A Sobering Moment (or, “Customer Needs”)

As an entrepreneur and innovator, it’s very easy to get caught up in formulating great ideas and developing a powerful vision. So easy, in fact, that we, as business people, often forget the fundamentals of what we are supposed to be about. I currently find myself in a place where I have brought together several great ideas that I would like to pursue. But the reality is that there is a gap between what I would like to be doing and what I can actually offer to the market. In an attempt to bridge that gap, I have developed a strategy for building a portfolio to demonstrate my experience. However, I received a sobering email from a close friend today reminding me of the limitations I face. I am reminded that my portfolio-building strategy is based on expecting something from my market. I expect that a core group of my target market will accept that I can bring certain things to the table without my being able to demonstrate that ability. I am prepared to present certain things to the market without confirming that my market will actually have a use for what I am able to present.

What it comes down to is that I haven’t taken the time to get to know my customers. I have a vague idea of what needs they might have, but I haven’t really gotten to know everything I can about them. I began with a wrong presumption: I began with an idea and tried to fit customers to that. Rather, I need to begin with a set of customers and determine what exactly their needs are. From there, I can build a business that will meet those needs.

On that note, my customer avatar is a young entrepreneur, perhaps high school/university level, who has a great idea but isn’t sure how to get started with it. Perhaps he has an idea for a product but doesn’t know how to go about producing it. Maybe she has an idea that she has started taking action on, but doesn’t know how to structure a “business” around the key idea. He or she is creative and passionate about this idea. What are the needs of this young person? Can he or she find enough support in online forums, through free, easily accessible information, or from non-profit agencies? Or is there so much information available that this young person doesn’t know where to begin? ┬áIf you have been in that place (as a young entrepreneur) or know someone who is or has been, and have feedback on what those needs are, your advice or suggestions are welcome!