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It’s a naive mistake to assume that if you create something, an audience will automatically flood in to support you. It may have worked in “Field of Dreams,” but this is business. In the age of the internet, practically everyone is selling or promoting something, and sifting through the muck isn’t something consumers have time for. If it were as simple as building something and watching it take off, everyone would be a successful entrepreneur already.
“If they come, you will build it”
This reverse approach is not only more financially safe, but it’s the only option for those who can’t secure funding through any other means. Not to mention, this approach of offering pre-sales and pre-orders can help you avert disaster, saving you precious time and effort if your idea isn’t quite as brilliant as you thought. Your audience can be involved in the process early on, providing feedback as the product is created, tweaked and perfected.
Great ideas rule
In the past, aspiring entrepreneurs without connections to investors or access to loans were simply out of luck. But in a culture where ingenuity, creativity and great ideas rule, your success is truly more dependent on your own perseverance and the quality of your offering.
While in the past, wealthy entrepreneurs could sell just about anything with a big enough ad budget, consumers are much more selective about where they put their money today.
“Consumers are becoming more demanding and are seeking a more ‘holistic experience’ which includes health benefits, trust, social impact, innovation and accessibility. To succeed, brands can no longer be just about the product, they need to be about what the product stands for and what it can do for consumers.”
– Chad Nicholson
We’re in a time in which the merit of an idea is more important than ever. Big brands can’t monopolize the market like they used to, and consumers have become hyper-sensitive to scams, spammers and low-quality products both on and offline.
Couple this with the recent finding that the human attention span is officially shorter than that of a goldfish, and it may seem like the odds are stacked against today’s aspiring entrepreneur. But ultimately, they’re not. If your idea is great, your efforts are consistent, and your niche is well-defined, you can cut through the noise. While more options mean more competition, it also means that consumers will value your quality, trustworthy product over a competitor’s mediocre one.
Consumers as investors
Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have popularized the practice of garnering interest and funding in a product before its creation. This has leveled the playing field for average Joes who don’t have a ton of cash or investors eagerly knocking at their door.
Even though securing investment is seen as a dream for many aspiring entrepreneurs, it can also turn into a nightmare. Investors may have higher expectations than you’re ready for, which can mean more pressure and anxiety for you. You may be asked to explain your decisions or compromise on things that are important to you. In addition, once you’ve gained investment, you also give away a piece of your company. With it, you’re no longer completely free to make decisions or changes that you wish to make. Investors have a say, and sometimes their priorities and plans can conflict with those of the founder’s.
Thankfully, entrepreneurs have another option when it comes to securing investment. They can instead put the customer in the role of the investor, allowing their feedback and money to back the product. As with investors, there are strings attached, but the relationship is much different. When the customer is investing in your product, it is a personal investment. Their money proves that they believe in the product and trust that they will benefit from it. It’s a much more personal and meaningful connection than having a group of investors who aren’t personally interested in the product.
Doing pre-orders and pre-sales right
Research shows that a solid marketing strategy that draws attention to the early days of a pre-order period is crucial.
“On average, sales made on the first available day for pre-orders accounted for 28 percent of the entire pre-order campaign. Interestingly, this trend was seen regardless of the length of the pre-order period,” according to Scalefast analysts.
In addition, supporters of your product want to feel like insiders. Providing a bonus offer or an exclusive deal to your early supporters makes them feel like they are part of the project. They’ve given you their hard-earned money, so give your audience a front-row seat into the development of the product. As your product develops and the story behind it is shared, your audience becomes committed to the final product and excited to try it out.
A lack of funding no longer excludes entrepreneurs from launching a product. It simply means they’ll have to be hyper-focused on understanding the customer, delivering true value, and taking advantage of marketing strategies that raise funds for them.