Founder and CEO of Empowering Confident Youth, an educational startup focused on a transformative approach to character education in K-12.
Having a sense of passion and enthusiasm is essential to fueling and sustaining your new business venture, especially in uncertain times like these. However, more often than not, that same sense of excitement can be a detriment to your success.
As you rush to launch your business, you may be forging ahead without having captured enough feedback from potential customers and clients. This includes important feedback about your price, promotion and product offering. Sure, every page of your marketing deck screams sales, revenue and growth, but you won’t truly know how slow or fast your business will succeed until you actually test something.
The lack of patience to test a minimum viable product or pilot of your services before launching is exactly why many startups and entrepreneurs get stuck. They dream of quickly launching their business and growing at a rapid rate without taking the important step of testing out their new idea. They skip the testing phase and don’t spend enough time getting their product or service into the hands of potential customers for feedback.
Your idea may be amazing, but if you can’t find your audience, your tribe or the people willing to spend their hard-earned money or annual budget on your new business, the following advice is for you.
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The case for testing your new business in your own backyard
The World Wide Web is filled with promise, hope and potential for founders and creators. It’s extremely exciting to watch entrepreneurs build out their brand while designing a shiny new website and hoping that getting noticed will allow them to eventually reach clients and customers in every corner of the world. Scratching their heads, they can’t figure out why they aren’t as successful as they thought they would be.
I write from experience. While building an online business can help you scale your startup and enable you to reach customers and clients in every country, the reality is that tapping into your local community first to test drive and tweak your business model is the smartest strategy for many new companies. You can do this by:
• Using networking tools like LinkedIn, email campaigns and face-to-face meetings with customers and clients you believe will benefit from your idea.
• Meeting with business owners in your local city and gifting them a complimentary product in return for feedback and possibly a testimonial.
• Offering your products or services for free to customers and organizations that can help you build brand awareness.
This is precisely what I am doing with a new venture I started at the beginning of the pandemic, called Empowering Confident Youth (ECY). ECY is a new and innovative social-emotional learning (SEL) program (based on CASEL’s framework) designed to help young people develop their individual identity and confidence while also guiding them to find their passion and purpose in life.
After a year of development, the first place I went to test was my children’s school, Holden Christian Academy, in Holden, Massachusetts. The school offered a pilot of ECY as an elective, and students took part in a workshop about building confidence with purpose. It was well received by both students and the staff.
Just like many of you, I didn’t know where to begin until I started doing research in my own backyard — the greater Boston area. One way I’ve done this is by reaching out to local schools, community centers and after-school programs with a free offer to help teachers, administrators, parents and caregivers in a time of hybrid learning.
It doesn’t matter what you are in the middle of creating. The best way to begin is by networking and sharing your ideas with your local community. Find your market on a regional level and grow it from there to build testimonials, receive valuable feedback, assist in pricing and target promotions and tweak the design and messaging to help find new clients and customers from coast to coast.
Another benefit to backyard testing is discovering clients and customers from different market segments. I began by sharing my new idea with everyone I knew, including members of the local YMCA, which has a very diverse population. It turns out that working with the YMCA of Central Massachusetts sparked an entirely new target customer and strategic partnership idea for me — one that gives me exposure and new students for the program.
You can evaluate the viability of your new business idea in many different ways. For example, you can create paid/incentive surveys, work with market research mobile apps or participate in consignment testing as described above. It pays to get real-world feedback before launching a new product.
You won’t know how to improve your new products and services, how much to charge, or how to promote them unless you begin to test them with individual customers and clients. The most efficient way to do this is with potential fans, followers, customers and clients in your local area.
Build it. Test it. Listen to consumer feedback. Iterate. And then go to market.