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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Can you remember that Kevin Costner movie from 1989, "Field of Dreams"? It's about the Iowa corn farmer who, hearing voices, interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his fields.

I'm not sure whether every dot-com startup watched that film, but the phrase "Build it and they will come" seems to have passed into the collective entrepreneurial unconscious.

So when Jackie Bassett told me about her new book "So You Built It and They Didn't Come. Now What?", I just had to read it.

If there was ever a book that should be compulsory for entrepreneurs to read, this is it (and Guy Kawasaki's "The Art of the Start").

Jackie shares her own experiences, as well as stories from CEO's and Investors on what to do when the wheels have fallen off. Does this sound familiar?

So you've burned thru several million dollars of Venture Capital funds,replaced the VP of Sales three times, added 17 more features that each round of salespeople you hired (and fired) insisted their prospects must have before they would buy-then didn't, now what?

You're certain there is a market for your product. You even have a handful of customers who've paid for it. But those "Wow's" aren't converting into sales.

How did this ever happen? Where did things go so wrong? More importantly, how can this be fixed and f-a-s-t!

Jackie shows you how to identify when you are in trouble, and how to stop and restart your business from a customer-centric perspective.

There is a lot in this book that I recognise from my own client experiences. One of the things about working with startups and new product launches is that you're going to see a lot of misfires.

Every now and then I have to write what I call a "Dear John" report at the end of a pilot campaign. Usually it goes something like "I'm sorry, but we don't think you've got a proposition that's really compelling for your market. Let's stop now before it costs you too much" In essence, we tell our client that they've got it wrong.

It's probably one of the hardest parts of the job, but it's something that's core to my values. If it's not working, I'll pull the plug rather than simply burn my time and my client's cash.

Of course, they can try another method of sales, or even another sales outsourcing company, but usually they go back to the drawing board and come back to us to help them test and refine their new proposition.

Our business is no different.

We tried promoting our services to startups as "market due diligence". Essentially, we'd pilot test a proposition with potential clients. However, we found that there really was little appetite for it. Entrepreneurs are pretty free-wheeling and their due diligence is usually to just launch and see what happens.

It's what we call the ultimate "Live R&D").

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Posted by: David Regler @ 2:46 pm |   | Links to this post  

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