Tag Archives: market research

The customer is usually right

Quite often on Dragon’s Den, you hear them say ‘you’ve designed a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. In the wider world, if that disqualified any business that offers something we don’t need or want, we wouldn’t be surrounded by gadgets we never use, and services we thought would be useful when we first signed up for them.

The best business ideas are both needed and wanted and, unless you’ve got money to burn, this needs to be confirmed through market research. Or ‘customer validation’ as Davina Pancholi-Ifould describes it in relation to her start-up journey (we’re all on a journey these days) as founder and CEO of Rightgig Ltd.

To be fair, customer validation is not just any old market research, it’s about testing real products with real customers in real environments. For Davina, customer validation is also… “developing something because you know someone is going to pay you for it because they want and/ or need it. It’s about getting out there with a clipboard and talking to people you don’t know – so not your mum!”  That ‘something’ is Rightgig – an online marketplace to, in Davina’s words “Help companies decide who they should hire.” The online platform helps people looking for work or hiring, to match skills, motivation and personality to fit with different business cultures. As Davina observes “Some things, like skills, can be taught, but motivation and personality is also key to finding the right people.”

We’ve all probably seen the problems that can arise when people don’t fit in with the rest of the team. For Davina, the spark that ignited the flame that has become Rightgig was harnessing her love of technology to solve a problem that she and others had experienced when trying to hire. The ‘data matching’ idea was born and four weeks later, Davina was working fulltime on the business.

Lesson one – don’t hand in your notice too soon! Davina advises you do as much customer validation as you can before you leave the security of your paid job.

Lesson two – get outside support from people with a shared vision as early as possible. A lot of business success is about networking – about who you know. Gather your advisors and tribe!

I was intrigued to know what was behind the name – Rightgig – and the company’s logo. It was obvious I wasn’t the first person to ask Davina about this.

“Business names are emotive, often the embodiment of the business values, so it’s important you’re attached to the name. That said, our process for developing the name and logo was pretty random. I’m very visual so it was a matter of putting things up on the wall at home. We wanted a name that was one word and was easy to say and spell. We put ‘right’ and ‘gig’ (thinking of the gig economy, and gig as in ‘job’) on the wall and Rightgig had a resonance with the property website.”

I’m sure the process wasn’t that painless, but… I was also interested to learn that the logo started out as a doodle with a coffee mug stain on top of it!

“We aspire to become the Google of job search” jokes Davina (or maybe she isn’t joking?)

That ambition is reflected in the care with which the customer verification goes on. The technological base will only be built once a focus group has approved it – unusual in the world of technology. A broader focus group of users are testing early versions of the platform and saying which features they’d like to see first. Those features will then be tested further “Each release is an opportunity to build awareness and do further testing on the basis of real data” explains Davina.

I wonder what other lessons can be passed on to would-be entrepreneurs, and not just those of the techy variety? The fluency of Davina’s answer implies she’s also been asked that before.

“Don’t give up your day job too early. [Try to] keep your home and work life separate – turn off your phone and laptop, shut the door. Most creative solutions come when you’re not working on them – my 60 second pitch came to me in the shower! Know your strengths and weaknesses. To me finance is dull, but I know it’s important – I’ve learned to love it. Social media is my biggest challenge and my time is probably best spent on other things – I’ll outsource it as soon as I can.”

Returning to the subject of customer validation, Davina has a last bit of advice to share. “You can’t talk to enough people – you can always do more. We know our recruitment solution isn’t for everyone but we had to learn this. I have no regrets.”

More information: https://rightgig.co.uk

Enterprise essentials #2 – 21 more tips from StartUp Saturday

It was the first day of September – a good time to be thinking about starting a business. We’re at the wonderful British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre in central London for a StartUp Saturday business class led by Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones. There’s an expectant buzz within the group of 30 aspiring business owners and, interestingly (to me at least), 75% are women; confirming my theory about women and entrepreneurship. It was a day that was rich in experience, of both Emma Jones and the participants, inspiring an intriguing array of start-up businesses at different stage in their development.

I’ve now been in business advice roles of various kinds for nearly two decades and I never stop learning – the following 21 insights, quotes and tips made it into my notebook…

  1. According to the Henley Business School, developing a ‘side hustle’ [a secondary business or job that brings in, or has the potential to bring in, extra income] applies to 25% of all adults, with the figures for employees rising to nearly 40%
  1. If you’re thinking of setting up a side hustle alongside your main employment… it’s a good idea to check what your contract says, informally check out company policy, and get advice from ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) if necessary
  1. Would-be entrepreneurs see a niche business as narrowing the potential market for the products or services on offer, creating a disadvantage. In practice, it deepens the market which can mean lower marketing costs and higher customer loyalty
  1. The secret to success in services such as photography, PR [public relations] and events is often to go for a niche part of the market. Hone in on deciding exactly who your business is for – photos for parents of new-born babies maybe
  1. It’s always worth re-quoting the cliché ‘There may be a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap?’
  1. There are three broad sources for most business ideas: A gap in the market (no one else is doing it), a passion (I want to get paid for something I love), improvement (I can do it better)
  1. IMOFF – a mnemonic for the main elements of a business plan – Idea, Market, Operations, Finances, Friends
  1. 3 Bs to start-up and grow your business cost-effectively: beg, borrow, barter. And ‘surround yourself with experts’ when your business is young. Becoming ‘an expert’ yourself is good for profile-building
  1. Avoid ‘friends and family focus groups’ they’ll usually want to please you, rather than tell you the truth. But a face-to-face focus group, even with your most loyal customers, can often give you greater insights than a larger arms-length consultation
  1. When you can afford to… “Do what you do best and outsource the rest”. Carry out a simple cost-benefit analysis to see how you spend your time. What do you love (that generates income)  and how much time could you liberate if you outsourced what you don’t?
  1. Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way to raise finance to start a business. And some are even launching campaigns for the profile-raising, rather than fundraising, potential. Family and friends are still the most popular source for start-up finance
  1. On business names… It’s best to have a name that is memorable and pronounceable. Your company, domain and trading names can be different [but some sort of association is helpful]
  1. While honesty should be at the heart of all your business dealings, at times it may be expedient to tell ‘future truths’. [Positivity without porkies?]
  1. 3 Cs to turn your passion into profit online – Content (around something you and others love) to build your Community (through social media) as the seedbed for Commercial development (jargon alert – monetization)
  1. Selling is very much a numbers game needing perseverance and patience. But doing even simple things to increase sales can make a difference because so few people [in small businesses] do so.
  1. People go to Pinterest to buy things (but can’t) which may explain why you can now buy on Instagram. Twitter and Facebook are not designed for sales (but Facebook ads work for small businesses)
  1. Twitter is useful for sharing your expertise, Facebook is social (for building your following), LinkedIn is good for business-to-business and ‘selling’ via Groups), YouTube can substantiate your business or build a business in its own right
  1. Measure what social media tools work best for your business, then focus on the one or two that are getting most engagement with your target audience
  1. Events can bring your contacts and (potential) customers together. “If you connect your contacts to each other, you connect them ever closer to you”
  1. DIY routes to making money. A commercial ‘how-to guide’ on YouTube is the entrepreneur’s dream – making money while you sleep. Putting on paid-for in-person training courses can both generate additional income and increase demand for your core services
  1. An ABC of plate spinning to keep you sane in business – Administration (having control – money in, money out) Business development (attracting new customers) Customer care (keeping your customers and building loyalty)

Further start-up support: www.enterprisenation.com  and www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business

The first 21 StartUp tips: https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/enterprise-essentials-21-tips-from-startup-2018/

Enterprise essentials #1 – 21 tips from StartUp 2018

It’s January 13th 2018 and hundreds of entrepreneurs both young and old (but mainly young) are gathered in East London to consider anything and everything to do with starting a business. A great day with loads on on offer – so ‘pick and mix’ was the way to go.

The event was also refreshingly free from business bullshit and the hero-worshipping of edgy, sweary entrepreneurs spouting ‘awesome’, ‘cool’ and ‘disruptive’ all day. In no particular order (as they say on Strictly) I picked up the following tips by keeping my ears pinned back during the day.

  1. The recommended maximum number of questions and completion time for market research surveys is 22 questions and seven minutes (after that there’s a severe drop in response rates)
  2. Success in starting  business is largely down to a combination of ideas, skills and persistence, and lot of them – 90% of business start-ups fail within a year, 47% of retail businesses survive for 10 years
  3. Making products is not business, selling products is the business
  4. Focus on your passions, understand the core mission of your new business, be clear why you are different from other similar businesses (the competition)
  5. The difference between masculine and feminine marketing is the difference between ‘hard sell’ and ‘heart sell’
  6. Talk to as many people as possible- share your ideas freely. Unless your product is technical, forget patents (they’re expensive) and concentrate on protecting your trade mark
  7. Get your products out there as soon as possible – stop talking, start selling – just do it!
  8. Write down 50 people you think should know about your new business, decide how you’re going to reach them, and tell them
  9. “Success is selling something that doesn’t come back to people who do” A cliche, but true.
  10. Work hard, be nice to people, do your research, know your customers, be prepared to sacrifice sleep
  11. Start small, never stop learning and the business will grow with you
  12. When you start out in business think about your definition of success – is it making money, making a difference, or what?
  13. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
  14. In your business pitch start with the pain for your customers
  15. When you start business planning, list all your assumptions and test each one [before someone else asks you awkward questions]
  16. Mentors are great for keeping you on track and keeping you going, particularly at start-up stage
  17. The highs and lows are more extreme when starting your own business [rather than working in someone else’s]
  18. Know your strengths and [particularly] your weaknesses when starting a business
  19. Tough times at start-up stage can be a springboard for great business development
  20. Understand your brand, focus on the core of your mission, follow your passion, talk to lots of people
  21. Starting a business takes three times as long as you think it will

Further support from www.enterprisenation.com and http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business

 

Trade secrets – no competition means no market

What they don’t tell you about starting a business

“If you are genuinely ground-breaking there may be no competition, but if you think that then probably you’re either looking at product and not demand, or there is no demand.” Source unknown

When someone says they have a unique business idea, they probably haven’t done enough research. It’s very unlikely that a business idea has not been thought of by someone else, but that’s not a problem in itself.

New entrepreneurs often feel they have to be original to be successful – they take the marketing phrase ‘unique selling point’ literally. But a business set up in a competitive field – a coffee shop for example – at least knows there’s a market for the products on offer.

Coffee shop promotion by the biggest brands is also promotion for coffee retailers everywhere. This means the independents don’t need to establish demand and, while creating brand recognition and winning customers from the big players is harder, creating a better offer than other providers is the same for most start-ups.

How the independents are taking on the chain coffee shops  https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2017/nov/14/move-over-starbucks-the-indie-coffee-shops-battling-it-out-on-the-high-street

For other Trade Secrets in this series, go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/trade-secrets

Enterprise essential – Price is only one factor in the buying process

There are 101 reasons why someone does or doesn’t buy a product or service, and price is just one of them. Don’t get hung up on pricing but, if you think it’s particularly important for your offering and/or customer group, test that theory before you go too far with a bit of research!

 

Enterprise essential – Know your market

As a social enterprise – meeting the needs of your clients/ customers/ service-users is paramount. Make sure you know what those needs are, and that there is both a ‘gap in the market and a market in the gap’. Market research has to be more than talking to friends or going with a hunch – your evidence should stand up to tough scrutiny.