Develop your core product or service – Part 1

For entrepreneurs who are just starting out, developing the core product or service is a critical early step in business planning. What should you sell? How should you position it? Who should you sell to? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you to generate more sales with an offering that is highly targeted to meet the needs of your clientele.

Rather than opening your business with a haphazard set of products or services for sale, use this concept to help you create a refined suite of offerings that your customers will want to buy.

THE INTERSECTION OF NEED AND INDUSTRY
Think of every product or service as being the intersection between a need (or problem or challenge or want) and an industry. As illustrated below:

It’s entirely possible that you might solve a few needs or serve a few industries. Find the intersection between the two and develop your core offering from there. To illustrate, I’ll use my own business as an example:

STEP ONE: IDENTIFY NEEDS
The needs my clients have are briefly summarized as “content” (they need compelling articles, blogs, ebooks, etc. that position them as experts and help them to sell to their customers) and they need “content strategy” (a strategic approach to the creation and dissemination of their content).

STEP TWO: IDENTIFY INDUSTRIES
But I don’t just serve every industry and neither should you. Instead, I’ve identified just 3 industries that have this need who I can serve with excellence: The B2B industry (like entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups, business coaches, etc.), the financial industry (like banks, stockbrokers, etc.), and the real estate industry (including Realtors and real estate investors).

THIS IS WHERE YOUR CORE OFFERING WILL BE
At the intersection of those needs and industries is my core offering: A comprehensive, strategic approach to compelling, high value content.

STEP THREE: DEVELOP YOUR CORE OFFERING
Now that I know at what intersection my core offering “resides”, I can spend some time brainstorming about what I could sell at this intersection.

  • Writing
  • Coaching
  • Consulting
  • Training
  • Workshops
  • Editing
  • Speaking
  • Books
  • Interactive tools
  • Magazine articles
  • Ebooks
  • Fee-based “velvet rope” community
  • Affiliate programs
  • … etc.

I don’t actually offer all of these services, but rather I’m showing you that the next step is to brainstorm the possibilities of different products and services to sell. Once you’ve brainstormed a few, you can narrow it down to a handful that you feel confident delivering.

STEP FOUR: DEVELOP YOUR CORE OFFERING
Create your offering by selecting a few of the brainstormed ideas and offering them for sale in your business. Market your offering to serve the needs of the industry (or industries) you’ve identified. Refine the core offering, get feedback, and refine it again.

BUILDING IN THE FUTURE
As your business grows, there are three ways that you can build your core offerings.

The first way is to simply build “upwards”, adding more products or services from the list you created above. Compared to the other two ways, this way is the easiest and (usually) the most cost-efficient way to grow. That’s because your marketing is already positioning you in the marketplace and these are useful add-ons to offer.

The second way to grow using your core product or service is by solving another need of the current industries you service. I’ve added a line here to illustrate…

In my case, content strategy was an addition (content was the original need) that I’ve grown into as my experience broadened and I sensed my own clients needing more. While adding another need to your intersection can broaden your core offering, it can be challenging for you if the second need is too “distant” from the first need. I’d recommend that the needs you solve should be closely related.

The third way to grow is to solve the same needs but of a new industry, as illustrated…

For example, if I decided that I should serve the content and content strategy needs of florists, I would need to broaden my core offering so that it was relevant to them.

MORE THOUGHTS

  • Avoid trying to solve too many needs at once or serving too many industries at once. You’ll do far better by focusing: Just a couple of related needs and a couple of related industries at most. Someday, you might consider branching out (or starting another business altogether) but start simply.
  • If you’re selling but not getting anywhere, take a long, long look at the needs you’ve outlined. Are they actually needs? Are they felt strongly? Are they needs of the industry? The need for content might be a significant need in some industries but it might be completely irrelevant in others. (I don’t write for other freelance writers, for example).
  • Develop a core offering of just one or two things and do those things with excellence. Later, build upwards as your first step before you add more needs or industries.

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