From the April 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

You've decided to start your own business, but what are you going to do for customers that's better or different than what your competitors are doing? Marketing consultant Rob Fey, author of The 200 Minute Marketing System (Fey Marketing Inc.), offers the following step-by-step process for answering this important question.

1. Define your core competency. Make the most of what you do best in your business strategy. Fey advises new entrepreneurs to use what he calls the "law of focus." "Instead of being everything to everyone, be significant to a very specific audience," Fey says. Once you determine your strengths, focus on two or three products or services that represent what you do best.

2. Choose a specific customer focus. Find out exactly who buys the products that reflect your company's strengths. Fey suggests looking at demographic factors to determine the key attributes of the customers you want to attract.

"If you choose the wrong customer, you're going to see greater customer turnover," explains Fey. "The average business loses 15 percent of its customers each year. If what you do best is not aligned with what customers want most, you're going to spend more dollars replacing customers than you are adding to your customer base."

3. Choose a market focus. Once you know who your customers are, find the markets that have the greatest number of them. Concentrate on penetrating your primary market before seeking to expand the business, advises Fey. Expanding too early can lead to disaster.

4. Identify a dominant need. "Figure out your customers' dominant need--the single most important reason why someone's going to want your product or service," says Fey. The customers in your chosen market will undoubtedly be driven by such needs as price, convenience, quality, service and value, but try to be even more specific. The object is to have the name of your business associated with meeting a particular need in the minds of consumers.

5. Turn the need into a performance-specific offer. Translate your customers' dominant need into a performance-specific offer. "I use the example of an ad I saw for Taylor Made golf clubs," says Fey. "The headline read, `14 more yards per drive, three more fairways per round.' That's pretty darn specific."

6. Choose your competition. Now you're ready to test your product or service in the marketplace. Is the difference between your product and your competition's significant? Keep in mind that your competition may not be limited to other businesses in the same market. Says Fey, "Something as simple as seasonality could be your competition."

What Now?

Help for new inventors.

If you think all the market research needed to get your new product idea or invention off the ground seems daunting, you're not alone. Since 1980, inventors nationwide have turned to the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center (WISC) for help.

Subsidized by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and the university's Extension Small Business Development Center, WISC provides thorough marketability reports for new products and inventions. The center's basic new-product feasibility assessment costs $495; the result is a report that includes a competitive analysis, a preliminary patent search and an evaluation of demand trends.

WISC assists only with the development of project plans, not their implementation. The center also does not negotiate licensing agreements on the inventor's behalf.

Worried that WISC might blab your idea? Fear not, says director Debra Malewicki. "We keep what we review here in confidence because that's legitimately a concern for people who have a new idea," she explains. "We're very careful about maintaining confidentiality."

For more information, call (414) 472-1365 or e-mail innovate@uwwvax.uww.edu

Contact Source

Fey Marketing Inc., (410) 836-2894, http://www.fey.com