At the beginning of your startup journey, the most important question you need to answer about your business is “why.” If you can convincingly answer this question, the answers to all your other questions will fall into place. If you can’t answer this question, nothing else will fall into place.
A lot of time, energy and money could be saved if more entrepreneurs asked and answered this question first before starting a business. Potential investors ask it. So do potential customers.
Why should I buy your product, widget, app or service? Answer that in a compelling way and you’ll earn customers…even if you don’t have a product. Some startup marketers advise companies to do just that; get buying customers before the product is made. To do that, you’ll need to have compelling why.
Why should I invest in your company is the question any investor will ask. If the why of your product is compelling to customers, it will be compelling to investors.
Answering that why question will lead you to what. What are the components of your minimum viable product? Those components should be the same things you explained in your why. This sure makes creating that first product easier, doesn’t it?
Once your product is ready for sale, the next question is who. Who is going to buy your product? The people to whom your why is compelling is the answer. Your why is compelling because it solves their problem. Seth Godin said in a speech promoting Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, “the future belongs to those that can do two things: Lead and Solve Interesting Problems.” Fortunately, this world is full of interesting problems. Knowing who to market and sell to helps make your marketing plan fall into place.
The way the American economy is transforming, more and more people are going to be self-employed. They are going to be business owners or solopreneurs. Success will come to those who are able to identify problems worth solving and have a clear vision of why their unique product/service is the right solution for the problem.
Figuring out your why isn’t necessarily easy. It takes research of products, competitors and the marketplace. It takes consumer research. It can take change. What you wind up with may not be what you originally envisioned. Your why will also take time. You may be able to figure out bits and pieces here and there quickly, but it will take time to put the whole picture together. In the end that time taken will be worth it, because it will help your what and who go through a lot smoother.
Let’s consider the example of Google. When it launched, there were hundreds of other search engines out there. Yahoo!, Ask, Excite are just a few to think of. Why did Google become the market leader? Because it delivered relevant search results. Google’s entire mission has been to do that; provide relevant search results. But that’s not how it makes money. Some people think Google makes money selling ads. It does. But selling ads is not the biggest part of it’s business. Selling consumer behavior is the biggest part of its business. Google focused on one thing; providing the most relevant search results possible. That led to its growth, its success and domination of the search vertical. As social media is becoming more relevant to people’s online search behavior, Google has branched out into other products. Some have failed because a different company’s why was more compelling. But others have succeeded in amazing ways.
So if you want to create a startup business, invest the time needed to figure out your why. Once you’ve got it, all the other pieces of your business will fall into place.