Focus On Your Prospect’s Pain Not The Brilliance of Your Product Idea

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, skmurphy

Any of these sound familiar?

  • Are you an entrepreneur with a business idea that just can’t seem to get the support you deserve?
  • Maybe you’ve completed a business plan but no one seems to want to read it.
  • Or you’ve created a fantastic product that no one seems to want to buy.
  • Perhaps you’ve pitched dozens of investors and no one seems to want to put money into your deal.

Will Schroter suggests you consider that “maybe your idea just sucks.”

In my direct experience starting companies and in working with a number of entrepreneurs, I think one of the key challenges an entrepreneur can face is knowing who to listen to. Most of us are surrounded by folks who prefer to be employees, and therefore most of the advice we get is essentially “be an employee.”

Moreover, many successful entrepreneurs can see their particular path as the only path, and they in effect tell you “stay on this path, it worked for me.” I think forming an advisory board from folks whom you trust and who have relevant business experience is one of the keys to success. You can’t just go it alone all the time, you have to be able to expose your plan and your thinking and get knowledgeable feedback. If you don’t have a plan, how do you know what to tinker with to evolve your business model (or what you are changing when things are not working out).

I think it’s easy to become fixated on an implementation or invention: it’s harder to go wrong if you focus on customer pain. Schroter cites a quote by Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart

“I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything was: a town of less than 50,000 in population cannot support a discount store for very long.”

Walton lists this as the tenth rule in his “Sam’s Rules for Building a Business

Rule 10: Swim upstream.

Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. But be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you’re headed the wrong way. I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything was: A town of less than 50,000 population cannot support a discount store for very long.

Walton may have re-framed the problem as “folks in towns with less than 50,000 in population must be very hungry for a discount store. How could I build a franchise that would serve them?” If you can keep your focus on your customer’s pain then failure sounds like everyone telling you “I don’t have the problem or I don’t view that as a pain” instead of “I think you have an ugly baby (your new product).”

It’s much harder to get defensive when someone tells you that a particular situation is not a problem for them, or they say “I have the problem you have outlined, but I don’t think your offering represents a useful/viable solution for me.”

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