Yesterday a young man came to me with an idea for a web service. This happens quite quite a bit, probably once or twice a month. As a matter of fact this particular idea I have heard many times, but he had a little twist that made for a nice niche.
We grabbed a room at 100State and he fumbled through his powerpoint which happened to freeze and restart it self. He worked his way through his pitch. Out of respect to him and because it doesn't matter for the sake of this post I won't go into detail on his idea. I made my usual speech about finding a niche then we proceeded to pick apart his idea to cut away anything outside of his core focus. When this was all said and done I asked him "What are next steps?"
To which he replied "Well I am going to start looking for a developer..."
"No!" I cut him off right there. A developer is the last thing you need. Don't get me wrong I love developers, I am a developer. As a developer and a startup junkie I have been approached by too many idea guys that haven't bothered to validate or make sale number one. Validate your idea first. Make your first couple of pre-sales then use the money from that to build your product.
Typically I give whomever came to me with an idea some advice and tell them to contact me in a couple of weeks. Out of hundreds of these types of encounters this has only happened twice but those two are killing it. So today I am testing a different approach with my Hustle Bootcamp.
Enter the Hustle Bootcamp:
That is what today is about, getting those first couple of sales under your belt. The first sale is the toughest, the second a little easier and so on. So today I am going to run him through what I would like to call my Hustle Bootcamp. We are going to see if he has the chutzpah to make this happen.
I am going to march this kid up to his potential customer and send him into the lions den with nothing but a Wix site and his smile to make a sale. When that one doesn't work I will throw him in front another 10 or so. His ego will get beaten and bruised but it will hone his skill and break that fear of rejection. All along he will be finding out what is wrong with his idea.
Validation is looking at your business as an experiment. In business you put together a deal: Buy X for $Y.
Then you try and sell it: via a landing page, over the phone, face to face, etc. Last night I purposed a little experiment using instagram that would require zero development time and less than $20 to set up.
Last nights Homework:
I told him to take that long powerpoint presentation and convert it into a pre-sale page. Go to Wix.com create a free site then go to IWantMyName.com pick out a domain that is easy to remember for less than $15 dollars. Buy it and have it redirect to your wix page. This will give us something to test with and just enough added credibility to make it real to the customer.
Focus on your early adopters:
He had already put together a list of his potential local customers. But how was he targeting them? By location, but that gives us no indicator of who is most likely to buy first? We need to find the guy hungry for what we are selling. Since Instagram is our medium lets look for any companies on that list that already use instagram. This will save us the time of needing to explain 'What the hell is Instagram' to some sales manager dinosaur. These will be the customers we approach first.
Hone your pitch:
I read the first two words of his one page sales sheet "We are..." and stopped. I can't emphasize this enough: NO ONE CARES WHO YOU ARE!!!. If they are reading that the question is "What is the benefit to me? Why should I spend my precious time reading one more word if it doesn't make my life better in some way?". People are selfish, that is why no one besides your mom will read that sales sheet.
Find that pain, not that slight inconvenience, but that pain that has people screaming and shouting and cursing their maker. Find that pain "Have you ever (experienced pain x)" and be vivid. Express in detail the resulting injuries to them financially, physically, emotionally ext.
Then tell them in 2 sentences exactly how you fix that pain. Its that simple. You sure as hell better be able to actually deliver on that promise but it is really that simple.
Go in with a paper offer in hand:
Don’t go in there with an open ended offer or asking what they need. Go in there with a rock solid offer. Don’t get caught in the classic service salesman's dilemma, trying to craft a custom solution for their problem. Instead write down and have paper in hand with the details of the deal. If there are any variables make them simple fields to fill out on a form. Fields that,if we pull it off,will become fields on a website.
Don't forget to ask for feedback:
When pitching a new idea or product the first time there is almost 0% chance of success. Face it, but that is not a bad thing. When(not if) you get rejected that first time ask why? Why won't you buy? Then use that information to further craft the deal you are pitching. This is essential. If he makes a sale on his first pitch or even his second or third I will eat my hat. But these rejections are essential to craft the deal.
Manually Create the Value:
Assuming we get a couple of sales since we have no product to magically create the value he is selling we will need to do it manually today. His model is a two sided marketplace. When we have his customers we will now need to put together the other half of the marketplace. For today he will have to hustle his ass off. How quickly and efficiently can he connect his customers with the people his customers want to sell to?
It is going to be an exciting day. He will get much further with his idea by hitting the streets then he could possibly locked up in a closet building an app. Once we have a valid idea the technical side will be a piece of cake. If you don't belive this is possible check out this interview with my friend Mike Tecku who started his Photo Booth business by preselling the hell out of it.
I’ll let you know how todays project goes.