If there’s one thing you can do to get started right, it’s to really really really define your customer. Did you get that? I wrote “really” three times… in bold and italics and underlined. I mean it. To really define your customer, you have to get much more in depth than something like my customer is “men.” You really need to get to something like my customer is: “25-45 year old, college-educated men living in major metropolitan areas.” Even that’s not great. You can do better.
Getting a good grasp of your customer is critical. It’s critical because it allows you to really define your customer’s needs. What is their need that your business is solving for well enough that they will pay you and not just stick with their current solution? Given how much time and energy it takes to get a business started, you really shouldn’t do anything until you have this crystal clear.
Getting this right is hard though. I have seen that the average entrepreneur struggles in 2 ways: (1) It’s really hard to empathize with customers… most entrepreneurs are unwilling to really ask what their customer needs are… and are unwilling to walk away if they are not clear. (2) Making tough choices… the average entrepreneur is someone who sees gold everywhere. To them, everyone is a customer. And while it seems like a good idea to sell to multiple segments – when you’re getting going, you really can’t. You need 1 customer segment. Remember that even Amazon started out just selling books online. You can get to TV and spaceships later. In the beginning, you have 1 customer or you don’t have a business.
And to put an underline on this, we are now strongly recommending that all entrants to the Alabama Launchpad Start Up Competition submit their customer discovery as part of their application. Got it? Now… get out of your chair and go meet with potential customers.