Before you give me grief for telling you something you may not like to here, hear me out.
Tell me if you relate to this.
Yesterday I was at the barbershop getting my haircut, and, as usual I started to look around and take in the barbershop as an entrepreneurial endeavour (hint that you’re weird No 1).
I’m spotting the number of people waiting (7). The number of chairs (3). The number of barbers (2). The cost for a haircut $22.
And I’m doing the maths…
Haircut takes 20 – 25 mins.
2 haircuts in an hour.
16 haircuts a day.
$22 for a haircut.
$44 per hour revenue.
$352 per day.
Before long, I had his business franchised, an IPO in the pipeline, and a slew of barbers working 8 hours a day!
Do you do this?
(Not normal sign No 2)
So I started thinking about all the ways technology could improve my barber’s business. “Software is taking over the world!” I thought. As I sat there, my ever thinning locks getting cut, I began to create software (in my mind) that would eliminate perceived inefficiencies, save him hundreds of dollars a month, and increase sales exponentially.
Then once I have the perfect software mapped out in my head for his business (abnormal sign No 3) I start chatting.
Me: “So, have you ever tried using scheduling software for your appointments?”
Barber: “Oh man, I’ve tried like 10 of them. Terrible! They’re all terrible.”
Me: “Really? None were helpful. Why?”
Barber: “Almost all my bookings happen on the phone, or via text message. There’s nothing I’ve found that’s more efficient than looking at a paper calendar on the wall, and finding them a time slot. If I have to walk over to the computer, I’ve already wasted too much time. I have 5 seconds to look, and determine when I have a spare block. All the software I’ve tried just gets in the way.”
All the plans in my head, for incredible barbering software, were crushed, in a single conversation.
This is the power of getting out and actually listening to people, people who would actually use the software or widget you’re thinking of creating.
Here’s the hard part about building, and marketing, products: we have to commit ourselves to the best solution for the customer EVEN when it’s not the most challenging thing to build. Here’s a scary thought: in some cases, a customer might not NEED more software!
If we’re really going to help people, and we’re really going to improve their lives, we have to be open to all possible solutions.
- Sometimes the best solution for a customer will be to write a book.
- Sometimes, yes, they’ll need good, simple software that solves their problem.
- And sometimes, like my barber, maybe what they really need is a better paper calendar, that helps them book appointments more efficiently.
Really, we won’t know until we listen. If you want to get good at marketing and sales, you’re going to need to get good at really listening. Throw away your preconceived notions, and open your ears to what your target market has to say.
You can do this in direct conversation, like the one I had with my barber. However, it’s also helpful to go to places where you can be a silent observer.
Luckily, the Internet has lots of places like this, especially if your target audience is online. Go to forums, subreddits, Facebook groups, and Quora, and listen to what people talk about.
Here’s what you’re looking for: what are people always complaining about? What pain gets brought up over and over again? Once you find that, you’ve found a genuine problem that people may actually pay for and use.
That’s how a business gets built, by solving someone’s problems.
Not by adding complexity to a business for the sake of tech masturbation 😀
Remember you’re weird and not like most people, and it will help you talk to your customers and learn what they want – not what you want them to have.
As for my barber, I gave him a $10 tip. Not for the great haircut, but for the valuable lesson he gave me…. Now just think – if he could systemise the tipping system, he’d make a killing!