The worst thing to do when starting a company or nonprofit is to make assumptions about your product or your audience. Assumptions, when they are not verified to be factual, will later come back to bite you in the butt.
In middle school, I modified nerf guns. I spent whole afternoons unscrewing these little plastic toys and making changes to the interior. After a while, I decided to make a business out of it and modify nerf guns for all of my friends, charging them only one dollar for each modification. I was out of business after two modifications.
I was out of business because I had failed to ask the essential questions before I started selling my service. I had no idea who I was selling to, what the demand would be for my service, or even how much time I had to do these modifications.
So whether you are a business owner, an entrepreneur, or just a student wanting to start something new in one of your circles, here are the valuable questions to consider.
- Who is your audience? Be specific as you possibly can. Simply saying that your audience is adults is not enough. Where are they from? What do they do? How much money do they earn? Where do they tend to gather? What nationality are they? What do they want? etc.
- What are you offering? This should be something deeper than what your product is, it should be the impact that you are trying to have on your customer. Are you trying to save them time, give them status, or allow them to have fun?
- How are you going to get there? What is your channel going to be for reaching your audience? What things are you going to leverage?
- What kind of relationship are you having with your customers? This question determines what the goal is for your reputation within the public eye. How do you want your customers to see you or your brand?
- What are customers willing to pay for? After knowing your audience, the next step is to know what they would pay money for. Hopefully based on questions one and two you have an idea for this question.
- What resources do you need to run your company? How much time, money, space, and labor do you need to run this company? Where are you going to get these resources?
- What are you going to do? How are you going to structure and run your company to be the most effective at achieving your goal?
- Who are you partnering with? What other companies, individuals, or groups would be interested in helping you build your business?
- What are you going to pay for? What is it going to cost? How much marketing, testing, etc are you going to pay for?
Strong companies always have clear answers to each of these questions. However, keep in mind that the answers to these questions may change over time as you get into your business. Being flexible and learning to identify changes to these questions will be one of your greatest assets.