Most new business owners struggle with at least one of two fundamental problems:
1. They don’t make the right products or services.
2. They don’t connect with the right people.
One way or another, if you’re trying to get a new project up and running, the struggle likely relates to one or both of these issues.
PROBLEM #1: They don’t make the right products or services.
If you build it, will they come? Well, they might—but you have to build the right thing.
Sometimes people write in with an idea and want to know if I think it’s “good.” Is it a good idea? I have no clue! No expert or author can determine whether your idea is good. What matters is how people respond.
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Good ideas include the following:
• A solution to a problem
• A response to a clear need
• Something that makes people happier
• Something that removes a negative
New entrepreneurs get frustrated when initial sales prove disappointing for they make something they think is awesome. But this is a good thing! they say. Why isn’t it selling?
Well, just as I can’t decide whether it’s a good idea just by thinking about it, neither can you. Value is ultimately determined by the consumer, and a good business idea is something that people want to buy.
In deciding which products and services to create, especially when you’re new at it, it’s critical to get out of your own head and into the head of your prospective customer. Their needs must come first, and their priorities must become yours.
PROBLEM #2: They don’t connect with the right people.
Without an audience, it doesn’t matter how awesome your offer is. You need people who want to buy it!
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People complain that this is a chicken-and-egg problem. “I don’t have an audience,” they say. But not so fast. Everyone has an audience. Everyone knows someone, and you should usually start with people you know.
Even as you grow, your broader audience probably won’t come from advertising. In The $100 Startup, I borrowed a quote from a Fast Company magazine article a while back:
In the future, advertising is like sex. Only losers pay for it. Lesson: don’t be a loser.
Most small businesses that we looked at for the book and in the new course devoted their efforts to growing their business by referral. Instead of throwing money away for unproven results, they invested back in the business itself, continuing to refine their products or improve their services on a regular basis.
This model focuses on addressing the root problems that most new and aspiring entrepreneurs have. But instead of struggling, those who are successful make things that people want, and cultivate relationships with the right people.
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In a systematic, strategic manner, that’s what we’re doing in Adventure Capital over the next year. The beta launch offer (with the third month free!) will close later today, and we won’t accept new members for at least several weeks.
Regardless of whether you’re interested in the course, if you want to succeed in small business, you must focus on making valuable products and services, and you must serve the right people. Everything else flows from that.
A version of this article originally appeared on Chris Guillebeau’s website.