• Lisa DiVirgilio Arnold

You are not your customer, don't speak for them

Often times when consulting small businesses at our classes, I'll listen to entrepreneurs talk about their ideas and business plans with such enthusiasm and passion. These conversations are what fill my own tank, so I gladly partake in them.

We'll talk about their love for creating a high quality product or service, branding tactics, communication plans, user personas and more.

And while this is all great to strategize around, if ever there was a time for a red flag to get thrown, it would be when we get to talking about who the ideal customer would be, or more broadly put: who their market is.

I know we are in a bit of trouble if the entrepreneur can't give a detailed description of who would buy into this idea right away. It's a signal that they have fallen in love with a solution without hearing the problem from enough validating sources. Or worse, the solution is their baby and it may be solving a problem from a perspective that is only their own.

That's exactly what business is after-all: a validated problem that is being solved by the entrepreneur or organization's realized ideas which are backed by customer feedback and acceptance.

Without the problem that is validated by a good amount of people, there is no business regardless of how amazing the solution in the entrepreneur's mind may be.

A solution to that well-validated problem cannot be created in a vacuum either. Gathering feedback on your ideas to solve the problem is a huge step. Even better is evolving those ideas with the feedback you receive from people who could potentially be your customers.

To gather feedback, go beyond family and friends who are likely to think like you. While they'll be a good part of your business as you start up, they won't be able to sustain you in the long run. Reach broader: attend local networking events, meet with other local business owners to better understand the market surrounding you, put out a survey through a group that has a large list you can get in on, such as your local chamber. Make the effort to learn as much as you can about the local market before ever thinking of A) starting a business or B) scaling it. Don't get ahead of yourself. 

You'd be amazed at how much success this could set you up for.

I know that your business idea is precious to you - and it should be! Any entrepreneur who signs up to follow through on a great idea should be celebrated. Just make sure you give that idea its best ability to succeed by involving your potential customer from the beginning.

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