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Thu, Sept. 19

SCORE: Tailor your small business for success

Question: After several years of saving and planning, I’m almost ready to launch my small business. I believe what I’m offering is much needed in this area, but I still need some direction. Would SCORE provide some input into how to find my ideal clients and how to compete with other competitors?

Answer: For any business to succeed, achieving product/market fit is a primary goal. But verifying that your product or service meets a strong market need and can stand up to competitors is certainly not an exact science, nor does it typically happen overnight. Building momentum in a market requires patience and comes with no guarantees as customers’ needs, regulatory landscapes, and competitive pressures change over time.

“Consider that your business will only succeed if it adds real value for the user. In this case ‘value’ means that businesses or individuals will understand they need or want it enough to pay you a price that will give you profit and success,” advises SCORE mentor Bob Goedjen. “Start by understanding your target market’s need and then whether you will be a better solution than your competition.”

Despite the uncertainty and risk you face when starting a business, there are some actions you can take to increase your success in accomplishing product/market fit:

Do your homework to understand your customers’ current needs and anticipate what they’ll need in the future. Research by spending time with prospective customers, read industry blogs and print publications, attend industry tradeshows and webinars, and seek out a professional in your industry who might serve as a mentor as you develop your products and/or services.

Focus on one primary and critical value proposition. It’s impossible to be all things to all customers. By homing in on what’s most important to your target customers, analyzing significant trends in your industry, and identifying where competitors are falling short in solving customers’ problems, you can deliver value out of the gate. If you’re solving a main problem for your customers from the start, they will be more patient and wait for you to add other features and options to meet other needs.

Listen. Learn. Adapt.

Have a business plan, but be open to change as you listen to feedback and ideas from your early customers. This can help you improve your products or services. And be prepared to adapt your systems and processes to make your business more viable and sustainable.

Will Caldwell, Co-founder and CEO of Dizzle, an information site for realtors, gives similar advice as Goedjen, but also points out that it is important to:

Build credibility. The best way to build credibility is to offer up a story. Customers want to know how your product or service is going to make sense for them, and the easiest way to do this is to inject their needs into your brand’s story.

“For instance,” says Caldwell, “I grew up in the real-estate industry, and my mom was tired of clients relentlessly contacting her for a local handyman recommendation. We figured it was easier to say, “download my app” instead of texting this info back and forth multiple times a day. Turns out there were a lot of other agents facing this problem -- setting the foundation for Dizzle to grow.”

Goedjen summarizes that, “Good planning and research will pay off in money/costs avoided and a far better marketing strategy and tactics that will resound in your customers’ minds. It is not ‘how’ you bring your product or service but rather what the benefits are in the language the customer understands.”

Sign up today for the next Business Planning Workshop; five Wednesdays, April 19 to May 17. Only $90 for two people from the same business at Yavapai College. Go to Questions? Call 928-778-7438 email

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