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Where do I start?

I see this question a lot: what should I do first?

The shop owner then lists off a series of things that are more exciting to do, like starting a website, ordering business cards, coming up with a banner, maybe getting some professional photos taken… but none of those are really going to get your business off to a good start.

Like I said in last week’s post about things to stop doing in your business, this puts tactics first without an overall strategy.

There’s one thing that will make your business more likely to succeed than anything else, but it’s also one of the hardest things to come up with:

A validated idea.

Notice that I didn’t just say “an idea“. It’s more than that. It’s a product idea that you test out in your target market to make sure it will actually sell. .

There is one response you’re looking for when you show the product to someone: “I want one. Here’s my payment.” Or even better, “I’ll take more than one. Here’s my payment.”

Make sure that your product fits into your customer’s life in a way they cannot bring themselves to live without.

Anything else, such as “I like it”, “I think other people would buy it” or “I could see myself buying it some day” are not enough. As any commissioned sales rep will tell you, at best, 10% of the people who say “let me think about it” ever come back.

If you sell products that are seasonal, you need to time your testing so you show it to your target customers just barely before they need it… so they are willing to buy it today AND you have time to ramp up marketing efforts for the busy season.

Some products fail the validation test. Maybe they’re too much like other products that are already established. Maybe the style is too far removed from current tastes. Maybe you just can’t find anyone who matches your target customer profile.

Don’t take any of these personally… it just means this product may cost your business more to make and market than its sales would ever make in profits. It can be disappointing, but it’s better to know that now than to find out after you’ve spent tons of time and money unsuccessfully trying to promote it.

After you have validated your idea, then it makes sense to spend time and money on the tactics to help spread the word about it and make sure it is well-presented everywhere a customer finds it.

Until then, you are risking both time and money on something that might not ever sell enough to make a profit.

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