HOW TO START A SUCCESSFUL SMALL BUSINESS
Starting a business is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It will more often than not take tremendous amounts of time, money, and emotional investment. For those thinking of building a startup, it gets even harder. Always remember, there is a 90% failure rate, and even venture-backed ones fail at a staggering 75% rate.
The allure of running a business is strong for many however. For many, it is the freedom to work for yourself or to pursue a lifelong passion. For some - especially those impacted by Covid - it may even be a necessity.
This is in no small part why there is such a booming industry of businesses that exist purely to teach other people how to start businesses. Invariably, all of them revolve around the same tropes of: “Find a target market. Identify a problem. Design a solution. Hustle. Repeat.”
These strategies aren’t necessarily wrong, but the biggest challenge is how these strategies and solutions apply to you. If you ever listened to a webinar, and then thought: “Yes but how does this apply to me?” you’re not alone!
What can I do instead?
As we’ve demonstrated elsewhere, the most successful entrepreneurs, founders, and business leaders are ones who adopt the Curiosity Mindset. They focus less on the solution, and more on asking great questions to better understand what the problem is.
In other words, what you actually need to do is ask better questions.
There are two broad categories of questions: 1) Clarification questions that help you to better understand the problem and 2) Self-probing questions that help you understand whether or not the information or ideas you come across are relevant to you.
Let’s break that down further across the common categories of finding customers, digital marketing, and sales.
Applying your Curiosity Mindset to find customers
Let’s say you have a business idea, but you’re not sure who your customers are. The standard advice would normally flow along the lines of:
- Understand who your ideal customers are
- Do market research and read reports
- Use Facebook (or some other social media) to conduct A/B testing
Again, all of these aren’t wrong per se, but let’s apply the Curiosity Mindset to this. First, let’s assume you have a ‘great idea’. Here’s are some clarification questions to ask, to help you paint a better picture of understanding who your customers are:
- I wonder what problem my idea solves?
- Who are the people that are most likely to experience these problems?
- How would I describe them? For example, are they young, old, student, employed, etc.
- When do they experience the problem?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they get their information?
- What are they doing now to solve their problems?
Start by answering those questions as best as you can. If you don’t know the answer, simply acknowledge that you don’t know (we’ll get those in a sec). All we’re doing here is to better articulate the problem that we believe your customers have, and form a hypothesis around this.
Now we get to the self-probing questions:
- How do I find out my target market actually has this problem?
- Do I know anyone who looks like my target customer? And can I speak to them?
- Who can I talk to to confirm my hypothesis?
- How can I test my hypothesis without being biased?
- How can I test if they’ll actually buy my idea?
- Who else has done something similar to my idea? Who are their customers?
- And finally… are these the customers I want to sell to? If not, why not?
- For any questions above that you answered: “I don’t know.” What can I do to find out?
These questions won’t give you the answer, but what it does is nudge you down the path towards finding out what the answer is. As you answer each question, you may find additional questions to ask. Most importantly, the answers you find will be ones that are pertinent to you.
Applying your Curiosity Mindset to the sales strategy
Finally, let’s have a look at sales. In particular, let’s think about price and how we set up a sales channel:
- How much should I sell my product / service for?
- Who else is selling something similar? How much do they sell it for?
- What’s included or not included in what they sell?
- How does that compare with what I’m selling?
- Where do my customers typically go to buy the types of things I’m selling? Is it online? In person?
- When do they buy my product / service?
- How frequently do they buy it? And how much do they buy at once?
And again, the self-probing questions:
- What can I do to test my sales? What’s a prototype / basic version I can sell to someone?
- If people buy it, do I know why they buy it?
- If people say no, do I know why they say no?
- I wonder if I can ask my customers if they think the price is too high or too low?
- What can I try to offer customers, that would get them to buy my product / service again?
- How comfortable am I selling in this particular channel?
Just remember, it is ok to say: “I don’t know” to any of these questions, as long as the next question you ask is some variation of: “And what can I do to find the answer?”
Be curious. Be successful.
There is truth to the axiom: A successful business is one that solves problems in a way that is sustainable; economically, environmentally, and socially. And it does this in a way that appeals to your target customer more than a competitor.
Hopefully we’ve demonstrated to you the power of the Curiosity Mindset in helping you tackle problems in a different way. By no means are we saying don’t listen to coaches or advisor, but by adopting a Curiosity Mindset, you can help achieve many of your own breakthroughs and find your own path to success.
To document your journey, you can pick up a copy of your own Curiosity Journal today.