September 29, 2022 at 5:06 p.m.

Who owns the pickup?

Richard’s Small Business Advisory, #3 Research

By Richard Koenings-

We began this series by considering the Mindset characteristic of a successful entrepreneur. In the last article we examined a 4-point entrepreneurial readiness analysis process referred to by the acronym SWOT. It is a starting point that lays out your initial view of why you think you can succeed in your business quest, why you think you can deliver a solution/product/service that satisfies a need. Together the need and your solution create value and ultimately determine your success and satisfaction. 
The process of that readiness analysis exercise started with an internal self-look at the strengths and weaknesses which you bring to your entrepreneurial effort, and then added an external look at the opportunities and threats you have identified that will impact your effort.  
This article is about a process that seeks to obtain third party information relevant to your business effort. I title it Research. At this point it’s not about what you think, it’s about what you can find that others think. The findings may reinforce or require adjustment to the plan and its timing.
At the top line it’s about the product you have in mind and the customer you think will purchase it, whether it’s a house-to-house product, a retail store product, an over the internet product, or otherwise. 

Existing Product, Existing Customer 
If it’s a product you are familiar with from past work efforts and a customer profile you also have experience with that routinely purchases that product then your research is a look at others selling the same and to whom and how they are selling. 
Look at a half dozen companies of various sizes, both inside and outside your planned ‘geography’ or market. Create a grid or spreadsheet by listing in the first column those companies and then in other columns a half dozen factors that you are comparing all to. How are they selling, to whom are they selling, where are they selling, at what price are they selling, etc. You have google to aid your search, you have Wikipedia, you can visit them and watch them. Your search will identify other factors relevant to those customers making buying decisions. Read reviews and list the strengths and weaknesses you see. You need to be an observer.
Then finally, the bottom row of your list of companies is you. Add your product and customer answers. Be honest, why would anyone want to buy your product instead of one of the others already out there.
When proposing to sell a product already in the market, the key to your success is differentiation, what your product has that others don’t, the features and benefits that set you apart, that should cause prospects to prefer yours. There must be a key factor for which you can clearly separate yourself from the others. Is it product or service quality, is it convenience or price, is it a new feature, is it how you are going to market your product, or is it something else? 

New Product, New Need 
If it’s a new product that you have identified that satisfies a need that isn’t presently being met, your research will focus on the ‘customer’ for this product and how its purchase will improve their life. 
Whether it’s an existing product category that you think your product has a feature or benefit advantage over others, or a new product that satisfies a need not yet offered, you’re now talking marketing, how will you clearly and convincingly communicate those features and benefits to your prospects. 
In a future article we will examine why and how you can avoid being the tree that falls in the forest and makes no noise.  

Sit back and examine your findings, do they indicate sufficient differentiation, sufficient benefits. Better to find that out in research. If not it’s back to the drawing board, it may not be the right time or place. But if your research supports your plan then the next step is to test while preparing to plunge. 

The Pictorial Summary 
It’s the grid or spreadsheet you have prepared, whether existing product existing customer or new product new benefit. 
The next article will show case several local businesses and how they went through the start up process to this point. After that we’ll pick up (pun intended) with some thoughts on financing your venture and why John Dillinger had it right.
Ultimately we’ll get to a 1-3-5 year simplified Business Plan, doesn’t matter if its in a 3-ring binder or on a napkin. See you in two weeks.
Richard Koenings is an instructor and professor at Nicolet College and Concordia University, an executive manager of small and large businesses, a founder of three businesses, and has 30 years of experience as a business lawyer.


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