When is it right to go public with your new business, and what groundwork do you need to lay?
Sticking your head above the parapet – whether it’s going for a promotion, or expressing an unpopular opinion – is an unnerving process. This is no less true for going public with a new or recently-formed business.
When you have something to sell, of course, you need to start selling it. However, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of going off half-cocked, when there are unresolved questions about their product or service, or when they’re not equipped to take on a surge in demand. This can create a bad first impression that it’s all too difficult to recover from. So what are the key steps that you need to have completed before you start clamouring for attention from your market?
A Defined Offering
Most obviously, you need to know what you’re selling, and know it in-depth. This isn’t just about your 30-second pitch, although that’s essential: you will need to be able to field any reasonable question from a potential customer. These questions range from how your product or service works (think carefully about how much you want to give away here) and whether it adds value to every business or household (or what individuals and entities can most benefit from it), to how long it will take to deliver a return on investment – and what the comeback is if it doesn’t. Your answers will need to be convincing, and it’s worth putting effort into them – remember, sceptics aren’t automatically time-wasters. Any sales staff that you engage for this product or service need also need to have this in-depth knowledge.
If it is possible to introduce your product or service to a select group of trustworthy potential clients, then do so as when you feel you’re ready. They will likely have questions that you haven’t even considered, and may flag up issues with your offering that had gone unnoticed up to this point. Tapping their feedback – making it clear that they’re getting their views canvassed as part of the development process – is a valuable exercise.
A Test Case
This can, of course, be taken to the next level by letting a business or consumer actually try the product or service for free – or at a steep discount. If you do this, liaise closely with this ‘test case’ customer during the implementation process, and continue to gather feedback after it is introduced.
Actually seeing your product or service in action will give you valuable information, both positive and negative. The negatives can inform the work that you do to improve your offering. The positives can be incorporated into marketing materials – few things attract a potential customer more than a concrete example of how a product or service has worked elsewhere.
The Capacity Question
When you have exhaustively defined your offering, and ideally have a positive ‘test case’ in progress, it’s time to make sure that you can actually deliver your product or service quickly. This can entail taking the plunge and either making hires or buying stock – and doing so is often the most nerve-wracking part of starting up. If it’s possible to have this capacity on stand-by, then that’s a great advantage. However, if it isn’t, don’t look to cut corners: you need to be able to resource any contracts that you win from day one, so make any financial commitments that you need to meet your projected sales – and ideally have some capacity in reserve.
After going through this process, of course, you face the tricky task of getting the market’s attention. But without a solid foundation of a defined offering and capacity to deliver, your best marketing efforts will be derailed.