I’m re-posting this because I got a lot of feedback. The majority agreed but some people wanted to modify my premise. One said maybe you should lower your expectations and “do what you like”. Do a job that’s “sort of satisfying”? I don’t think so–not my style. I believe everybody is good at, and has a passion for, something, and that something is the heart of what you love to do. Therefore, the key to finding something that you love to do is in finding what you really do well and have a passion for. Of course, if nobody will pay you for that endeavor, maybe you’ve just discovered a good hobby.
Anyway, here’s the original post:
“Do what you love and you won’t work a day” is inane bull-crap, IMHO. I love drinking beer, I truly do. But, no one will pay me for that. I love creating graphic art, which I think is pretty good, but it seems as though no one will pay me for that, either! Could I make a living out of playing with my kids? Doubtful. I’m passionate about writing songs, but since no one has bought anything I wrote,… Continue reading
When aspiring entrepreneurs finally realize they have to spend more time developing the customer than developing the product in the early days, they are often faced with a dilemma: “You mean I have to actually TALK to people?”
Steve Blank and Eric Ries would answer the same way: yes. You can’t build a product around who you think is the customer and what their problem is and how they want to solve it and whether or not your product offers a compelling solution—you are not the customer! Only the customer is the customer. You have assumptions, but you have to define and verify them before finalizing your product, so you have to get out there and do the process of customer investigation.
So, how? I suggest seven steps, which are built around sales process as it applies to qualifying a prospect.
1: Ask for permission – show respect and consideration; ask for permission and help
2: Qualify the prospect – do they fit the customer profile?
3: Problem probe – do they recognize the problem?
4: Solution probe –… Continue reading
A lot of articles talk about ‘creating’ urgency in order to sell your product. However, I don’t think you can base your product’s salability on hoping marketing and sales manipulations will create a motivated customer. If your target customer does not already have some urgency in finding a solution to the problem he has, it will be hard to pump up urgency to a point where a prospect becomes a customer.
The customer who is prepared to take money out of his pocket and give it to you is a motivated customer; he is motivated to find a solution to a problem he knows he has. Motivation drives sales—an unmotivated prospect will not become a customer. The ease with which you create that actionable level of motivation is a direct function of urgency: more urgency, more motivation.
Urgency is used to judge how easy it will be to sell your product. Really easy is good; it means you don’t have to work too hard to make the sale. I’m not saying it is good to be lazy, I’m saying that you can make more profit with X number of marketing/sales dollars than you can if you have to… Continue reading
I have been consolidating and prioritizing my messages for early-stage entrepreneurs. I think that success starts with one simple task: coming up with a product that people will buy. I often talk about bringing ambition and commitment to the table, and that is critical as well, but no amount of ambition or commitment is going to overcome the lack of a product that people, people other than yourself, will see VALUE.
You probably have a product or service idea you want to build into a business; otherwise you might not be reading this. Whether you’re starting a physical-product business, a consulting business, or a retail store, the most important question you have to answer is this: will people give you money for it? Remember: without revenue from paying customers, you won’t have a product to build a business around. So, before you invest a lot of time in building a business plan or developing the final product, the challenge is to make sure your product will provide a substantial value to a lot of people, value sufficient to induce them to part with their money in exchange for it.
How do you create sufficient value? Value is a function of… Continue reading
Few people succeed by bouncing around from cool idea to cool idea. If you’re an inventor like me, you have a couple “great” ideas a day. Cool ideas have a life span; some live longer than others. A successful business is based on a cool idea to which you dedicate your energies, committing your time and talent to develop and nurture it. It takes extended focus. That is contradictory to the nature of the guy who thinks up a dozen cool ideas a month, each having some degree of limited focus. It’s tough; many inventors love the creation more than the execution.
It’s not unlike the person who dates a lot of people looking for that “special” person. When I was single man, I dated a lot of women and evaluated each relationship carefully. Some lasted a night, some lasted a week, and some might last a month. My evaluation process was quite rigid, basically looking for all the reasons it wouldn’t work out. It was an exhausting process, and I thought it might never end.
It did. I finally met a woman who had me checking all the boxes rather quickly. I even created new boxes, trying… Continue reading
I’ve been, and I’ve known a lot of, successful entrepreneurs. When thinking through why some made it and some didn’t, seven personal characteristics appeared to be consistent with success.
- Invest in Yourself. I’m not talking so much about money, but rather about time and energy and passion and commitment. If you invest in yourself, it means you believe in yourself, your mission, and your ability to plan and achieve your mission goals.
- Always Be Curious. Successful inventors think up cool stuff because they are constantly curious about how things work, why things work, and how they might find a way to do things better. Successful entrepreneurs are always looking for better ways to execute the mission.
- Run with Smart People. Whether you use people strategically—to get things done— or for inspiration—to stimulate your creative juices—it doesn’t advance your mission to surround yourself with unimaginative or non-stimulating people.
- Always Network for New Contacts. Insurance agents don’t get new clients by having lunch with other insurance agents. The same group of people, although they might be comfortable, will probably discuss the same positions and perspectives. You will generally learn something valuable from new people—smart people.
- Learn… Continue reading
I invented NOAH, an animated character technology for online applications. It was very effective and successful for online training projects, bridging the gap between instructor-led and pure online coursework. We adapted it to work on our website, a cute little avatar flying around and pointing at things and explaining benefits and action items, popping up graphics in the middle of a speech, and so on. Several (I stress the word “several”) people mentioned how cool it was, so I, being the addicted entrepreneur I am, decided to expand the product line by developing NOAH for websites.
The new product required an easy interface where customers could build their own avatar and design what it said and did on the page. That was expensive programming. And, we couldn’t resist adding every cool feature we thought of. After 8 months and lots of dollars, we launched it.
It was a party that no one came to. We’re waiting. We’re waiting. Nothing. A competitor, SitePal, seemed to be working (we really didn’t know how well it was doing), so we figured we’d just keep marketing it a things will work out. They didn’t. No one (OK, we had two customers)… Continue reading
There are very few unique ideas in the world; don’t think you are the first person in the billions of people in the world to think of it. The difference between success and failure relies on a lot of factors, like management and customer service, but every successful product has some distinguishing characteristic, some competitive advantage, that sets it apart from the competitors. These unique characteristics succeed because the customer sees more value in them—and consequently, in your product—than other products.
Not every successful feature translates into a competition-crushing product. Your product may have a price advantage, but that might only appeal to a small part of the market interested in ease of use. Your product may be blue instead of red, and that, for some crazy reason, might appeal to a huge part of the market, making your sales skyrocket. There are tons of examples of products in which a seemingly simple difference made a huge difference.
So, finding that simple difference can lead to success. How do you find it? I’ve been studying sales process for many years and I think I have an idea. In sales, one important thing to ask prospects is how… Continue reading
By popular demand (OK, a couple people asked) I’m writing a follow-up to my post a couple weeks ago about pitching your idea. I’ve been working with corporate clients for 15 years, developing interactive training programs built with my SoundLearningX© system. Because of the nature of the program, I got involved in a lot of sales-related projects, everything from financial and insurance sales to nuts and bolts and pharma sales, even military recruiting and tax preparation (seriously).
Startup Assembly Manual is mostly about getting a founder “investor-ready”, building a package that will resonate with potential investors. That, obviously, leads to the process of “pitching the idea”. When I got to the chapter on presenting to investors, I put two and two together and realized that it is a sales process. Having pitched a few deals, watched a lot of pitches and investor reactions, and caught a few deals as an angel, I came up with a structure for pitching.
First, you have to understand the expectations and motivations of an investor. Why are they there? What are they looking for? What do they want to hear? What is the fundamental, crucial point you have to prove to… Continue reading
To achieve success as an entrepreneur, it takes Ambition, Commitment, a Plan, and a Product people will pay for. If you have the first two, you can work out the others.
I was thinking about all the successful entrepreneurs I’ve known and had a couple of thoughts. They aren’t necessarily the smartest people, the most innovative or inventive people I’ve ever met. One thing is common: ambition, the drive to be successful, to push through tacklers and keep their eyes on the end zone, knowing they will get there, and the passion to keep working on the process.
The most common other characteristics I have seen are commitment and confidence. Confidence is fired by positive feedback, but also by the willingness to ask for feedback, and the strength to know what to do with negative feedback. The lack of stubbornness and closed-mindedness seems to help, too. All have a clear vision and a definitive goal. Most are eager to prove the validity of their product by listening to customers—if customers don’t see value, they don’t buy. Most successful entrepreneurs are willing to listen to other points of view and sort out which ideas fit… Continue reading