Startup founders exist in that special space between dreaming and doing. While many may dream up big ideas, founders are the ones who have the drive to make their dreams a reality. If you’re in the midst of getting your own business off the ground, you’ve invested your time, energy and hard-earned cash into creating something that the market needs. Now the goal is to refine your product and get it into the hands of the people who want it.
Two of the biggest mistakes that founders make at this stage involve a lack of focus: failing to perfect the original product or offering, and not zeroing in on the appropriate target market for that product or offering. The temptation to try and modify the product to meet all needs and reach everyone with brand messaging is strong. But in doing so, founders often dilute the product and brand, spreading everything too thin to be truly influential.
Focus is not about shrinking your vision or restricting your business. It’s about getting specific about what you’re building and who you’re building it for, so you can tap into a market that will love your brand as much as you do.
Focus is the cornerstone of any successful startup. Below are three ways that focus helps build a strong product and solid business.
Focus directs efforts efficiently
Cutting down to the essentials is challenging. Modifying a product to appeal to a larger customer base or spreading brand messaging to as many people as possible are both understandable impulses. But by narrowing focus, you can direct your efforts more efficiently, and therefore more effectively. Instead of modifying your product to appeal to a broader audience, consider how you can tweak it to appeal even more to your current consumer base.
Focus on a target demographic and discover ways to reach more of these people specifically. By homing in on a target demographic, your message ends up in front of more people who are likely to engage with your brand and product. There may be thousands of people at a baseball game, but if you’re selling golf cleats, you would be better off targeting golf tournaments.
Even though the overall numbers of people exposed to your brand may be less, they are much likelier to be engaged with what you are offering because they have already demonstrated an interest in golf.
Focus uncovers your true customer base
Homing in on who is buying your product is essential in discovering your true customer base. It’s easy to make assumptions about who is buying what you’re selling, but the results of monitoring who is buying your product and why can pay off in unexpected ways.
When I founded StickerYou, we were the first website in the world to provide customizable die-cut stickers. We initially anticipated that our target market would be children and adult cartoon enthusiasts, and we were right. But what we discovered was that we were also getting orders from companies that were using StickerYou’s materials for branding. While we still accommodate our initial customer base, we’ve now shifted our marketing strategies to engage the very lucrative B2B market.
While we all start our businesses because of our own passions, it’s important to remember that consumers spend where their needs are being met. So, just as you focus on creating an excellent signature product or service, you want to zero in on what your customer base wants, and the best way to do this is to ask them.
Through market research techniques like polls, surveys, focus groups and in-store chats, you can find out what your customers love, what they don’t like so much and what they would want to see you improve on. You should also look at your direct competitors’ customer reviews and complaints to figure out how to fill the gaps they’re missing.
When you are clear on what your product or service offers, it becomes much easier to uncover who your true consumers are and focus your attention on giving them an exceptional customer experience.
Focus helps you choose metrics and goals to track success and failure
If you’ve narrowed your focus on your business, the market you serve and the need you fulfill, you will have the information necessary to create the metrics and goals that will measure whether your business is succeeding, and where there is room to improve. Metrics are more than just measuring the amount of product moved. They can help monitor brand awareness, campaigns and show where your advertising dollars are best spent.
Track how well your brand message and product resonate with your target market by measuring metrics like revenue, customer retention and social engagement. For brick-and-mortar businesses, try focus groups, customer surveys and monitoring foot traffic.
As the saying goes, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.”
Finding your focus will help you establish your brand in a fiercely competitive market, appeal directly to consumers who most need what you’re offering and create the most effective metrics to measure your efforts.