I always enjoy listening to an entrepreneur talk about their business. They get so excited and passionate that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the enthusiasm and say “Yeah, this is really great!”, no matter what “this” is. While this enthusiasm should be entirely a wonderful and helpful thing, the truth is that sometimes it can hinder a business too. Here’s why.
Sometimes when an entrepreneur is really excited about their product it’s like they have blinders on. All they can see is what they like about their product, and it’s shortcomings (generally pointed out by customers or employees) fall to the side and out of view. Then they wonder why everyone doesn’t love their product as much as they do, while the entire time people have been trying to tell them how to improve. In cases like this the passion and enthusiasm prevents the entrepreneur from being truly critical of their own product.
In order for the entrepreneur to avoid something like this it’s highly necessary for them to surround themselves with people that will be honest with them, and then actually listen to what they have to say. The market will generally tell you that they’re not satisfied with something by simply not buying it, and we can gather data about the group you’re not selling to, but there is a group that’s even more important.
These are your unhappy customers. Often when a customer stops shopping with you or cancels their contract the go-to reason they spit out is that it was “too expensive”, which is actually quite a useless response. If every single one of your customers is telling you that your product is overpriced, then yes, you probably need to do some work on your pricing, but generally “too expensive” is code for “I thought it would be worth paying for, but it just didn’t bring me the value I was expecting”, and that is a much bigger problem.
When an unhappy customer leaves you because the reality of your product wasn’t nearly as valuable as the perception that sold it to them in the first place, you have a gap between messaging and the product itself, and that’s bad news. Most sales messaging comes down to a statement of “we solve this problem by doing this” (and if yours doesn’t say that we should really talk). It’s by addressing the pain points of a specific market that we acquire new customers in the first place, because they have that problem and they’re looking for something (or someone) to help solve it. So what happens when the product doesn’t solve that problem and the customer walks away unhappy? That’s when the entrepreneur needs to transform their enthusiasm for their product into enthusiasm for the customer’s needs.
In order to understand a customer’s needs we need to be asking them questions beyond “Why don’t you want to pay for this? It’s awesome. Why can’t you see that?”. We need to genuinely be interested in hearing what a customer has to say when they find the product inadequate. If we see a repeating pattern in responses and it’s something that’s fixable, by all means, fix it. If it isn’t fixable (or doesn’t even make sense) you’re dealing with a perception of your product that is different than the product itself, and that is a problem with how you are trying to sell the product.
If your messaging doesn’t match your product in the eyes of the market it’s time to step back once again and ask yourself if your personal enthusiasm is clouding your judgement when it comes to market fit. Maybe you’re trying to sell to large corporations, but your happiest customers are small shops that really find your product beneficial. Right now you should probably be focusing on the needs of those small shops in your messaging. That doesn’t mean that your product couldn’t eventually pick up speed and be picked up by larger companies, but for now it makes sense to cater to the market that is already satisfied.
If your perception of your product differs from the market’s the messaging you create for the market may not sound as exciting to you, the product’s biggest cheerleader, but it will appeal to the people who matter. Because, ultimately, your opinion of and enthusiasm for your product doesn’t matter if you don’t have a group of customers that are equally impressed and excited by it.