I’ve had the fortune of building a business from the ground up twice. Because both were my own businesses, the process was much simpler. I knew the target audience, their wants, needs and most importantly the pain point I wanted to solve.
The ventures, however, were a flop because I didn’t have enough hands (and hence funds) to sustain the grandiose plans I’d made. The immature entrepreneur in me was pushing for major initiatives in different directions. I was literally all over the place. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that challenge anymore.
Let me explain.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur/intrapreneur is to go deep before taking the right initiatives towards a narrow path. Which means you need to know your customer segments (the target market) and their current challenges. And while you’re at it you ought to know the reality this segment wants to experience. Once you’re clear on that, build your product/service around this intel.
Not before. Yes, you heard that right. Having an idea of the kind of customers you want to serve is great! But fleshing out the exact product and/or service you want to offer is best done once you have clarity on your target segment’s challenges and resolutions. The biggest reason to go through this exercise is to enhance your focus on the medium through which you’re going to resolve your customer/client’s challenges. Remember, your product/service is simply a means to a better end (a happy/satisfied customer) and not an end in itself.
Most businesses have a product/service offering ready even before they’ve identified their customer segments or have taken the effort to explore the challenges and ultimates resolutions the clients would like to experience or enjoy. Going through such a grind will ensure that you don’t crash and burn as a business.
So, a coaching/consulting business has to be absolutely sure about its customer segment. Consulting with Fortune 100/500 companies and small/medium sized businesses are two very different experiences. Likewise, if you’re a coach/freelancer, working with executives, middle-managers or entrepreneurs or even marketers seems like playing a different sport altogether! In a similar vein, you need to learn what their challenges are to be able to speak in a language that resonates with your customer segment.
As you can tell, most businesses don’t do this. And that’s why they struggle at launch or perhaps relaunching their business into a much more refined market. They need to be able to speak to their customers or deeply understand where they are and where they would like to get.
It’s like beginning with the end in mind and working your way backward.