Or, Eating my Own Dog Food

There’s a deal on the table.

I listen carefully, turn it around in my head. It’s seductive. I’m intrigued, I can’t deny it.

Fascinated, really. Boy, it’s tempting…

Just then Experience Designer Kelly sits down on my shoulder.

Have you thought about this? And this? What about that?

Thinks I should eat my own dogfood. Follow the same steps I advocate here at the Maximum Customer Experience Blog. Darn killjoy.

Or is she?

And that, dear reader, is when you walk in. She’s going to ask me the hard questions, and you can hardly wait to see the show.

When you’re starting a new venture or rethinking your stalled business, you need the devil’s advocate on your shoulder. You need someone to shoot your ideas full of holes while you keep plugging, until the idea is bulletproof. So no, I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but I’m going to walk you through a few of the issues my Experience Designer self brought up to my Go For It Blindly self.

If you see yourself here, stop. And fix the holes in your plan. Then walk through this startup planning guide again, with a bold smile. You’re almost ready for Maximum Startup Experience!

Will it work?

Will it work? How many people never stop to ask that fundamental question? Would you buy it? I’ve asked that question many times in meetings and had the person opposite me say “No. I wouldn’t.” If you’re not planning to provide something so awesome you can get behind it 100%, why are you doing it?

What is it?

Are you trying to be jack of all trades, and succeeding at being master of none? Focus like a laser beam. If you don’t know whether you are, get someone else to look at it. Chances are, you’re not.

Who’s it for?

Who’s the Ideal Customer? If you start your answer with “Anybody who…,” you’re wrong. Start again until you can picture the ONE person who can’t do without you, and everything about that one person, in vivid detail. (No. You’re not done yet. Hm? I just know.)

What triggers her on the day she’s got to have what you offer?

What does she search for? Think this out very seriously. Nobody searches in Google for the name of your company or the terms you commonly use in your field.

What’s bugging them? Trade secret: If you don’t know, throw a wad of cash at them and ask. Fifty bucks each for an hour of their time; pick three to five Ideal Customers’ brains by asking two critical questions—Are we solving problems that exist? and What would you dream of if you could make this company come true? $250 seems like a lot? Trying throwing your life savings (or a year’s worth of blood sweat and tears, for you bare-bones bootstrappers) into it and losing it all. Why every new business owner doesn’t survey potential clients or have their Experience Designer do it for them  😉  is beyond me. Best money you’ll ever spend.

Do the folks who need what you’ve got actually want it, and I mean desire it deep down in their guts, so they they will want to pay proper money for it?

How will you grow?

How will you promote it? “I’m gonna leave my light under a bushel-basket and hope people notice me” is NOT a marketing strategy.

How will you measure success? Put the plan in place before you throw one dollar out the window. “I want to sell 15 XYZs in a month, and grow at a 10% rate, and I will check conversion rates and abandonment rates every quarter to see if I’m achieving that.” Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timed. There’s a reason the SMART acronym is such a well-worn cliché. If you’ll follow it, it works.

What’s so golldurned special about you?

Is anybody else doing it the way you will, in the place you will, for the customers you will do it for? Keep refining until the answer is No.

My friend Bob Hoffman says, “Marketers [and entrepreneurs —Ed.] always overestimate the attraction of new things and underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.” Are you doing something so remarkable that you can overcome his desire to do what he did yesterday?

In other words, what makes the Ideal Customer want you (besides how totally incredible you are and how much your Mom loves you) as opposed to some other solution?

Think you’ve got the answer to that one? Then ask yourself the ultimate question, the one that brings us all to our knees… What makes him want you, need you, exchange his cash for your awesomeness, as opposed to doing nothing?

One more question:

Do you love your concept, do you get goosebumps thinking about it (or gooseflesh, that’s okay with me), are you high on the potential? There are dark uglies ahead, dear reader—work you can’t imagine, criticism you didn’t see coming, and a lot of days without pay (sorry)—so if you haven’t got an intensely clear picture and a joy that a hurricane couldn’t dampen right now, maybe your new venture isn’t for you.

Experience Designer Kelly, sitting there on my shoulder, making sure that I plan this out and consider all the angles like I’d want you to do. Obsessed as always with designing small business success. Making me eat my own dog food, so to speak, so this shiny new adventure won’t one day look like a bowl of Alpo. She wants me to be an incredible, valuable, buzz-worthy resource for my clients, or go home.

Not such a killjoy after all.

Are you ready to be the Ideal Solution for your customer? Me, I’m just going to walk through this guide one more time while I’m considering this deal.

I want to hear from the devil’s advocate on your shoulder:

What else should we ask at the (re)start?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

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