Product Demand Creation

You have a product. The product is a great idea that fills a need for a particular consumer. You feel for those consumers, you know them, you might be them. But how exactly do you get consumers to actually want the product? Said another way, how do you create demand for your product?

I found an article. It’s an oldy, but a goody. Yes, it was written only a couple of years after the recession of 2008, but the key themes of product demand creation still resonate in 2019. The article is written for Fast Company by Adrian Slywotzky who literally wrote the book on creating product demand.  This article is called The Six Secrets Of Demand Creation. Knowing that Slywotzky wrote an entire book on the subject, you can trust you are getting some great high-level cliff notes to further explore as you build demand for your product.

Here are the six (read the article or the book for more info):

  1. Make It Magnetic- emotional connection with customers
  2. Fix Our Hassles- study the needs of customers in multiple markets
  3. Build on the Backstory- what was the problem, and how can you take that concept further?
  4. Find the Trigger- what is the tipping point to get consumers off the fence? Study it; duplicate it.
  5. Build a Steep Trajectory of Improvement- launch day is just the first step, immediately try to get better.
  6. “De-Average” the Customer- one size does not fit all and different segments of your customer base may need slightly different problems solved or at least a different marketing narrative.

I will definitely be using some of these tips and insights as I write about my course work and help A.D. White continue to build demand for Asheville Hustle.

Voice of the Customer

In the Four Steps to the Epiphany – Successful Strategies for Products that Win book by Steve Blank, he talks a lot about the customers. I fact, he probably writes the word customer more than the word product. He knows that without finding and marketing to appropriate customer groups, even the best products are destined to fail. Blank walks through several aspects of engaging customers to include:

  • The customer discovery model
  • Discovery
  • Validation
  • And Creation
  • Additionally, he includes a comprehensive customer development checklist

This book is a great reference and guide for any entrepreneur who is trying to launch a business or product. Companies are doomed to fail without finding their tribe of devoted customers. And once you have those customers, it’s important not to let the brand voice dominate the voice of your best brand advocates: your customers. To drive home this point, I recommend checking out Jason Maynard’s article for Entrepreneur Magazine called, When Your Customers Are Talking, Quiet Your Brand Voice and Listen.

MacKenzie Bezos Deserves Some Credit

Last semester I interviewed Jeff Kaplan, Director for Venture Asheville. One thing he told me as advice for entrepreneurs has hung with me since that time. When asked about tactics for funding a start-up he said, “Personally, most of what I’ve done is bootstrapping, pinching pennies, and personal savings. It is really helpful to have a working spouse”.  That working spouse piece has really stuck with me. For someone in a partnership to be “all-in” and really go for their entrepreneurial dream, sacrifices have to be made. His words have especially been poignant as I keep seeing the ridiculous controversy over the divorce of MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos, billionaires and founders of Amazon. Many news outlets keep making comments about “how much MacKenzie will get in the divorce” evoking rage in every spouse who has ever silently, or not so silently supported the entrepreneurial endeavors of their significant other. I could write a laundry list of reasons why these one-sided, sexist headlines are an oversimplification of the back story of any entrepreneurial couple, but I don’t have to because Louise Matsakis, a writer for WIRED has written a brilliant piece called, MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder.

For those of us who are entrepreneurs, love an entrepreneur, or find ourselves in an entrepreneurial partnership (business and/or romantic), it’s important to recognize the PARTNERSHIP. The myth of the lone genius founder is indeed farfetched and rare.

FINALLY! Someone Talks About Intrapreneurship

The name of my blog is The Strengths Focused Intrapreneur, and yet, for the past four semesters, the classes in my program at WCU have focused on entrepreneurial pursuits. Don’t get me wrong, the info is helpful, especially for managing the business side of my husband’s writing career. But what I do in my “day job” is live the life of an intrapreneur. I have lots of autonomy in what I do to manage the departments and functions that report to me, and I basically have little micro-businesses within a larger corporate structure.

So, imagine my delight when in our assigned text for the semester I found a whole chapter in Rogers’ Entrepreneurial Finance on Intrapreneurship!

Joseph Alois Schumpeter, himself, asserted that entrepreneurship did not have to be confined to start-ups. He said, “Innovation within the shell of existing corporations offers much more convenient access to the entrepreneurial functions than existed in the world of owner managed firms. Many a would- be entrepreneur of today does not found a firm, not because he could not do so, but simply because he prefers the other method.” (Rogers 269).

I feel the essence of Schumpeter’s conclusion every day. I am an intrapreneur, and I make the conscious choice to hustle within the corporate structure because I grew up in a family business. I want to know that my paycheck will be on-time, that the collections department is doing their job, that billing statement need not be stuffed around the kitchen table at the beginning of every month, and that my 403b/401k has a handsome match provided by my employer. I loved our life growing up, and also, being the family-owned business is HARD. That’s not to say my life as part of a larger company is easy, but it’s certainly not an 80+ hour a week job, either.

Rogers asserts there are two types of Intrapreneur. He even offers a nifty model (Rogers 270):

Intrapreneur Spectrum

Caretaker– the anti-intrapreneur; happy with the status quo. Not interested in anything outside moderate growth or development of a product.

Developer– looks at the status quo and finds growth opportunity in existing business lines; might find new markets or customers to facilitate growth.

Innovator– creates new products, services or business models outside of regular R&D.

Some days I wonder what it would be like to start my own company or leave my large company to head-up human resources for a growing entrepreneurial endeavor. And then I read articles like these that remind me why I harness the power of my entrepreneurial spirit for intrapreneurial good.

Here are a few articles that might help ground or propel the budding entrepreneur:

I hope you find these articles helpful for choosing your own path as an entrepreneur, intrapreneur, or neither. As for me, my day job will mostly fulfill me in my intrapreneurial pursuits, and I’ll continue being an entrepreneur at home in helping manage my husband’s business and in the multiple side hustles I find myself involved in.

Additional Resources:

Rogers, S. (2014). Entrepreneurial Finance: Third Edition, Finance and Business Strategies for the Serious Entrepreneur. 269-278.

The Intersection of Crowdfunding and Traditional Debt Financing

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” – Oscar Wilde via Wisebread.com

Last week I wrote about crowdfunding and the many different platforms available for funding. I decided to explore the site Lending Club. I’ve since learned, this type of funding is called person-to-person or P2P lending. Think of it as crowdfunding meets an angel investing pool. I spent some time researching their model and writing some brief instructions on the steps to become approved with Lending Club. Here’s my screencast evaluation of their financing option:

And some more in-depth info on the steps for applying with Lending Club:

Now, let’s follow the (hypothetic) steps to apply from the borrower’s perspective:

Determine your eligibilitylending club eligibility

Click on this link for a dashboard of steps to follow (with access to the electronic platform):lending club small business dashboard

https://help.lendingclub.com/hc/en-us/categories/202523217-Small-Business

  1. Start by exploring the “How to Apply” button
  2. Check your rate
  3. Choose your offer, if given
  4. Watch as people invest in your loan
  5. Funding is sent directly to your bank account
  6. Set-up monthly auto-draft payments
  7. Pay off your loan early, if wanted, with no early pay-off penalty

 

Success and Key Questions (6/30/18 Stats):

https://www.lendingclub.com/info/statistics.action

  • How much does the Crowdfunding source take as a fee? Varies depending on the terms of the loan
  • How long will the process take until the money arrives and can be used? About 7 days for approval and a few more days for funds to be deposited (depending on bank rules). Need to use their check-list to avoid delays.
  • Restrictions? Varies depending on the terms of the loan
  • Reporting requirements? Lending Club wants to see your IRS tax return and requires a 4506-T form to do so. Borrowers would report funds as part of their tax return.

 

Raising Capital Might take More Than a Lucky Cat

“A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.” – Bob Hope via goodfinancetips.com

This week we are choosing topics to research that pertain to raising funds for entrepreneurial pursuits. We’ll be publishing an article in a few weeks about the topic we research, and I chose a pretty traditional form of funding to explore. My topic is “Loans & Lines of Credit (to include SBA guarantees)”.

So far, I’ve learned the Bob Hope comment about banks loaning money only to people who prove they don’t need it is entirely true. Most banks are pretty risk-averse. This explains the popularity of other non-traditional forms of funding for modern entrepreneurs; options like:

  • Angel Investors
  • Crowdfunding
  • & Business Incubators

For entrepreneurs who have collateral to offer and/or extremely great credit, traditional loans and lines of credit can still be a good option but are usually not the only option to pursue. As I conduct more research, I’ll post the whole article on my blog to share.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a couple of thought-provoking pieces about funding.

The first is a quick bit of advice posted on Entrepreneur.com from Amy Williams, CEO at Citizens of Humanity on choosing investors wisely: https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/310046

The second is an interesting article about the story you tell when pitching a start-up to investors. It’s an HBR piece called Startups That Seek to “Disrupt” Get More Funding Than Those That Seek to “Build” by Dana Kanze and Sheena S. Iyengar.

I hope this gives you some food for thought until my next post.

Marketing Through Case Study Videos

This summer semester I am starting a class called “Entrepreneurial Marketing,” and after reading the syllabus, I realized I have more experience than I initially thought with modern marketing tactics. So much of what I do every day is internal marketing and I partner with some great vendors to tell our stories more widely.

This past year, I was asked to be on camera with some other colleagues at Mission Health to tell the success story of how we helped transform performance and engagement through a tool called “StandOut.” The Marcus Buckingham Company powered by ADP captured our story to share with prospective clients. I want to share those videos here because they are excellent examples of compelling case study videos (of course I may be a little biased).

StandOut & Mission Case Study Video:

StandOut & Mission Strengths Video:

StandOut & Mission Leadership Video: