Make it simple to buy

Are you unwillingly driving customers away from you by having a complex, ‘inside out’ business model? You should definitely check.

If you do, you should do your utmost to align your business model with how your customers are running their business and make an effort to just slide right in as the perfect solution to whatever pain, they’re experiencing.

The above dawned on me recently when I had a conversation with some great startup people about their business, their business model and their pricing strategy. While everything they said made perfect sense from their point-of-view, I realized something:

Every time their product was presented to a potential customer, the customer essentially had to first understand the startups preferred way of doing business before making an assessment as to whether their way of doing business and the product would make sense to get into their own business.

This seemed strange for a couple of reasons:

First, we know that the market is hugely competitive, and that complexity has the potential to kill any deal, if there is a simple alternative just there for the taking.

Second, we know that closing a sale means reducing the steps and reasons to say ‘No’ to a bare minimum. Whenever you introduce any kind of friction, you’re essentially adding potential opportunities for your future customer to just say ‘No’ to whatever it is, you’re offering.

So what to do instead?

Make an effort to understand your potential customers, how they do business, and what the challenges and pains are that your product could easily help them overcome. And then package your product in such a way that you’re the obvious solution for them to say ‘Yes’ to – every single time it’s presented to them.

There is really no excuse for making buying your product too complicated for customers.

(Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash)

The new reality

Currently it’s not for the fainhearted to follow the developments on the worlds stock exchanges. 15 years of bull market has been replaced by an ugly bear which seems to send anything with an incling of tech down, down, DOWN in the market. Well, it pretty much sends everything down to an extend where it can resemble a stock massacre. 

The development in stock quotes is not interesting in itself – things go up, and they come down again. What’s interesting is the shift to a new reality that the movements are an indicator for; the end of ‘free’ money, rising inflation, rising costs of production and a shortage of both key components and talent. It is truly challenging times. 

In the face of such adversity, you can be forgiven for giving up and just wanting to bury your head in the sand until this whole things blow over. Because how do you cope, let alone adapt to this new reality? Most of us have never tried anything like it, so we’re in uncharted waters trying to learn how to swim before we drown.

But it’s exactly when you have to develop a key ability in an instant that you’re perhaps the most capable of doing so. There is just no workaround. So when the immediate shock gives way, it’s time to assess where you are, and what all this means for you and your startup and start adapting to the new normal. And I think there are a couple of things, you need to address and get used to.

First of all, you need to control your burn and your business fundamentals. The good times where it was growth at all costs, and nobody cared about the cost are over, as far as I see it. Going forward there will be much more scrutiny on your commercial model, and whether its viable or not. If it is and you can prove it to investors, you will still be able to attract funding to grow and seize opportunities (more on that in a bit) that may present itself. Furthermore you avoid getting into a situation where you need to raise new funding with your back against the wall. That’s a bad situation to be in in general – now it’s just plain terrible for you. So don’t go there. 

Second, be aware that a lot of the ‘smart’ growth tactics you have deployed in the past and probably semi-automated probably won’t have anything near the same effect anymore. Your customers don’t have the same spending power or urge to spend, as they had before, and you will most likely see cutbacks towards skipping things that are considered non-essential. And let’s be honest; a lot of what’s available out there are non-essentials that few customers would truly miss, if they had to cut it. 

With that there is also an opportunity. An opportunity to put your automated growth machine on the back burner and instead spend some time and energy on talking to customers face-to-face, listen and really understand where they are at, what they truly need and how your product applies to those things. You wan’t to ensure that you truly understand how your product is truly – and please don’t blow smoke in your own eyes here – essential for them, so you’re still considered valuable and thus they will continue using and paying for your product. 

Willingness to pay is going to be the only metric that matters here. Forget about most other metrics right now. If you can’t get your customers to pony up the cash for what you provide and have them continue doing so, you have a serious challenge. It’s that simple. 

The benefit of this simplicity is that once you get this right, you will know that you have the strongest possible foundation that will pretty much insulate you and your startup from market turmoil. You will know for a fact that what you do and deliver is essential to your customers, and that any future downturn will hurt a lot of others before it hurts you. 

Knowing that is priceless. It allows you to get a bit out of the crisis “all hands on deck”-mode and start thinking about the future and pursue interesting opportunities. What do I mean by that? Could be that one of your competitors don’t have the same stamina that you do and suddenly provides an opportunity to consolidate. Consider it. If it makes sense, and you can get the financing right, consider doing it. Exploit the crisis of others for your own benefit. 

Do whatever it takes. And understand down to your very core that this is a new reality we’re looking and have to operate in.  

(Photo by Tobias Bjerknes on Unsplash)

What excites you?

What intrigues you the most? Going after the same things everybody else is going after? Or going counter and look in places that most other people have abandoned?

I am all for the latter. While I recognize that there are indeed major trends out there and obvious opportunities, I personally find those that run counter more intellectually appealing. When I meet those I always ask myself: Is what they are trying to do just dumb? Or is it really super brilliant? It’s usually one or the other.

For me too much groupthink doesn’t do it for me. The argument for doing something because everybody else is doing is has always been weak and void to me. While there may be something there, the sheer fight over something with a lot of other piranhas eventually leading to a slide down to the lowest common denominator simply just isn’t that appealing. Add to that that the math seldom checks out for me; in a saturated market easy to penetrate, not everybody who claim whey will win will have the ability to win. Simply too many piranhas in the sea. Most will end up with a fairly decent haircut.

Going counter is another matter. Going where everybody else – or most – have already given up, while the problem at hand persists, intrigues me. I does something good to me to know that succeeding where others have decided not to even play takes something extraordinary, and that success rests on the ability to figure out what exactly that extraordinary component is.

Yes, I know the risk is bigger. It’s really do or die. The difference between making a bet on red on the roulette versus placing all your chips on 0. However, I love this approach for three reasons:

First, it’s deeply satisfying to get really challenged in figuring out something that’s super hard and not for everybody to dig into. It provides a sense of real accomplishment, when – if – you succeed in doing it.

Second, you can add the satisfaction of hopefully having been able to solve a real problem to people that others have given up on trying to solve. You get the sense that you’re affecting real change, creating impact and that people are substantially better off, because you decided to put in the work and effort that was beyond reasonable for many others.

And finally, the returns on your success are likely outsized – at least if the problem you have chosen to tackle is valuable enough to enough people. Because you were the one going counter, most of the pie will be yours. At least in the beginning.

Again, I fully realize a great opportunity when I see it, and I am not hellbent on making things as complex as they can be. Sometimes easy truly is the better way forward. But in terms of really what makes me tick, it’s the tougher challenge – the one where you really feel alive and in the zone.

(Photo by Stillness InMotion on Unsplash)

Always stay alert

Just because you have made it once, doesn’t mean that you have made it forever.

Just as you replaced an incumbent by delivering a better, smarter, cheaper or whatever solution to your customers pains, somebody else could come in tomorrow and do to you what you did to them.

Just as you worked tenaciously to get to where you are today and be successful, numerous other players are plotting the same way against you as we speak.

So always stay alert. Always be ready to change and transform what you’re doing in order to stay ahead.

The second you stop doing that you risk becoming a lame duck.

(Photo by Advocator SY on Unsplash)

”What’s your pain?”

One of the worst sins you can commit with a customer IMHO is to just babble on about your own qualities and all the cool things your product can do, without even considering getting a feel for what the customers problem first.

I know. Because I have committed this sin a lot of times. And lived to regret it.

In start of going in and just pitching what you have, you should start by asking what problem(s) the customer is experiencing.

When they then start talking about their pain(s) – and you ask good follow-up questions – you start getting a feel for what they need. And if you’re any good you’re able to put yourself and your product into that context as THE solution to the customers problem(s).

Relief of pain is important for customers. A lot of them will probably even be measured on their ability to solve a problem, deliver a specific result og succeed at some level, where your help and product could be the missing tool they need.

And if the pain is big enough, and you position yourself and your solution exactly where the pain is, the chances of you making a sale is much, much bigger.

When you think about it it’s not really rocket science. It’s ‘just’ a matter of being able to start out listening more than you have the propensity to talk.

Just ask: “What do you need?”. And then take it from there.

(Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash)

Building in a void

One of the things that many people building new products and services automatically assume is that their would-be customers are curious people always on the look-out for the next big thing. But is that really the case?

Have you ever asked your customers how they find the hidden gems out there that can help them solve all their problems? Have you ever heard them explain how they actively go looking?

We have a tendency to think that everybody is always looking for something new and shiny. In many cases it is totally not the case. Which makes it important for you to avoid the temptation of building something hoping they will come. They most likely won’t – not by themselves anyway. So make sure you have a strategy for how to get them to notice you properly.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Rewind to the pain

The other day I met with a startup in need of some advice. They have been working on their offering for a couple of years, and they felt stuck in terms of getting it to market and choosing the right approach.

They showed me their product, and it prompted a conversation about who they have developed the product for, and what they actually, factually know about the customers, they are trying to get to buy into their offering. It was a classic example of solution looking for a problem.

We took a step back and talked about the value proposition based around the Value Proposition Canvas. And when it came to the problem solving real pains for real customers, it was painfully obvious that the biggest issue for them was that there is a disconnect between the customer pain points and how the product looks and welcomes you.

They left with new insights and ideas into how to progress from here. Sometimes it just pays to rewind the clock and look at whether there is a connection for real between needs, pains and gains and the actual product.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Go talk to a customer

One of the things that continues to amaze me is the power of actually seeking out potential customers for solving a problem and chat to them about their experiences so far in both experiencing the problem and trying to find solutions for it.

It is easy to get an idea all by yourself. But the idea – or better yet; the theme in which your idea resides – gets so much extra power by actually meeting and listening to the real experts: Those experiencing the problem.

The exercise itself is really simple: Figure out who you need to meet, set up some meetings or chats for coffee etc, show up, ask a few questions and LISTEN. I guarantee you will leave much smarter. And you will be able to channel all that insight directly into whatever it is that you’re doing, if you choose to. And yes; you should.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)