Lots of entrepreneurs make this mistake when it comes to their companies. They believe that they have a great idea and jump right in designing and building it so they can start selling. They design and build exactly what they dreamed. Then they quickly throw together a little marketing and off they go to make their millions. But many of them are left confused when they run out of money due to low sales. And they are left wondering where they went wrong. The business world is littered with these great ideas that were just built but no one came to buy. But as an entrepreneur, you can avoid making this mistake by asking one simple question.

What Do My Customers Really Want?

I believe at the core of every successful business is their customer. And achieving success is about empowering yourself to truly listen to them. I believe this is the only way to turn your ideas into profitable realities. By having everything you do start and end with the customer, not the sale.

Stop and think about that for a second. Your customer should be at the center of what you do not your perception of your customer. They should be central to your vision and carry throughout how you structure your company, define your business plan, craft your strategy, design and build your products, hire and train your employees and yes market your brand. Think how much better your design will be received if it meets your customers wants and needs not just your perception of them. Think about how much higher your sales will be. Think about the possibilities.

See I told you it is a very simple concept. But before you can include their wants and needs into what you are designing and building you should know what they are.

Now you are probably thinking, okay great but how do I find out the answers? I don’t have money for market research. Where am I going to get this stuff? Well, that part isn’t as hard as you might think. Here are a few simple and affordable steps I use for my clients that you can also use.

9 Simple Steps to Get the Answers and Get Going:

So where are you going to get what you need? You are going to ask people! Yep, that’s it. For entrepreneurs and small business people, it is as simple as that. Ask them.

  • Step 1: find them. Think about what your offering and who you believe might be interested in the product.
    • Where can you find your ideal customer?
    • Do you know people in that group?
    • Ask for help in finding them. Tap into your network. If you don’t have one, build one.
    • Look online for them.
  • Step 2: ask them about the problem. You have an idea of what your product will do. Start a conversation with your ideal customer about the problem your idea will solve. You don’t have to give too much away. You don’t even have to give anything away. You just need to get them talking about the problem.
  • Step 3: listen. Soak up everything they say. You know people will go on and on about something that bugs them. Listen very closely. Take notes if you are on the phone or make mental notes of key things that are pressure points for them.
  • Step 4: ask them about competitors. If someone else has tried to solve the problem, ask your ideal customer about what they think of that solution. And again listen. They are going to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly. You want it all.
  • Step 5: what are people saying online? Are your competitors online? Are there reviews? Find everything you can. And make note of it.
  • Step 6: recap. Take all that you hear from people and read online and summarize it for yourself. Get it all down on paper.
  • Step 7: compare. Now compare what you heard about the problem and your competitors. Do you address the pressure points customers have? Do you do it better than the competition? Can you adapt to do it even better? This can sometimes be the hard part. You are close to your idea and you need to do your best to step back and see your solution objectively.
  • Step 8: tailor you vision, adjust your plan, and craft your strategy. This is the point where you can take all that you have learned in this process and put it to good use. You may think now that you probably won’t have changes, but that is unlikely. Ideas evolve over time. And information, which is what you are gathering, can only make your idea stronger. Again this is the time to be objective.
  • Step 9: design and build your product. It will be a better more targeted product with a greater likelihood of success..

Psst, you just did market research. I won’t tell if you don’t. Yes, once you are selling and making money you can invest in more scientific research. But just because you can’t do that, in the beginning, doesn’t mean you should skip the steps altogether.

Some of you are thinking that you don’t have time to do all of this. That’s okay if you don’t have time find a marketing partner you can trust to help you. You don’t have to do it alone. But you need to do it.

Remember that before you just start designing and building take the time to make your customer a part of everything you do. Even before you have any real customers. Don’t let your customer become an afterthought.

By: Amy Matthews, CEO, AMI