The Fork in The Road

A while ago I was in discussions with a potential partner and we were talking about the rules of engagement. While up to this point things had seemed real, this particular discussion brought the idea of what’s possible crashing down. I was sitting there thinking through the fact that the momentum of this thing called Gig Theory could be potentially more than I could handle and could bring the reality of moving back to Nigeria into reality as opposed to a mere possibility. This partner was client number ONE as well as promotional vehicle number ONE and was worried as to whether I had what it took to walk my talk.

I believe that every entrepreneur comes on a moment like this, a come-to-Jesus moment when they realize that they are no longer dabbling but actually implementing the plan that they came up with. This is the moment when they hit the fork in the road that requires commitment on one end and running away on the other. The question becomes: to commit or not to commit?

Commitment means taking the dive, jumping over the proverbial cliff, going over the deep end; I can carry on with the oft used clichés/colorful metaphors but you get the gist.

Commitment means embracing the fear, the uncertainty, the thrill, and the responsibility of driving your own bus.

I mentioned the fork in the road earlier, one side requires you to commit and the other requires you to keep on dabbling. What will you choose?

Bottom line for you:

  • We entrepreneurs face crucial decision points every day that will impact the probability of our business success. One key to making good decisions is not to let fear make it for you.

What you can do next:

  • Understand that fear is a natural part of the human experience and while there is a chance that taking the decision that you want to could result in failure, there is an equal chance that it will be a stunning success. So take a chance.

Designing Your Product/Service

For a lazy person, I was super motivated on one particular day to grab cash, my car keys, and hit the road. I was going to get cake. I got to the cake shop’s location and couldn’t find it. So I went to the internet on my phone, got their number, and proceeded to call them three times just to get the right location. Why was I so motivated?

Well this place makes amazing cake!

Normally when I’m feeling a dessert, I go online to find recipes with the specific mix of ingredients I’m craving, I go shop for them, and make the dessert myself. But Take the Cake, the shop in question, makes cakes that are without question the best bought cakes I have ever had. Their ingredients shine through like the carrot in the carrot cake and the coconut in the Italian cream and their buttercream frosting tastes like real butter.

Cake

Via LisaB on Flickr

This story speaks to something about this cake shop:

Their ability to make the best cake I have had the privilege of tasting outside my kitchen.

To be able to achieve what they have achieved in my mind you need to understand what motivates your customer in the first place – the benefit their getting from you. To go back to the cake example, the cake shop makes it clear to the customer that they:

  • Make their cakes in small batches so that they come out perfect each time
  • Everything is baked from scratch using pure and fresh ingredients
  • They make Houston’s Best Cakes

The first two statements speak to the benefit that the customer can expect to get every time. They can expect a cake that tastes as good as or better than the last time they had it.

Understanding the benefit your customer gets helps you design your product because you are keeping the result of the customer’s interaction with your product in the forefront of your product development process.

So what is it that your business does that would make a lazy person get out of bed, into their car, and into busy traffic to get your product? With every version of your product, with every added feature, with every new component to your service, you need to think of about how this version, feature, or component will benefit the customer. Why? Well the benefit is what will motivate your customer to hand over some cash. And for every business that is the bottom line.

Bottom line for you:

  • Make sure that all your marketing materials communicate the benefit that the customer is getting. Your product/service and its packaging should also communicate the benefit if possible

What you can do next:

  • If you are not currently marketing materials do not communicate the benefits that you offer, now is the time to do so

Selecting your Target Market: Warm Niches

I have been doing quite a bit of reading in the last few months to wrap some concepts around my head, and one of the books on my list is Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Start-up. One of the key concepts presented in this book is to pick a niche as opposed to trying to cater to a large mass of people. He takes it a bit further and advises that everyone has a warm niche:

“A “warm” niche is a niche where you have some kind of association” ~ Start Small, Stay Small

A lot of us entrepreneurs think: “I’m going to target this group of people that has at least 3 million members; if I get only 1% of that market, my business will be off to a great start.” The thing with targeting such a large mass of people is that there are usually a few big players with large amounts of money targeting that group already. In business market share is everything, so the cost to get a measly 1% out of the hands of an established player might cost more than a small start-up can afford. This is where niches come in.

A niche is a small group of people that require a specialized service. Think about it this way:

You might be looking into developing a business that caters to the needs of craftsmen. There might be a lot of craftsmen in your market so you can look at a specific type of craftsman, say a carpenter. There are fewer carpenters than there are craftsmen. You might then consider narrowing it down even further by focusing on carpenters that cater to corporate clients. This is choosing a niche.

The concept of warm niches helps you choose a niche where you have some knowledge. For instance if you know someone close to you that is a carpenter who caters to corporate clients, he might help you acquire intimate knowledge of the issues that he faces day to day that your offering can solve. You can also, with his permission, use him as a resource in your research. He can point you in the direction of prominent trade publications or places where he and his colleagues hang out.

Picking a niche makes marketing your offering significantly cheaper because you are trying to reach a smaller number of people. And because this group is so much smaller, you can focus on where they hang out rather than trying to put out mass advertising. There is nothing wrong with mass advertising, but it is very expensive to reach a larger mass of people and that expense is something that you may not be able to afford.

So instead of trying to focus on 1% of 3 million; why not start with 1% of 30,000. It’s only 3,000 people, but these 3,000 people could make the solid start to your business.

References

Walling, Rob (2010-08-04). Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup. The Numa Group, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Go Out There and Do Your Work

I recently decided to volunteer with Paradigm Initiative Nigeria after I saw some information about their TENT program on twitter. A program like that was what started me off in business. When I put in my volunteer form I had no idea that one of the opportunities to contribute to their mission would involve teaching a class. When it came up I was petrified, but I said yes. I had recently read an article where Tina Fey talked about saying yes more was the key to her success and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try the same tactic.

I was tempted to get really formal by using a slide deck and everything, but I looked at my audience and decided to set objectives instead and go with it. That was the best decision I made. The students were receptive of the information that I provided using the objectives as guidelines, and they asked so many questions that helped me realize that my decision to be flexible with the class plan was the right one.

PIN

Myself and the Amazing Students at PIN after class

My initial fear of teaching the class wasn’t that I didn’t think I had anything to offer the students. The fear was based on me wondering if I was ready to get out of the front of a computer and take my material into the world. I read a post on Pam Slim’s blog that spoke to this directly. In her words:

It’s not about you. Here is the truth: if you spend your time worrying about yourself you have missed the point entirely. Your business is about the people you want to help. Their needs. Their fears. Their dreams. None of us will ever be perfect. Some will always be smarter, more productive, more witty, older, younger, more charismatic. Your people don’t care. They want help now.

Reading that post woke me up so hard that I had to bookmark it.

Bottom line for you:

  • Say yes to new opportunities
  • Your customers don’t need you to be perfect they need you to show up and do your job

What to do next:

  • Say yes when someone offers you the opportunity to share your work with the world
  • Share that                      (blog post, recipe, picture of the hairstyle that you just made up, product, insert what you just created into the blank) with the world.

If you haven’t already check out what Gig Theory has cooking for you this month.