an improved solution to an already-explored problem. If you see an already-established company doing well despite consumer complaints, there might be a market for you with those peeved customers.

Some people shy away from boring business ideas, worried that they themselves will be bored. After all, why take the risk of entrepreneurship if you’re not going to be passionate about what you’re doing? But the truth is, just because an idea doesn’t make good conversation at cocktail parties doesn’t mean that it won’t be exciting to pursue it. Every start-up presents its founder with hundreds of new challenges and learning opportunities. Entrepreneurship is very rarely boring.

So how do you find (and bring to fruition) the perfect boring business idea? First, naturally, look for a problem to solve. This problem does not have to be huge, and neither does it have to be one that no one has ever tried to solve before. Rather, find one that falls within your personal interest and past experience. Are you passionate about music? Your family? Cooking? Healthcare? Think about the needs in your life that are not adequately satisfied by current products.

Then, develop a plan. Build your knowledge of the field. Make sure you have a strong understanding of finance. Failure to understand basic financial concepts has been the downfall of many entrepreneurial ventures. Think ahead. Be prepared.

Solid, successful businesses don’t need to start with bright ideas. They need to start with smart ones.

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