A successful business is made up of 6 pillars to success, with each needing equal amounts of attention, talent, passion and skill for a business to succeed. Most business owners put their energy into one or two pillars, usually where their comfort zone lies. But business owners who recognise the need for improvements across all pillars have a far better chance at success.
In this blog series we look at each pillar in turn and discuss strategies and ideas for you to improve in each.
Pillar 1. Your Product
This is where every business owner starts. Some (most) start with an idea of something they feel passionate about and want to build a business around. This might be a product they’ve seen and want to sell, or something they want to build, or a service they want to deliver, often based around their own skill set or experience. Others (less frequently) start with a need or gap they see in the market and create a service or product specifically to address that need or gap.
The latter often have a better chance at growth. But why?
It’s called product/market fit. The better the fit, the better the chance at success – especially if the market that needs your product is big enough and has enough customers willing to pay a good price, with good margins for you.
Step one to successful product development is to ensure there is a need for it and a market big enough to enable growth. You can do this in the early stages of business by creating simple versions of your product or service and testing it with sample groups of customers who represent your market. If you’ve been going for a while and sales are continuing to grow, then you have proven there is a need for what you sell. If sales are not going so well, you need to look at your product/market fit as well as your marketing. A simple survey out to those customers you do have could tell you a lot about what you need to do to improve your product to make it more appealing.
Step two is to ensure you position your product to its market in such a way that it is seen as a more attractive option to all the other products out there. This positioning will form the first strategy in your marketing map (which I explain in detail in a later blog in the series), but before you even get to marketing it, you need to be confident your product is exactly what people want. Again, a survey to existing customers could give you some valuable information about how they see your product as compared to the competition out there.
Once you are sure there is a need and you know what it needs to be to fit the need – is to make your product or service the best it can possibly be. This is called product development and of course, is an on-going process that lasts the life of your business. All great companies keep improving their products and services, and they have to keep up with the ever-changing needs in the market. You simply cannot sit still and expect that what you sold last year and the year before will remain relevant tomorrow – especially when things are moving so fast now. Technology is creating new and different solutions to old problems all the time. New, agile companies are challenging existing solutions and finding faster, cheaper ways for customers to get the same outcomes. So you have to keep moving, evolving and challenging your product development.
Step four is to know when good enough is good enough. By this I mean that although your product or service is at the very epicentre of your business, and you have no business at all without it, you have to remember that it is only one of the six pillars you need to focus on. If you spend all your time delivering the best service, or crafting the perfect product, and none of it on the rest of the business pillars … your business won’t grow. So make it great, but know when it’s good enough to allow you to put your energy into the other pillars.
In my experience, small business owners spend the majority of their time and energy on perfecting their product or service… but often at the expense of increasing their knowledge and skills in other areas such as marketing or finance.
What about you? How much time do you spend working on, delivering or improving your product versus the other pillars?
Does your product meet the ever-changing needs of your market?
If you haven’t done a survey out to your customer base for a while, now could be a good time to do it. Find out what their current needs are, who else they are using to meet those needs, and what they’d like to see more of (or less of) from you to ensure you continue to remain relevant and necessary in their world.
PS. More more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs