When we were creating our first business – Walkamole – my friends and I understood something amazing:
Keeping your idea in secrecy is a tremendous mistake!
Why do most of the entrepreneurs think that they have to keep their ideas in secrecy?
What is everyone so afraid of? That someone might steal the idea? Yes, for sure.
But is that likely to happen? Absolutely not.
You may wonder why am I so confident that people won’t steal your idea; here’s why:
It’s all about the execution! It doesn’t matter how brilliant your idea is because to create a fruitful and outstanding business, you will still need to go through an insane shot of hard work, there’s no shortcut.
So, can someone steal your idea? Yes.
But how far will he go until he gives up?
Just imagine that you are this guy who has skills, know-how, and determination. You’ve built this unstoppable mindset along the years that will let no one and nothing stop you. It all started a long time ago when you understood that it was time to create your own path and decided to think differently.
So you studied and learned, you met lots of people that inspired you to keep going, you aspired and dreamed for years, and then you had this good idea that requires an insane amount of work and discipline to see the daylight.
If someone who didn’t have these years of preparation decides to steal your idea, how far do you think he will go? Do you really believe that anyone can pick a plan and execute it like it’s not a big deal? Like he doesn’t even need to have the mindset and know-how that you’ve been accumulating for all those years?
Not at all, the idea doesn’t even let you in the 1% of the project completion. The project only starts when the execution begins.
Yes, the trick is and will always be in getting things done in the right way.
Additionally, let me share with you that someone who believes that having a good idea is enough to create a successful business, is presenting a symptom that there are some critical, thoughtful pieces lacking:
It means this guy supposes it is possible to get anything meaningful done through shortcuts. But that’s not how things work.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti
I’ll now show you why you should always openly share your thoughts and startup idea and how it had helped me a lot when we were creating our first business.
FOUR REASONS TO SHARE YOUR IDEA
#1 ALLOWS YOU TO TUNE YOUR CONCEPT
The first reason why you should definitely share the idea is related to how it can help you perfecting the solution.
You not only want to be open to sharing your plan, you actually should be seeking to maximize the number of people that gives you feedback before you launch an offer.
Now, as I’m sure you know, when I mean you should be intentionally transparent about your business concept, I don’t want to suggest that you must ask everyone for feedback.
In fact, in spite everyone has the right to have their opinion, there are people that you can gently ignore. Otherwise, their views might end up bringing you down, and that we cannot accept.
So let us look at the type of people you should smilingly ignore:
You want to stay far away from these guys. Skeptics will find reasons to fail in each and every opportunity. If you ask for their opinion about the business you’re assembling, they might end up just revealing non-core facts around the concept that may distract you.
Stuff like “But how will you live?”, “Does that even give money?” or “Hm.., I doubt it, it sounds too good to be true.”
The problem with pessimistic people is that even the strongest mindset will eventually get affected by them.
You see, I’m not a shrink, but many authors have been saying over the years that you should surround yourself with great people, namely optimistic people because they’ve understood that the ones around you profoundly influence the way you feel.
If you are always dealing with pessimistic people, they might end up sucking all your optimism and courage to overcome any obstacle.
So my advice here is: if it’s up to you, do not ask them what they think about this business you’re creating.
And a second gentle warning: if they come and proactively tell you all their pessimistic stuff, do not get defensive. This is critical. Do not get emotionally involved in a discussion, or their ideas will sneak into your mind.
Just listen, smile (and wave) and thank for their words. Let them know that you will have them into consideration and walk away as soon as possible. Mentally place their words in the back of your mind and move on.
Check this out: if you’re creating a business it’s because you have a certain degree of ambition, right?
You are striving for a better life, and you embrace the notion that there’s more for you out there than what you currently have.
Now, what I’ve learned in this short video of Ramit Sethi is that even the slightest level of ambition will origin an envious reaction on other people.
Mostly because they aren’t used to see a purpose, and when they do, it reflects on them that they are not as ambitious as you.
As you can imagine, this feeling is unpleasant for most of the people.
So what they do? They unintentionally want to see you fail. It is hideous. This is the reason why human beings sometimes cannot help their own mediocrity.
But I’m not saying that everyone is like this, naturally.
It is true that some guys will be delighted to see you heading toward a successful path and will encourage and support you to overcome any obstacle.
And this is the type of people you want to ask for feedback. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not trying to find positive and biased comments, we just want to avoid the irregularities that a suspicious person can present to you, such as letting you know that they love your idea when they actually think it will never work because of A or B.
You want to look for genuine and honest guys that will be bold enough to tell in your face that your product stinks, and you really must improve in a couple of aspects.
OUT OF SCOPE
I let the most obvious one to the end intentionally, so I could highlight the importance of stepping away from pessimistic and envious people.
Finally, it is important to address only people that are included in your target market. I mean, who do you think will be the typical buyers of your product or the influencers? You should be able to define their characteristics accurately and look out for them in the world.
You shouldn’t ask any random guys for their opinion, just because there’s a high chance they will be completely out of context and will even lead you in the wrong direction.
There’s nothing worse than being worried about the opinion someone gave us when this person doesn’t even understand what we’re going to sell.
You know, the vast majority of people enjoy sharing their views. It massages their ego, makes them feel important. And because their opinion isn’t asked every single day, when one opportunity appears, they will openly share their thoughts, in spite they have no clue of what they’re talking about.
The problem? They might lead you in the wrong direction.
Let me finish by sharing the following example: some time ago I was looking for feedback from people who had a standard corporate job and were actively seeking to create a side business.
So I’ve searched out in LinkedIn and Facebook for this kind of people, and actually wrote down a public post looking for individuals with these traits.
The first replies I got were all from people that didn’t even have a job.
They wanted to create a business, and that’s OK, but they didn’t have a job.
Now, what does this tell us? Is their opinion as valuable as someone who has a standard corporate job like I was searching?
Most surely not. Because if they don’t have a job, I’m guessing they didn’t have the opportunity to develop the way of thinking I’m looking for.
Which is someone who knows what it is to give everything you have for a company, to work 12+ hours a day and notice, after all those years, that he feels empty with his life.
Hope the example was helpful, just wanted to let you know that I gladly received the feedback from these guys, but naturally I couldn’t give it the same relevance as the comments I got from the target audience.
And I trust you should do the same. 😉
WHY SHARING THE IDEA WITH THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF PEOPLE
At the end of the day, our goal is to find as many individuals as we can from the defined target market and ask them for their frontal feedback.
This is absolutely paramount for any business.
As we had the chance to mention a couple of times before in BYDC, the initial concept tends to suffer many changes along the way, until it finally gets launched.
Being able to gather feedback and fine tune the product is what separates, in a first stage, the projects that will be successful from those that won’t.
And for this to happen, two things must be in line:
- You have to find the right people and ask them for feedback, even if you’re afraid they might tell someone about your idea.
- You have to handle the feedback and be honest with yourself, no matter what. If your product sucks, you must face it and twist it to become great or pivot the idea. Always embrace the brutal facts.
If you manage to have these two points in your project, you’ll be in the right way.
#2 HELPS YOU TESTING YOUR SALES PITCH
The second reason why it is so helpful to bring your business idea to public and not keep it in secrecy is related to testing your sales pitch.
So what’s a sales pitch, first of all? It is a concise and accurate set of sentences that you will use to present your business.
And why is it important to test it?
To answer that question, we will need to look at two major points.
IT HELPS YOU PREPARING FOR INVESTORS
Sooner or later, if you’re building a business that will require external capital to grow, you will need to search for investors.
When that time comes, you will most likely have 3 minutes to expose and sell them your idea.
Also, usually you won’t receive the funding from the first investor you engage with. It will require multiple meetings and trials, and from one meeting to another you should understand where can you improve and perfect your sales pitch.
So what I’ve noticed is that the sooner you start working on your sales pitch, the better.
Yes, it will also help you earning your first customers, of course, but most of all you will get used to present your business so you can benefit from any random occasion in which you meet someone that can build a bridge to a major opportunity.
Trust me; it is awful to have the opportunity to talk with someone important to you, and seeing the time passing by without being able to show the great things you’re doing.
Because if you don’t have the right pitch, when you talk about your business you’ll end up missing some of the most relevant facts like a solid business case that could be killer.
And that can lead to missing some important opportunities.
IT HELPS YOU WORKING ON MARKETING
Also, I’d like to share that whenever you have the chance to present your business to someone, his body language, such as eyes, position, and apparent interest, will tell you a lot about how good is what you’re selling.
And after a while, when you use multiple verbal approaches to defining your concept (which will necessarily happen before you have a standard sales pitch) you will start grasping what are the ones that work better for your target market.
So what should you do? Write down these sentences! And even if you do not use them for a while, make sure you remember to use them later on when you’re developing the marketing disclaimers.
It will guarantee you a better effectiveness when promoting your work and will save you time as you’ve already tested what’s the best approach.
#3 ALLOWS YOU TO TEST THE PRODUCT
A third benefit of intentionally communicating your solution lies in the possibility to check the product and observe how customers interact with it.
Typically, this is easier in the cases of equipment or hardware, because you have something physical to show to people, but it can also work with services.
In fact, in both cases, by presenting your offer to a potential future customer, you will gain incredible insights on how the customer sees and values the product.
I’d like to make a short break to tell you that when testing a product, it doesn’t matter if it is a service, a solution or a physical product, you should aim at testing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Now, you might already know what an MVP is; the important is to highlight that you want to present to a customer the whole set of core features of whatever you’re creating.
By core elements I mean to replicate the exact same core experience the customer will have in the future. You don’t need the product to be perfect. All you need is a very basic product that responds to the primary need of that customer. Neither more nor less.
Secondly, when presenting the MVP you want to look at the potential customer’s reaction and spontaneity. What do his eyes say? Does he seem fascinated by the product or not that much?
But most of all, whenever he tells you that the product is outstanding and that he loves it, you will want to perform the ultimate test:
Asking that person if he would like to buy NOW.
This perception shift will tell you if the person is authentic or just friendly. If he truly loves your product, he will quickly pay in advance. When that isn’t the case, the potential customer would say something like:
“Well, yeah… I can see a market out there for the product; I think I’m just not the right person, but I’m sure a lot of guys would be interested.”
I’d like to tell you another story here.
Back in 2014, I was at a Healthcare Management Conference in which an Executive Director of the largest private healthcare group in Portugal was speaking.
He told us a story of when his corporation developed a new service to provide caregiving to elderly people.
They’ve performed thousands of tests, hired this large market research agency and invested millions in the development of the service.
Why? Because everywhere they went people were encouraging them to move forward, telling them that it was a brilliant idea to have a business around premium caregiving centers for elderly people.
Now, it doesn’t matter if today that business exists and has a market (I honestly don’t know), what is important is that back in those days, this company went ahead with the project, only to verify that no one would put their elderly relatives in a premium caregiving center.
Which is the same as saying that no one would pay for it.
So they went back to their customers and asked them why weren’t they moving their parents into this caregiving center. And all of them suddenly said:
“Well, it is a fabulous idea, I’m sure it is! Just not for me, I want my father to stay at home.”
Well, this is kind of interesting: you see, people that can afford a premium caregiving center can also afford to have a personal, professional helping their parents in their own homes.
The company just didn’t understand that there is a huge gap between asking people if they like the product and, in fact, asking them to pay immediately. If only they had done that earlier…
But well, fortunately, we have the privilege of learning with others’ mistakes, so let us at least make different ones.
#4 GENERATES BUZZ AROUND YOUR BUSINESS
This is definitely my favorite one.
The vast majority of businesses start with zero people knowing about the offer. However, you can also find some rare ones that beat sales records in their first days.
Why does this happen? How can these businesses sell so much if no one knows the product?
Here’s the key: many people are waiting for the product to be officially launched.
I’m sure you can easily think of iPhone launches right here, but I’m not referring to such significant examples, I’m thinking in startups, specifically.
So is it all about promotion? Sure.
But isn’t that expensive? Well, yeah, if you pay for it, of course.
But there is a free and accurate way to promote your business.
You don’t need to invest in media from day one; I would especially recommend against that if you’re launching a company through bootstrapping (with your own money).
Nope, you don’t need to spend cash on the promotion. I’m not saying it doesn’t help – of course it does -, but there’s something else that’s even more crucial than paid advertisement.
When you’re developing the offer, you want to have as many people from your target market involved as possible.
Oh yeah. I’m sure you think I’m crazy. After all, how can you develop a project by involving more people?
I won’t dwell too much more on this issue right now because you can find a practical example of our first business’ story after this paragraph.
Let’s just say that, first of all, when you’re asking people for feedback, you’re already promoting your business. Even if they don’t want, your target market is already hearing from you and knowing that sooner or later you will launch.
But most importantly, my advice is that every time you have a marketing or product doubt, you go ahead and ask directly to your target audience what do they think.
That’s right. So you aren’t sure of what name to give your brand?
Go and ask your audience.
You don’t know which should be the colors of your logo?
Go and ask your audience.
You can do it through several ways, either by social media, enterprise email, SMS or Whatsapp and so on.
As soon as you get people involved with your brand, oh my… They will feel like it’s their own brand.
Can you see how powerful this is?
WHY WAS EVERYONE SO EXCITED ABOUT THE LAUNCH OF WALKAMOLE?
I wanted to give you our own example. Naturally, it doesn’t always fit every scenario, but in this case, it seems an excellent story to share that will hopefully be of great value to you.
Quick recap: we’ve created a Mexican Burritos Street Food business called Walkamole that sold more than 80k€ in only 6 months of activity (the product was priced with €5 in average).
Since the beginning, we always thought how important it was to validate our marketing ideas with the market.
I remember speaking with my partners and telling them that we should always share the idea with as many people as possible, particularly with everyone within our target market – we had our audience so well defined that we even invented a fictional character to represent the exact lifestyle of our ideal customer:
Jayson, the dude! – in honor of The Big Lebowski.
So for some months we were only sharing with our warm circle this idea that we were creating a Mexican Street Food business, and we’ve done our best to grow enthusiasm around our business.
After all, we knew that you cannot easily find Mexican food in Portugal, but there are a lot of Portuguese guys traveling and eating on Mexican restaurants out there in the world.
The critical moments in which we asked for the opinion of our target audience were the following:
- They helped us deciding which would be the name of our business
- Also helped us deciding which should be the layout of our Street Food vehicle
- We invited a small group of 15 people to taste our first recipe and to give feedback
- We then performed a quick survey to understand how should we price the Burritos
- On two birthday parties, we were invited to sell at the food cost price, and we created a 3-questions survey to gather feedback
- Finally, we also asked for help when choosing our brand slogan.
We always presented some examples; we wouldn’t let the question open ended. For instance, we had doubts between choosing green or black for our vehicle color, so we presented both options to our public.
As you see, we’ve tested a lot, but mostly we knew from the beginning that we were generating an exciting buzz around Walkamole. We wanted to make people feel like this was also their business and a product of their personal taste.
It ended up working out pretty well, and that’s the reason why I personally wanted to share this story with you.
This is the ultimate reason why I really recommend you should spread the word of your business idea, even before you have a business.
There will be people telling you not to overkill with the transparency, that you want to keep some secrecy to gain an early move advantage.
Fine, you can keep some things that only you know, like how much money do you expect to make or what are your costs, and so on – things that aren’t that sexy in the eyes of your audience.
But when it comes to your product and your brand, please ask people for their opinion and involve them.
Before you notice, you will have a crowd of loyal customers even before your product is on the streets.