I was reading a very, very interesting article on Hacker News on what to do when your new business just fails, and fails, and fails again. The initiator of the article is an entrepreneur whose products have not fared well. Below is a select few responses that he got. Business wisdom:
You seem to have been terribly misled. Only very rarely do products sell themselves. 99% of the time, the product is largely incidental to the sales process. Your idea doesn’t matter one jot, what matters is how well you can connect to customers and really sell to them.
Let me tell you about a fine English gentleman by the name of Joe Ades, now sadly no longer with us. Joe wore Savile Row suits and lived in a three-bedroomed apartment on Park Avenue. He spent most nights at the Café Pierre with his wife, sharing a bottle of his usual – Veuve Clicquot champagne. You might assume that Joe was a banker or an executive, but in fact Joe sold potato peelers on the street for $5 each, four for $20.
I urge you, I implore you, I beg you, stop what you’re doing and watch Joe in action:
That is what business looks like. Sometimes, once in a million, you luck upon a product so amazing the world beats a path to your door. For most of us, the best we can hope for is to be some chump with a thousand boxes of vegetable peelers. Anybody can sit out on the street with a box of peelers, but Joe sold them. Joe made his peelers sing, he made them seem like magic. He took a humble piece of stamped metal and created theatre. He did something so simple and strange and wonderful that people would buy a fistful of his peelers, just so they could tell their friends about this little Englishman they saw in Union Square.
Look at the Fortune 500, tell me what you see. I see grocery stores, drugstores, oil companies, banks, a funny little concern that sells sugar water. I see a whole lot of hard work and very few great ideas.
Forget about striking it big with a great idea, it’s just as childish and naïve as imagining that the tape you’re recording in your garage is going to make you a rockstar. Get out there and talk to customers. Find out what they need, what annoys them, what excites them. Build the roughest, ugliest piece of crap that you can possibly call a product. If you’re not ashamed of it, you’ve spent too long on it. Try and sell it. Some people will say “I’m not buying that piece of crap, it doesn’t even do X”. If X isn’t stupid, implement X. Some people, bizarrely, will say “yes, I will buy your piece of crap”. It is then and only then that you are actually developing a product. Until you’ve got a customer, it’s just an expensive hobby. Paying customer number one is what makes it a product.
“Honestly, there are 2 types of folks who make it: the lucky ones, and the persistent ones. Its hard as hell (and heck I haven’t beaten it yet) but you have to ignore the burnout and be one of the persistent ones”
“Why are you paying so much attention to your “launch day”? It’s an entrepreneurial myth that there is a mighty “launch” that sets the tone of your business. When was Twitter “launched”? When was Carbonmade “launched”? When was Balsamiq “launched”? Or SquareSpace, MailChimp, or Fog Creek? Sure, they “launched”, but who cared?
You are building a business. It does not spring from your forehead like Athena, or get pooped out of your pet Nibbler like Dark Matter on Futurama. Listen to what everyone else here has to say. Sure, pick something with favorable long-tail SEO dynamics. Sure, pick something with a viral loop. Sure, build yourself a tribe.
But then, for god’s sake, pick something you can stick with, nurture, protect, and grow over the long run. That thing you don’t have, that keep calling “a fucking great idea”? Most of us call it “a winning lottery ticket”. Stop thinking about playing the lottery. Get back to work.”
“Hang in there man.
What’s touched upon in various ways in all the comments is that “PR” and “Media Coverage” is not the end all be all. In fact the successfully software startups I know STILL email individual potential customers on a daily basis.
I think one of the great myths of the internet is that you should just create a product, throw it up on the internet with some SEO and AdWords and the customers will come. Sure it might work for a few people, but by and large you are still growing a business. And you often grow a business one person at a time, hopefully later you can learn to scale sales.
Often what is missing from people’s MVP’s and business plans is how are you going to very specifically market to your target customers, and what the cost of customer acquisition is. If you can’t identify a way to find your target customer, you’re going to have a problem. Again, I don’t think general SEO and SEM is going to work.
Don’t give up on your idea, start emailing people. 50, 100 people a day. Convert them one at a time. If your business idea is not specifically just some sexy piece of technology, direct mail may work too (if you don’t also have to educate people on why they need your product.)
Journalist want to write about what’s hot, not about what is a potentially decent idea in a decent market. They want to talk about iphones, ipads, and facebook, and the latest jargon.
Anyways, start finding your target customers and email them. Don’t worry about email campaign tools and crazy stuff, just starting email or calling them one at a time. Building a web based software business doesn’t mean you can just skip sales.”
I would say this is some of the best advice that can be given to new entrepreneurs. You can read the rest of the article here.