What follows is a collaborative interview including some of the biggest minds in marketing online and off. I will admit that I am rather shocked at the folks that agreed to participate in this interview! But I am humbled and extremely gracious for their contribution. I hope to do more interviews like this one that includes other amazing people across the spectrum.
The responses below appear in the order in which they were received.
Q: Whats the most important thing for new entrepreneurs to understand when launching a new business or product?
Not sure if this is THE most important thing, but as the CEO of a SaaS tool, I can tell you it’s one that I did not anticipate–but deal with each day: Managing our customers’ feature requests.
When you launch your product, you have a vision of what that product is going to look like, what it’s going to do, and the audience it’s going to serve. In the early days, it can be easy to get caught playing “shoot the squirrel.” It’s an imaginary game I made up.
When you receive feature requests, you have two choices: shoot the squirrel or shoot the deer. When your company is presented with lots of random feature requests, it can be easy to get distracted by them. You want to please that paying customer, so you drop everything to add that little feature. Unfortunately, that feature request is just a squirrel, because it only feeds that one, single customer. It’s a feature only they find of use.
Instead, you have to hunt for the deer. The deer represents the feature requests that you hear about, over and over again. These are the changes that will make many users happy–and likely attract many more just like them. In other words, shooting the deer feeds many more people than just one squirrel.
By all means, you should listen to your customers. But notice I used the plural: customers. Listen for consistently requested features, and you’ll build a better product. Focus on the single, isolated feature request, and you’ll be dining on squirrel tonight!
Entrepreneurs need to understand that they won’t get the buzz and traction that they are looking for if they aren’t solving a problem. It doesn’t matter how sexy your business is, all that matter is if you are solving a big enough problem.
If you do this, you’ve built a long term business that has a chance of making money instead of something that just creates buzz and dies down within a few weeks.
It’s critical to know that emotional attachment and familiarity with a subject/point of view do not a successful business make. We tend to think about the opportunities around us and believe that everyone thinks the way we do. They don’t. Wanna start an upscale barbershop? Better make sure there’s a market for it that’s more than you alone. This is most obvious in restaurants but exists everywhere else where passion reigns.
Bonus tips: The numbers matter. // Ask people in the industry with experience. // The network is everything.
The most important thing to realize is that in a post-industrial age, in a world where google makes everything a click away, you are no longer entitled to my attention (let alone my business) merely because you exist. Power has shifted, and entrepreneurs who create the things we want to share, talk about and seek out will always do better than those that race to the bottom.
CBO of Outspoken Media
That it’s going to TAKE OVER THEIR ENTIRE LIVES!
The real answer is “their audience”.
You have to understand your audience – who they are/ /and who you want to be in their world. Your audience is who you’re launching what you’re launching FOR. It’s not for you. It’s to provide a product or service to others. And a lot of entrepreneurs and business folk get tripped up there. They’re coming from a place where they’re experts at what they do, but they’ve forgotten (or they just never learned) how to speak and think like “everyone else”. You’re not marketing towards you and your buddies; you want to hit the “everyone else”.
I wrote a post recently about the dangers of living inside your bubble and I think it’s something way too many of us do. We know what WE want, what WE think is cool and what WE’D buy, but we forget that our audience isn’t at the same level. You have to build for the “everyone else” and stay in their mindset. And it takes stepping outside of yourself and your bubble to figure out how you can be useful to someone else and how you can offer something exciting.
Another part of understanding your audience is identifying who you want to be in their eyes. Everyone needs a point of difference, an angle or a way to tie themselves to an experience. At Outspoken Media we create a very different experience than most other SEO companies. And we attract an audience who responds to that. You have to figure out your place and how you’re going to market yourself to your audience. If you’re a local coffee shop, who are you? Are you home to the $1.00 cup of coffee, the overpriced café, the green cafe, a place for coworking, a place for moms and their kids, coffee snobs, etc. How can niche can you make your audience?
There’s so much that goes into creating a business and starting down that entrepreneurial path, but I think one of your first concerns has to be your audience. Who are they, where are they and how can you reach them? That’s what you need to understand.
The most important thing for entrepreneurs to understand is that the human network is everything. Build relationships before you need them. Help them more than you ask for help. Fuel their success long before you need them for your own. And then, when the time comes, make your “asks” from them easy to execute and simple to pass on to the rest of their own networks.
I think the most important thing for an entrepreneur launching a new business or product is to really understand the true value in each marketing or promotional step they take. This might seem like common sense, but a lot of new businesses jump into online marketing without really considering what they are doing.
There is an enormous amount of information on the web telling you about all the things you must do to succeed online, but all things cannot work for all people. Take the time to really review what each marketing opportunity does and how it will have a positive effect for your specific product or project.
In addition to what the various methods of online marketing offer your project, also identify if it is right for you right now. Some aspects of SEO are helpful from the start, but do you really need someone working full time on ranking reports and keyword analysis? Social Media is super popular and effective, but do you really need a full Twitter and Facebook campaign before you ever have something to share or talk about? Paid advertising can drive a ton of business, but how do you know whether you have the best converting page yet?
So when you are about to launch your business or product, really take the time to review each aspect of marketing you want to participate in to see that it is not only going to be effective for accomplishing your goals, but also that it is the right time to get the best value from your efforts. Identify the things that are best suited for you at the moment and then focus on things one step at a time.
I would also recommend finding the leaders in each aspect of marketing you want to employ, and read what they have had to say about their respective fields. Hell… most of the real experts will even be willing to give you a little help or point in the right direction (so long as you are not asking for them to basically do it for you).
Founder of Copyblogger
That no one cares. Yet. Give them a reason to care first. People search for known products and brands. They’re not searching for you. Give them a reason to. Deliver valuable content related to what you sell that not only makes people care, but that also makes them understand the benefits of doing business with you.
CEO of TopRank Marketing
Companies that launch a new business or product because of a great idea and perceived market demand really need to make sure they have a firm grasp of the actual needs of the customers they’re trying to reach. How you go about this varies by product and audience of course, but there is no substitute to doing the homework of understanding the market.
There are numerous stories of great ideas going to market and failing because there was no market for the product outside the imagination of the entrepreneur. When it comes to software or online services/businesses, networking into a group of savvy and influential users provides product development insight and grass roots enthusiasm for spreading the good word.
Participating in forums, chats, social networks and using monitoring software to understand how the product category is discussed, what the common issues are and to indentify influentials provides critical insight that can save time and increase value. It’s not enough to come up with a great idea, that idea needs to be capable of creating a momentum of support and enthusiasm. Passion, persistence and agility are also critical for any new venture.