Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are You Sure There is Demand for What You Do?

I had a fun call today with a woman starting her own business. She wanted my advice on how to find customers. In order to understand her business, I asked my usual questions.
  • What do you do?

  • How do you do it?

  • Who is the audience for your service?

  • What makes it unique?
But my next question made her stand up and take note.
  • Have you validated that there is demand for what you do? In other words, have you determined that there are people who want to buy your stuff?

Now, not all services and products fill a pre-existing need. It is possible to create demand. For example, I didn't know I needed a Netbook until I saw the adorable one sitting on my boss's desk. :) I also didn't know I needed Linkedin until all of my contacts somehow landed in their database. But creating demand is hard to do, especially with little to no marketing budget. It's much easier to fill a pre-existing need or - as it were - address a point of pain.

Too many entrepreneurs become enamored of an idea for its own sake and forget to validate that there is indeed a market for what they sell. This holds true for nonprofits too but it takes a slightly different form. In our case, determining that there is demand for our programs means finding funders who are willing to subsidize our work.

Running a small business is hard. Running a nonprofit is harder. You have to create great programs and services. More important, you have to find someone who wants to BUY them. Before diving into a new endeavor, be sure to determine if there is an overlap between your passion and someone's wallet.



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