by Steve Hershberger, co-founder and CEO of SteadyServ Technologies
Most entrepreneurs expect obstacles on the path to bringing a product or service to market, but they might not know how to push past that final roadblock.
What I have learned is that, once you’ve put your stake in the ground and are committed to bringing your idea to market – you must ignore how difficult is going to be, how intensely hard of a journey it is going to be, and instead focus on what you can do today to get that first small victory towards progress.
Throughout my entrepreneurial journeys, I have found that there is a rule of three, or a three “phase gate” process I have followed that has allowed me to conquer the impossibilities in each new business venture. By focusing on one progression point at a time, it is easier to move through the go-to-market process without getting deterred by the thought of the difficult journey ahead:
1. Confirm your product or service works.
You can save a lot of time by identifying and perfecting an underlying technology or process.
For example, the first thing we had to address at SteadyServ was the underlying technology: in order to measure consumption levels for restaurants and bars, we had find the right way to fit a sensor on the bottom of a keg. Before we could provide data to our retailers using an app and cloud-based technology, we needed to make sure the sensor could communicate in the cloud.
It took a year to perfect the sensor, but we needed to start there and stay focused: all of our other plans hinged on its functionality.
Remember: your product or service needs to work before you can consider how you will sell it — or if people will purchase it.
2. Do people believe your product or service works?
When the functionality is in place, the next step is about significance. How do people value your product or service’s usefulness? What difference does it make in business, lifestyle and other contexts? At this stage, you need to think about the “why” related to your idea.
This stage is where customer feedback is critical. Securing customers—even beta users—and practicing delivery will help you see if you are on the right track. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate value, test, make adjustments and gauge customer reception. The information you gain could prove useful in developing case studies, which you can use to expand your customer base.
3. Do customers believe your technology, process or idea is part of the future?
Amazon laid the foundation for how we buy products online—and how they are fulfilled. The concept of dynamic pricing in an online market wasn’t accepted until Amazon showed us how, and now this model is now a standard.
Your business needs to convince consumers of a new way, something they feel sure will be part of their future. They are less likely to adopt something that may be outdated tomorrow.
The key for entrepreneurs is to stay focused on one phase at a time. You risk losing resources, time and people when you try to attack phases out of sequence, so start at square one and master it before moving forward. Small wins keep you and your team on track and more apt to overcome challenges in reaching your market.
Steve Hershberger is the co-founder and CEO of SteadyServ Technologies, a data-as-a-service company that delivers real-time performance intelligence on draft beer consumption and inventory. Prior SteadyServ, Hershberger co-founded and ran marketing agency Comblu, where he used his data analytics skills to build solutions that gave clients accurate metrics regarding word of mouth and ROI. An avid craft beer enthusiast, Hershberger also co-founded Indianapolis-based Flat12 Bierwerks in 2009.