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Building your own business based on your passion, your ideas, and your drive is a beautiful thing. It’s a personal endeavour and you’re building more than a business. You’re building success on your own terms and the belief that your ideas and your dreams have merit. But how do you refine your idea to gain customers and ultimately sales? That’s really the million-dollar question for any entrepreneur.

The first thing to do is gain clarity around your product or service. What exactly are you selling? You can get really creative here, and in fact, I encourage you to freely brainstorm all the ideas you have to develop a killer product or service to bring to market. Every idea is fair game at this stage so don’t judge anything that comes to mind.

In my experience, this doesn’t all happen at once either. You’ll find ideas come to you at the most unexpected times. Be prepared for this to happen and have a way to record them wherever and whenever they come to you. Personally, I use the notes app on my phone and record them there, but I’ve had clients that send themselves emails, record voice notes, or simply write ideas in a notepad they carry with them everywhere. Whatever works for you is what you should do. Just make sure you do something because the reality is that the ideas can be fleeting if you don’t record them and there’s nothing worse than trying to remember what you thought of and not being able to put your finger on it. 

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These ideas can be the pivot point for your product or service. They could be what differentiates you from your competitors and gives you a leg up over what others are offering. It’s important to accept all the ideas at this stage regardless of how far-fetched or simple they may seem. Every idea can be refined or expanded, and every idea is worth consideration. Be open and accepting, and record everything. Trust me.

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Next, figure out who you’re targeting with your idea, or who will buy whatever it is you’re selling. You can’t be everything to everyone, so narrow your focus and develop an avatar or persona of your ideal customer. Identify their demographic, where they hang out, what they do for a living, and why they need your product or service. 

Getting up close and personal with your ideal customer does two very important things. 

  1. It helps you understand exactly who they are and what they are looking for. 
  2. It shapes your marketing approach so you are talking directly to your ideal target audience. 

Then, once you have the skeleton of your idea and know who you’re ideal customer is, establish the need for what you are selling and where the gap in the current marketplace exists.

Where does your ideal customer currently go to get what they need that is comparable to your idea? The intent here is to find the gap and refine your idea to it. Check out who offers something similar to what you’ll be selling and dig into what they do. What is their product or service offering? What do they do well and where do you think they’re lacking? How much do they charge and what is included in the price? This will give you insight into how you can refine your product or service in order to gain market share. 

You want to create something that offers a different approach, perspective, or composition than what is already available to your target customers in order to attract them to your offer. That could be related to product design, service model, or even pricing, but something needs to be unique to what you do in order to draw customers. But remember not to be discouraged by competitors. Find what their business model, product, or service is missing and capitalize on it.

When you have all of this together and have built your product or service, in order for someone to buy what you’re selling you’ll need to set an appropriate price. Refer back to the competitor research you completed when you were digging into the market. You’ll remember that one of the questions I suggested you address at this stage is related to how much they charge and what is included in the price. This is valuable information as you consider your own pricing strategies. 

You’ll also want to consider some of the differentiating factors that come into play such as the cost of materials and your ability to fulfill the value proposition based on what your ideal customer is looking for. Then you’ll be equipped to tailor the products and services you offer to fill the existing gap in the market. 

Be crystal clear on the value you offer to your ideal customers. You want to be the business that comes to mind when they think “I need…” or “I want…” so clearly articulate why you are the obvious choice for your customers and anchor your price accordingly against existing competitors. 

Regardless if you are cheaper or more expensive than your competitors, you want to make sure your pricing model makes sense for your particular product or service. In other words, the benefit of whatever you’re selling needs to outweigh the cost, and it is imperative that your offer accentuates the advantages your customers will enjoy when they purchase from you. When you are able to effectively fill a need or solve a pain point for your ideal customer avatar, you are more likely to create demand for your offer and attract consistent sales. 

Developing an attractive product or service isn’t a simple or straightforward process. You’ll likely find yourself doing two-steps-forward, one-step-back a handful of times as you move through it. And sometimes it will flow easily and sometimes it’ll feel like you’ve been danced into a corner. My one caution is don’t give up when it gets hard. You’ve done hard things before. What you went through to get here was hard. Working a job that doesn’t meet you where you are at is hard. Staying there or going back to that will be HARD. Keep going. Two steps forward…

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