Diagram of 2 talk boxes with questions marks in them with title "You Didn't Ask"

You didn’t ask

Communication, Strategy

I recently talked with a frustrated business owner. They mentioned how they did not understand a certain result when their motives were to build into the community. “We just wanted to bring something that we didn’t have in our area; something really great to the people in our area” was the sentiment offered. Their idea hadn’t worked as planned regardless of their intentions. 

To their surprise and great dislike I ask ‘ …did you ask if people wanted this?’

I have seen businesses fail. One that I have been part of in fact. In the midst of doing what you, your partners, and maybe even a small segment of your customers think is great or needed in your area/industry, are you asking the question ‘is this also wanted?’.  Without a buy-in and customer base (and their willingness to pay for a product or service), a business idea becomes an offering without a crowd, and very quickly, ceases to exist. 

I’m certain in each town or community and in each industry there are things, places, initiative that someone would identify as missing. Ones that might fill a gap or bring a elevated presence, serve a different crowd or offer a higher quality, shorter lead time, etc.. They all hold potential, but only so far as what the landscape actually holds. 

Here are three hard things to consider:

1. When you do ask, people will lie.

No one wants to be that friend or acquaintance  who says ‘that’s not a good idea’. We rather want to be supportive, and in doing so, we give misinformation to those gathering what they see as their potential for success. 

2. What might be a great idea, might not be a great idea here.

As much as it pains me to say, your local community has to be both considered and not in building a business. If you rely heavily on the community to support your business, you have to understand their habits, their limits, their wants. In certain industries, what is acceptable here is different than what is acceptable elsewhere, including price, service, expectation etc. 

3. What was a good idea then, might not be now.

This is especially true of retail markets where we can flood a market. If everyone has your one of a kind product, and only one is needed in each home, your customer base dries up. There is only so much demand and that has to be followed to realign the ongoing goals and habits of the business. Maybe you bought 10k of product x last quarter, but this quarter the habits of the public typically change, it would then not be wise to order that amount this time around and so on. If your geographic location holds no bearing over your product or service, there will be other questions you’ll still need to consider.

This sounds a bit elemental, but really ask yourself… have I asked my target market what they actually want?  Once you’ve done that, ask how, and then ask when, or where, or how much.  Then change accordingly. 

This will likely come with a (large) slice of humble pie and maybe the swallowing of some pride, but if you want success and longevity for your business, asking yourself will be worth it every time.