If you want to start a successful business, don’t waste your time and money by starting with a product idea or business plan! There is a better way…

Let’s state the obvious first:

The key factor for success in most markets today is not, whether you can build the product! Most businesses’ success hinges on whether you can find and reach customers who will buy!

Okay, so you should not start building the product first, but you should rather start marketing it first. But why then not start a business with a product idea? Well, starting with a product idea is like having an answer to a question that nobody asked! It’s having a solution to a problem nobody may have! Even if you have a solution for a problem that people actually have, that does not guarantee that

  1. enough people have the problem,
  2. it’s a top priority problem for them,
  3. your solution is better than all other solutions and
  4. they’re willing to pay for it.

I hope you can see how hard it can get to find the right problem and the right customer fitting your product and business idea! So is there a better way? Yes, there is!

The simple solution is to let people ask a question before you answer! Let them tell you their top priority problems, so that you can tackle one of them with an awesome product and business idea!

The proven way to build a successful product and business is:

  1. Find an audience you want to serve
  2. Let them talk about their most pressing problems
  3. Pick a problem and generate ideas for solutions
  4. Select a solution and build a business around it

This is – in shamelessly condensed form – what methodologies like Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Business Model Generation, Customer Development or Sales Safari tell you. If you want more detail on how to flesh out these steps, feel free to ask!

For determining whether a problem is worth solving economically (step 3) and whether a solution can be a viable business (step 4), I found the Business Model Canvas to be an indispensable tool! In my opinion it is the best tool to create a business plan that actually works. The Business Model Canvas helps you to

  1. focus on multiple business model options instead of one,
  2. let’s you move quickly and
  3. gets you thinking about the whole business model instead of only the product.

If you want to brush up on this wonderful tool, feel free to check out this Udemy course on the Business Model Canvas (Basics). I use the Canvas with most of our clients to help them steer away from just product ideas and towards thinking about successful business models!