Many entrepreneurs come up with what they think is a great idea, they build it and then they put all their efforts in marketing it, in getting people to buy their product, finding ways to let them understand they really need that product.
However, while it may seem the correct way to approach entrepreneurship, I think there’s a major flaw. Let’s see what it is…
Don’t try to create a need
The problem with the above approach if you analyze it carefully, is that oftentimes we, as entrepreneurs, try to get people to feel the need for what we’re trying to sell them.
I’ve seen so many products which really weren’t that useful or something we were all waiting to buy, yet their creators spent so much time, effort and money to market them, that suddenly people started thinking they actually needed said product.
So instead of creating a product people want and need, those entrepreneurs built a product and then found ways to get people to believe they needed the product in the first place.
It’s hard to admit it, but I’ve done that before. I’ve been in the place where I had an idea, I built it and finally realized there weren’t people waiting in line to buy my product.
Not because the product wasn’t good or the idea was wrong, but simply because it wasn’t something which addressed an immediate need people in my niche had.
Being a disruptor is hard
I know you might be thinking I’m wrong because this is the only way to create a disruptive product: you build a product so good and so innovative that people don’t even know they need it, because they never thought something like that would exist.
However, I have to disagree.
When the iPhone first came out, I doubt people were desperate to have a tiny computer in their pockets which could take astonishing photos and which they could also use to listen to music and make phone calls.
Yet, in a way, they were: telephones were already getting more powerful, albeit slowly, and we were already carrying iPods and pocket cameras with us. Some of us had Blackberries we depended on for mobile emails and most of us had laptops which allowed us to access the Web on the go.
So where Apple really was disruptive was in creating a product which combined all of the above together and did so very well and with a beautiful form-factor.
They combined several different needs we had and delivered a product which was as good or even better than each of the other devices we were already carrying around.
That’s being disruptive!
On the other hand, take the Apple Watch: beautiful object! It can even accomplish a couple of nice tricks, yet I wouldn’t say it’s been a screaming success.
Why? because while being nice and surely innovative, we weren’t really desperate to get something like that.
Maybe in the future, someone will be able to come up with a disruptive wrist device, but I think the Apple Watch isn’t it.
So don’t confuse being a disruptor with creating something people don’t need but eventually will.
You can still try and be one, but remember two things: it’s very difficult and you still need to give your customers a solution to a problem they’re experiencing.
There are plenty of problems to solve
I know how you feel: you want to start a business and you’re ready to jump on the first idea that will come to mind.
However, if you decide to work on an idea without first looking at the world outside, you’ll risk coming up with a product nobody’s going to buy, because they don’t need it and you’ll then spend months if not years to explain everyone in your niche why they should buy your product.
Remember: if it takes more than a couple of minutes to explain a prospect why he/she should buy your product, there’s a good chance your product doesn’t solve a problem they’re experiencing.
And who would you rather be: the one who is solving a problem right at the bat or the one who has to teach everyone they have a problem and he has the solution for it?
I’m not saying you can’t be successful that way, but why make things more complex than they need to be?
There are plenty of problems you can solve, why should you invent a new one?
Talk to people in your niche, ask them what they are doing, what they are struggling with and I guarantee you that you’ll have a big list of problems you can solve before you need to invent a problem which doesn’t really exist.
And when you actually solve a painful problem people in your niche are having, they’ll be ready to buy as soon as you launch: a couple of paragraphs where you explain why you can solve their problem and they’ll take the credit card out!
Make a favor
In his book Anything you want, Derek Sivers says he usually starts a business by doing a favor to someone he knows.
And once he’s done it for that person, somebody else might ask him for the same favor, and then again. And after a while, he knows that he has something in his hands that people find valuable because it solves a pain they’re experiencing…and so he builds a business out of it.
If you think about it, there are many favors you could do to people you know and if you stop and think about what the most highly requested favor would be, then you know what you should work on.
This is also a great way to build a business because when you do a favor to someone, you’re giving that person some value, you’re solving a problem they’re experiencing, which is exactly what a business should do except a business would need to be paid for it.
What are you working on right now? are you working on a real problem or are you trying to come up with one?
Do you want to start a business?
In my career, I started more than 10 businesses, some where great, others not so much and a couple of them failed hard. At 23 I was nominated by BusinessWeek as one of Europe's Best Young Entrepreneurs. It was and still is a great ride and I want to share everything that I learned with you.
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