Most entrepreneurs just use customer interviews for data, but there are easy ways to turn these potential customers into paying clients.
The lean startup methodology took what they taught in MBA classes and turned it upside down, completely changing the way most of us thought about entrepreneurship. No longer was starting a business about projections and management titles. Instead, it changed into experiments and data.
While customer interviews are a big part of finding your value proposition, they also can be a perfect time to build leads. Just because you're still looking to find insights doesn't mean you should stop selling. With a little preparation, you can discover insights about your business model and score a sale. Here are some ways to do both.
Step 1: Once you identify their problem, dig deeper
It's essential that when you start interviewing customers, you don't have any loaded questions. You want the people you're interviewing to be completely open with you. Swaying or selling them too early will ruin the advice you need for your business. Often you can tell you're getting good data if your customers start getting emotional about the problem.
When you hear this, they've given you a path to future business. Once you identify the problem that's causing them stress, dig into the problem deeper. Start by asking what's been the cause of the problem, and ask them how much they are spending to fix the issue right now. Go into how much time they are spending trying to solve the problem. After a few minutes, they'll start spouting off valuable information.
This not only gives you information but also opens up your customers' minds about how important the problem is. No one typically takes the time to ask the questions you're asking, so many customers don't think of finding a solution. When you open up customers' minds about how big the obstacle is, they'll become more interested in what you're doing.
Step 2: Pitch a solution, even if you don't have one
After customers've found the problem, this is where most entrepreneurs stop their interview. Happy with the data they gathered, they thank the person for his or her time and walk away.
When you do this, you miss a perfect opportunity to generate business. Here your customer is with a huge problem, and you're going to walk away? No. Instead, pitch a solution, even if it's off the top of your head. When I tell people this, they usually ask, "Why would I pitch a solution that I haven't built?" The answer is because you want to find out exactly what needs to be built to make revenue.
Next time you're in this situation, pitch them a hypothesis you have that you think will work and see how they respond. If they don't like it, awesome--you shouldn't build that. If they do like it, now you can ask them if they'd be interested in your showing them a demo in the future. If they answered yes to liking your solution, they'll almost always be open to seeing a demo. Now you know your customer's problem, and know at least one solution a customer would be interested in buying.
Step 3: Track results and close sales
Don't stop interviewing customers once you have one who you've sold your solution to. Instead, keep conducting interviews until you get to about 100 quality ones. Then look back at the interviews and see which was the most successful solution you pitched. What were customers willing to pay for?
Once you've looked at the data and you have enough customers to make it worthwhile, contact those customers. Schedule a demo in the future and build your minimum viable product in the meantime. While the product is being built, schedule more interviews. Next, build some quick mockups and start showing them around. This could also be a great time to raise early capital if you need to. Most entrepreneurs think you need a finished product to raise capital. False.
Investors will tell you that it's much better to have 10 customers lined up and no product than it is to have a finished product with no buyers. Most companies don't fail because they never get a product off the ground. They fail because they can't get sales.
This is an edited version of a post originally posted at http://www.inc.com/ by AJ Agrawal who is an entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. He is the CEO and co-founder of Alumnify Inc. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
As a small business entrepreneur, you’re very possibly in possession of something very valuable – a great idea. To make the most of that idea, you need to be able to communicate it crisply to potential investors, clients and employees.
This is where a knockout business plan comes into play. Once you have one, you have the road map for your business laid out in front of you. You can clearly show anyone who is interested what your company is all about, your plans for the future and how you plan to grow revenues.
With this in mind, this infographic below will help you put together a great business plan, including everything you should include, as well as how to make it succinct and engaging. Finally, it will show you how to put your business plan into action.
“If you go to the Middle East looking for oil, you don’t need to stop in Israel. But if you go looking for brains, energy and integrity, it is the only stop”, so said Warren Buffett a long ago about the Israeli ecosystem. No one can sum up Israel’s innovative startup ecosystem better, as he speaks from his own personal experience, having purchased 80% of Israeli tungsten carbide tool marker ISCAR for $4 billion way back in 2006.
Israel is a living example of the saying ‘Adversity is the mother of all inventions’. It’s stunning to see so many startups emerge from a country with a population of 8 million facing adverse conditions. Israel has witness almost double per capita venture capital investments as the US and 30 times more than all the members of the European Union combined.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that "For a small country, Israel will have an oversized impact on the evolution of the next stage of technology we all use".
Here are some promising Israeli startups:
What it does: Cloud storage and data protection
Why it’s hot: CTERA offers its services to telecom operators, ISPs and companies to help them create, deploy and manage cloud storage services quickly and easily. In July it raised $25 million bringing total funding to $45 million. Backed by Bessemer Partners, Benchmark Capital, Venrock and Cisco, its considered by some to be a candidate to be the ‘Dropbox of the enterprise’.
What it does: Mobile app measurement and tracking
Why it’s hot: Appsflyer is a mobile apps measurement platform that allows app developers, brands and agencies to measure and optimize their entire mobile customer acquisition funnel from one real time dashboard. The company’s SDKs are installed on more than $800 million mobile devices measuring more than $500 million in mobile ad spend annually. In March it raised a $7.1 million round from Pitango Venture Capital and Magma Venture Partners.
What it does: Marketing platform that helps brands tell compelling stories that matter to the consumers
Why its hot: SundaySky’s SmartVideo lifecycle marketing platform generates hundreds of thousands of SmartVideos daily, powering customer acquisition, service, growth and loyalty touch points across a range of industries. Their customers include AT&T, Office Depot and Allstate with revenues having tripled since 2012. They have raised a Series C funding of $20 million from Comcast Ventures.
What it does: Text-to-video platform that can automatically turn any text based article, post or feed into a short video
Why it’s hot: Wibbitz re-packages textual content into rich video summaries that can be watched on the web or mobile devices. In 2012, the company has raied a $2.3 million Seies A round from Horizons Ventures, Initial Capital and lool Ventures. It launched its mobile app in June 2013 and browser plugin in this year. Their platform generates close to 10,000 clips per day.
What it does: Makes the ‘ devices around us cognizant of the users they serve’
Why it’s hot: Neura aims to make Internet of Things devices work together, regardless of brand and anticipates users’ requirements. It pulls data from sensors into its Harmony platform, creates rules based on user behavior and applies that intelligence to anticipate what devices should know or do. It currently works with more than 40 partners. The team has raised $2 million in funding from undisclosed investors.
6. Consumer Physics
What it does: World’s first affordable molecular sensor that fits in the palm of the hand
Why it’s hot: The company’s SCiO is a tiny spectrometer that allows users to get instant relevant information about the chemical make-up of things around them, sent directly to their smartphones. With every scan, SCiO learns more, enabling the device to get smarter. Its Kickstart project was successfully funded in June raising EURO 2.7 million from 10,000 backers (the goal was $20,000). They have also raised a funding round backed by Khosla Ventures and other angel investors.
What it does: Web measurement and competitive intelligence.
Why it’s hot: SimilarGroup helps Internet users find and interpret web content. Its SimilarWeb services helps companies benchmark performance against competitors, increase web traffic and discover opportunities to broaden their audiences using clickstream activities of tens of millions of Internet users around the world. This year the company has raised a large Series C round from Naspers (Its Nasper’s first investment in Israel).
What it does: Pioneer of broadcast-quality, video over cellular solutions that allow live video transmission from any location.
Why it’s hot: LiveU’s 3G/4G LTE bonded uplink solutions are used by the world’s leading broadcasters, news agencies and online media in over 60 countries. Their services have been used for the London 2012 Olympics, 2012 US Presidential Campaign, 2011 British Royal Wedding, Hurricane Irene and many other global events.
What it does: Global online marketplace offering tasks and services usually for $5
Why it’s hot: Fiverr provides a living marketplace for millions of micro-entrepreneurs in close to 196 countries. So far it has enabled more than three million tasks. In August Fiverr raised $30 million from Qumra Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Accel Partners in Series C.
What it does: Free credit and debit card protection; scans statements for fraudulent charges
Why it’s hot: BillGuard uses crowd-sourced big-data analytics to harness the collective knowledge from million plus consumers reporting billing complaints online and to their merchants and banks. Since its launch in 2012, the company claims to have saved its users from nearly $60 million in unwanted or fraudulent charges. It’s one of the first financial service to be integrated with the new iPhone Passbook Wallet, they also have an android app.
Though small in size and lacking in natural resources, Israel has cultivated a wellspring of ideas that has enabled it to be one of the world’s largest sources of innovative startups.
This is an edited version of a post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Subodh Kolhe. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
Alberto Savoia defines pretotyping as “building the right product before you invest in building your product right.” His book “Pretotype It” lists a set of seven techniques for pretotyping. Additionally, this post highlights other five ones that should be included.
Seven Basic Pretotyping Techniques:
Additional five techniques:
Take a look at Savoia's new technique: The One Night Stand. Primarily aimed at retail innovation it says you can create “a complete service experience without the infrastructure required by a permanent solution. Here are some details from the “Pretotyping Cheat Sheet” by Leonardo Zangrando (email@example.com):
Three situations where this is most appropriate:
This is an edited version of a post originally posted at http://www.skmurphy.com, by Sean Murphy who has worked in a variety of roles: software engineer, engineering manager, project manager, business development, product marketing and customer support. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
Startups often represent excitement in the small business world, because of their ability to innovate with great new ideas. Some even grow into giants that become household names and many have created products and services that make our lives easier.
Despite a major bump in the road with the recent recession, startups have still grown by 49 percent since 1982. And in their first year, new startups create an average of three million jobs.
Obviously, these small businesses serve an important function in our economy. Take a look at the infographic below and find out more about the world of startups, from the best places to launch them to their survival rates and more!
This is an edited version of a post originally posted at The Payroll Blog, by Stefan Schumacher is the editor of The Payroll Blog. He has 10 years of experience as a journalist, including as a producer for syndicated radio, a newspaper reporter and editor, and a trade magazine writer and editor. You can connect with Stefan on Google Plus. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
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