I’ve often thought about the myriad of reasons for startup business failure.
Because creating and operating a business involves so many details, it’s easy to understand why problems galore plague entrepreneurs.
Many mess-ups are not fatal.
The owner can recover from non-crippling problems that result from unexpected circumstances or misjudged steps.
Persistence and adaptability are key ingredients in the owner’s arsenal of personality traits that are needed to overcome big mistakes.
But there is one very tough problem to correct: a poor choice of the basic business idea.
If the whole subject of your business is wrong – if you have employed an incorrect model – or you have overestimated the “salability” of your product – you could be in for a very rude awakening.
Entrepreneurs everyday strike out to create new businesses based solely upon a personal “hunch” . . . the owner feels this is a “can’t miss” business idea.
Wouldn’t it be wise to test the idea before launching, at least to your own personal satisfaction, that its viability is shared and endorsed by others as well?
Of course, the best way to do that (assuming you don’t have the money to hire a Madison Avenue research team to do a national marketing study) is to identify a group of potential customers for your product or service and poll them as to their likes and dislikes.
Phone calls, letters, emails, and personal contact can all be employed to validate your business or product idea.
It’s also possible to set up a feedback-gathering mechanism on your web site or at a physical location to garner opinions and preferences.
Some of the typical questions you might raise include:
* How often do you use this product/service in a week, month, year?
* What brand(s)/models of this product do you own? . . . plan to buy in the near future?
* Are you satisfied with the product or does it lack utility for you?
* What kind of features/benefits are you looking for in this type of product?
* What would you be willing to pay for a product of this type and quality?
* What would it take to get you to try this new product?
* Would you like to be placed on a notification list to receive a discount coupon (or free trial) for our new product?
By asking all these pointed questions, you are trying to generate as much specific product or service feedback as you can get from potential customers who’ve been highly targeted for your survey.
Don’t forget to try to get a survey respondent’s contact information (see the final question) – this is a great way to generate new customers and it doesn’t cost you any more than the survey itself. If your survey is online, a form is probably the best way to do this.
Two words of caution . . . first, be careful not to bias your validation by giving too enticing an incentive in exchange for the interview feedback (if that’s what you plan to do), especially on the Internet.
There is a good-sized crowd online that bounces around chasing freebies and will quickly (and without thought) fill out a form to get at the reward.
Second, don’t rely upon the opinions of friends and family too much – they may be overly enthusiastic because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Remember . . . just because you think your idea is a winner, there is no guarantee that others will feel the same. Do your research before you get too far down the business startup path.
I should also mention that it is always important to do market research (other than what we’ve talked about above) to validate that there is market niche demand for your product or service. We will discuss how to do this another day.
To your online business success,