The most difficult barriers that startups face are inertia and a reliance on the status quo. People believe that current products are good enough: “I can do everything I want with what I have.” Or, even worse, “My employees can do everything they need to with what they have.”
This doesn’t mean that every product in widespread use is good enough or optimal—only that customers have accepted them; thus, an entrepreneur’s job is often to show people why they need something new. The traditional way to do so is to bludgeon them with advertising and promotion,
However, many companies flood the market with similar claims: better, faster, cheaper! Also, as a startup, you don’t have enough money to reach critical mass advertising and promotion. Fortunately, an excellent way for a startup to attract customers is to enable them to test-drive the product. By doing so, you are saying:
“We think you’re smart.” (This already sets you apart from most organizations.)
“We won’t try to bludgeon you into becoming a customer.” (Again setting you apart)
“Please test-drive our product.”
“Then you decide on your own. Or ask us if you have any questions.
Test-driving is different for every business. Here are some notable examples:
H. J. Heinz gave away samples of his pickles at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. His booth was stuck in a low-traffic location, so he hired kids to pass out tickets that promised a free souvenir for visiting his booth to taste a pickle. *
According to the City Business updates, Apple allowed people to test-drive a Macintosh for a weekend during the 1980s. The current policy of accepting returns or exchanges of Apple products with no questions asked is effectively a fourteen-day test-drive,
Salesforce.com enables people to use its software for thirty days at no charge. The beauty of this test-drive is that once you have this kind of information about a company’s product, you’re less likely to switch because of the data entry you’ve already done.
Suspend your dependence on traditional and expensive methods of marketing your product and give test-driving a test-drive. It’s a great way to overcome a potential customer’s inertia.
Learn from Rejection
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.
—Henry J. Tillman
Rainmakers get rejected. The best rainmakers get left more often because they are making more pitches. However, good rainmakers learn two lessons from rejection: first, improve their rainmaking; second, what kind of prospects to avoid. Here is a list of the most common sacrifices and what to learn from them:
“YOU ARE ASKING US TO CHANGE, AND WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS.” This is a typical response when presenting to a successful group living the high life and sees no reason to change. What you’re hearing is that you’re in the right market but talking to the wrong customers, so look for customers who are feeling pain.
“YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR ACT TOGETHER.” one of two things happened: you or your startup either didn’t have your act together or you offended someone. Force yourself to review your pitch and interpersonal skills to determine if it’s the former. If you offended someone, figure out how to make amends.
“YOU ARE INCOMPREHENSIBLE.” You usually hear this when you are, in fact, incomprehensible. Go back to the basics: cut out the jargon, redo your pitch from scratch, and practice your pitch.
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