What Customers Want

The following is a guest blog by Brendon Farrell, a volunteer who facilitates the Bootstrapper Breakfasts® in San Francisco.
Who has watched the movie “What Women Want“? I admit that I’ve seen parts of it, but don’t pretend to know that answer. I do have an idea or two around “What customers want”. It seems that if our community of entrepreneurs could generate more revenue, we would be able to solve most of our common business challenges. For example, issues around having employees or managing labor, trying to skimp on legal fee’s while risking liability, pushing out the needed product developments and scaling our companies could all be solved by one reality-getting more revenue.

Looking introspectively for answers and within my corporate role, I notice some trends that have been successful and some that have not. From the perspective of personally bringing in about 60 mil in revenue last year, it seems that customers usually fall into several categories.

  1. The prospective customers that want it.
  2. The prospective customers that think they might want it.
  3. The prospective customers who don’t think they want it at all.

Candidly, most of my prospective customers have been in category 3. I guess the question that begs to be asked is, how does an entrepreneur move the prospective customer market upstream from category 3 to category 1? Or, is this an invalid assumption all-together? What if, for example, it would be more time productive for the entrepreneur to simply sort out the prospective customers before prospecting them? I think that is a fundamental mistake that many of us make. I know that I certainly have.

Instead of trying to force the market upstream to the fantastical category 1, why not spend a bit of time and money identifying the prospective customers who are in categories 1 and 2? Eventually, as the prospective customers in category 3 hear the news of product success and value from contacts in category 1, the market will naturally move upstream.

This concept reminds me of kayaking or canoeing. An avid paddler, I often find myself in situations where I am paddling “upstream” or against the wind. It makes the experience so much easier and more enjoyable to paddle downstream with the current guiding me to the destination. It seems that working tediously for little gain is similar to paddling upstream and working in an enjoyable and results driven way is like paddling downstream.

So, how can we all paddle “downstream”? I think some of the answer involves finding where downstream is-identifying the currents of the market and positioning yourself where they start going downstream. To give a real life example of this, let’s say that I decided to start a kayaking business. Not such a far out notion, so let’s give it a go.

Imagine if I built a wonderful location, employed knowledgeable and friendly staff and had a “sticky” website. Sounds good right? Sure, unless the location was in the middle of the Mojave desert and my gorgeous website wasn’t registered with the search engines. I could have executed my business plan to almost perfection, but not realize very much revenue growth simply because I didn’t identify where the market is and where the category 1 prospective customers are.

Instead of this blunder, let’s say that I learned from my own blog-post and actually did do some research and did find where the category 1 customers are. I think my business outcome would be different and my revenues much higher.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this subject…


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