I was never a great salesman, and Henry was in no buying mood. Shouldn’t a great product sell itself? The glare from Henry reminded me that no, they don’t. He continued the interrogation: “Who would ever pay that kind of money for some software my engineers could write themselves?”
“Included in the price is our integration with your existing system. We take that risk and free up your engineers to deliver business value for your customers.”
“Sounds like you pay your engineers way too much,” Henry scoffed, “I’m running a large successful company here and can’t afford that kind of overhead.” Leaving meetings hasn’t been the same since they all became virtual. Henry would have preferred to storm out and slam the door, but instead, he forcefully shut his laptop.
It’s not enough for a product or service to be excellent in the mind of its creators. To create demand, you must satisfy a customer need or at least a want. One way to aid this process is to build something that solves a problem you have, and you become the first user of the product.
The other way to decide what to build is through market research. It’s important to build empathy with your audience. At a minimum, you will need to immerse yourself in the communities where potential users congregate. Better still would be to learn and participate in the activities your audience partakes. As a newbie, you will experience firsthand the real problems of your users.
At this point, your mission is to identify the specific pain point your effort will target. If you’re planning a free initial launch, figure out how you can make that pain point 2-3x better with minimal effort that’s scalable. Improvement could be an objective comparison to existing solutions (i.e., the amount of saved manual steps or time) or a more subjective one (user satisfaction, for example). Pursue these kinds of high-leverage low-hanging fruit opportunities first.
The next step in the process is to gather data testing your assumptions about the solution. Collect this data through a combination of automated methods like analytics and telemetry in addition to manual approaches like interviews and focus groups. Use this data to determine the next pain point to improve, which might remain the same or move in a different direction. Make sure to keep the feedback loop as tight as possible while staying efficient so that you can quickly react as you learn more.
unlocking value and opening wallets
The bar for asking your users to part with their hard-earned money is considerably high. If you find a way to make something 10x better, they’re far more likely to pay you. Even the miser Henry would be happy to invest in a solution with that kind of productivity leverage. The threshold is lower in some cases when improving a task that is common or tedious enough. If you manage to reach an order of magnitude improvement, don’t hesitate to monetize your solution. For tips on finding opportunities for high-leverage solutions and efficient execution read my prior post about problem-solving.
Here is the part where marketing and sales may enter into the equation. If you’re involved in the communities where your users gather, you have built credibility and a leg up over the competition. You will speak from a place of authority on topics relevant to your market. Even better is creating content regularly and acquiring a following with warm sales leads.
If you blur the lines between sales, outreach, support, and training, it creates a powerful organic funnel of prospects. People will be more receptive to your pitch if you have already proven your value to them, notably through useful free content. Choose whatever media you are most competent at - whether writing blog posts, videos, podcasts, tutorials, answering forum questions, etc. As you hone your craft, being prolific will build a following and personal brand loyalty that you can monetize in a host of ways.