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Now that we‘ve thought about ideas for entrepreneurship and new trends, it‘s time to bring in the next key component of entrepreneurship, namely the customer. The customer is absolutely key to successful entrepreneurship, but nevertheless, some entrepreneurs make the mistake of taking their eye off the customer.
Remember our juggling metaphor. We need to keep both the idea and the customer in the air and we need to touch each one regularly. Constantly making sure that the idea is of value to the customer.
Remember also that both the idea and the customer can and will change. You will refine your idea as you move through the process of entrepreneurship. You may also decide to serve a different type of customer from what you started out with. And, of course, your customers might change too, as new trends emerge.
So let‘s think about your customers. What is the customer‘s problem, that you hope to solve? Who exactly are your customers? What does a typical customer look like? What do they think? Where are your customers? How many are there? How will your customers view your product or service? How will they believe it is different from what is already available?
There are a lot of questions you should be asking yourself at this point. It may be tempting to answer these questions too broadly and think that everyone – or at least a whole lot of people – could be your customers. But it‘s usually better to focus on a small, but well-defined, group of customers who have specific characteristics. Those characteristics will help sharpen your thinking. Most successful businesses started off by targeting one narrow group of customers and then growing to address several larger groups. And because you can‘t possibly answer all these questions once and for all before developing and launching your product or service, it usually makes sense to get out there and talk to some prospective customers (the formal term for that is market research) and experiment (the formal term for that is prototyping or iterative development).
For now, let‘s focus on the customer. Without customers there is no business. Your business has to provide customers with a valuable product or service at an acceptable price. If your prospective customers do not believe your product or service is valuable or they feel the price is not fair, they will not buy from you. Customer validation of your idea for a new product or service is crucial and there are some very useful tools available for doing that in a systematic fashion. One such tool is an experiment board or validation board.
I‘m now going to ask you to watch a presentation recorded a few years ago, where I explain the phases of competition and the importance of experience. The presentation was given at a conference for designers. When you‘ve watched that, we‘ll come back to the present and talk about the third key component of entrepreneurship, which is meaning.
*Transcript not available for insert video*
I hope you enjoyed my presentation on designing services. The key message was that to design a successful service, you need to design a compelling customer experience. To create an experience there needs to be some kind of meaning. So, a product can have meaning or symbolic value – remember my story of my mouse (which I still have, by the way). And similarly, a service can be more than a service if it creates an experience.
Of course, you could develop a product or service that has no particular meaning – and for some products and services meaning may not make any sense – but in most cases your odds of success are much better if you provide meaning. Think of it as wrapping your product or service in meaning.
So we now have the third core component of entrepreneurship, meaning. As an entrepreneur, you now have three things to keep in the air and think about regularly, your idea, your customer and the meaning you provide.
At this point in the entrepreneurship process, it might be a good idea to spend some time online. Google your idea or words that could describe your idea. Does it look like someone else is already offering a similar product or service? Google your description of meaning. Is someone else also trying to provide this meaning? If it looks like you have some competitors – and you probably do – you need to think about how your product or service will be different from what‘s already out there. What is your competitive advantage?

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