Whether you’re planning to open a mom-and-pop record store or launch the next music app, nine times out of ten you’re going to have to deviate, at least, a little from your original business plan. A good majority of the new business owners I mentor make major changes in their initial marketing, sales, and business model approaches.
In entrepreneurship, the only thing that never changes is change; curve-balls occur all the time: a focus group may end up hating your packaging, a new competitor may emerge in your market, or things just simply may not be “clicking.” In all cases you need to be on your feet and reiterate to adjust to your customers’ needs. In other words, if you’re trying to jam a circle into a square, it’s time to transform your offering into a circle. Here are three major red flags when you know it’s time to make a change in your business:
A value proposition is simply the value that you’re guaranteeing your customers. A value proposition is crucial, potential customers need to know what your specific “edge” is. Sometimes, a business will overcomplicate their marketing strategy. Their advertisements will essentially promise everything and customers may even end up getting confused at what exactly a business is offering.
Make your value proposition as simple as possible, otherwise it’s not clear. Are you offering convenience, competitive prices, or luxury? If you’re providing a hazy combination of a few value propositions as one, understand that this puzzles customers and a customer who is doubtful of what you’re selling is probably not going to buy. When you’re confusing your customers, it’s time to scrap that ambiguous “value-prop” and refine it so it’s more minimal, streamlined and digestible. This may take you all the way back to Square One but understand that if customers don’t “get” your company, there’s no way your business is getting off the ground.
Most tech startups expect to reiterate. Many try to launch “lean,” meaning they have a minimal planning process and get their product out to market as quickly as possible then make changes afterwards. This explains why beta-testing, the process where people will test out applications and give extensive feedback, is so important for tech companies. Although this strategy may not work for all types of new businesses, the tip to take from this approach is to always be open to customer feedback and consider when your customer suggests that you make a change even when it it’s contrary to what you envision for your business.
What you see from your perspective as the business owner is not the same from the angle of a prospective customer. For example, imagine you just opened your gourmet bakery where you’ll serve decadent baked specialties which you hope will be famous for how delicious they are. A customer may walk in and ask for some healthier, low calorie alternatives without all that yummy butter and fat. Just because a customer wants something different than what you’re offering, don’t write her off as the wrong kind of customer. Instead change your angle and see how you can create a recipe for a low-fat yet still delectable version of your original brownie. Listen to what your customers need and change accordingly.
The fishing analogy is really fitting; what do you do when you’re trying to make a catch but no one is tugging on your line? You either switch your bait, move to a better fishing spot or even try a whole new fishing technique altogether (maybe trade your rod in for a net?). If customers are just not making that leap, revenues are sluggish or people are just not expressing interest in your product you must go back to the drawing board.
Maybe your original business plan focused too much on tailoring your company so it could be attractive to investors and not to customers? Maybe you misjudged your target customer and what she really wants? Maybe you’re not pitching your wares in the right marketing channels? Whatever it is, if the fish ain’t biting you best be making some changes. A bounty does not come to the fisherman who simply waits. If things aren’t clicking into place as you expected they would be, be ready to make some big yet necessary overhauls.