Reprinted from The Entrepreneurial Mind. Original article here.
By Dr. Jeff Cornwall, the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont University.
“You are gnats! You are like annoying little gnats flying around in the face of consumers.”
This is a message that I consistently tell aspiring first-time entrepreneurs.
Why the harsh words? Most first-time entrepreneurs have so much enthusiasm that they can become blinded to the reality of the challenges that every new business faces.
I tell them to think about the last few hours. How many small businesses did you go past without even really noticing them? What about all of the products in the convenience store where you got gas this morning?
How many of the service businesses that had logos and advertisements on the sides of their trucks did you actually pay attention to?
Many of those products on the shelves are the result of someone’s entrepreneurial dreams. A small-business owner spent hours agonizing over the business name and a logo, and yet most passersby barely notice it.
New business owners need to adjust their expectations. While starting a new venture is one of the most important and exciting things you’ve ever done, to the market your product is just one more in an already overcrowded sea.
So, new business owners need to get a sense of urgency. They need to develop a plan to become more than just another annoying little gnat!
To successfully launch a new business the entrepreneur needs a clear entry strategy, which is a plan for how the business is going to gain the attention of the market and start attracting customers.
If your business is going to take existing market share away from established businesses, you are going to have to do something better, faster or cheaper than the competition. Give people a compelling reason to change their buying habits.
Start small: Consider a niche strategy. This simply means the entrepreneur finds a small part of a market that’s not being served or that has been significantly under-served. It gives the entrepreneur a safer market to conquer a bit hidden away from established businesses.
But establishing a niche requires that you find ways to let the customers in that niche market know that your new business is now open and is ready to fill their specific unmet need.
Getting the market’s attention for a completely new product that has the potential to impress the mass market is the most difficult and expensive market entry. It requires extensive investment in advertising and other forms of promotion to build awareness for your new product and to educate the public about the benefits it offers.
No matter which type of entry strategy you pursue — and as excited as you may be about your new business — remember this: If you build it they may, or they may not, come.
You will need to work hard to find the most effective means to attract those initial customers.