Starting a Business

Is Your Product a 'Vitamin' or 'Painkiller?'

Guest Writer
Managing Partner at Red Rocket Ventures
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Is your startup building a "painkiller" or a "vitamin" for your clients? In order to get their attention and build a sizable business of scale, "painkillers" are a must.

We all need to take a critical look at our businesses from the perspectives of our clients. Would your product or service be something they really need today and help them solve big pain points with established budgets? If so, proceed full steam ahead. If not, you could end up with a low revenue business and most likely need to pivot into a bigger market opportunity.  

So what are the differences between "vitamins" and "painkillers?"

Vitamins are "nice to have," but not "need to have." Often times these are features or functionalities, and not major platforms. And just like in a drug store, preventive vitamins are optional. They are usually priced at a major discount, compared to the expensive painkilling prescriptions behind the counter.

Example: I recently met a B2B e-commerce company that could help their clients more easily load SKU-level product information into their websites and e-commerce platforms (e.g., Magento) via an API feed with their vendors.

Related: 4 Things Investors Need to Know About Your Startup

I told them that that doesn't feel like a real business, but more of a feature that Magento should implement in its own e-commerce platform, which many retail clients were already using as their core technology solution. If there is really a client need for easier data load, they are most likely already complaining about it to Magento, who should have added the fix to their future product development calendar -- hence, removing the need for your business down the road.

Painkillers are typically helping their clients to materially drive more revenue or lower current costs out of their business. And, even better, they are doing so with established line item budgets, not requiring new budgets to be created, which can take time and slow down your sales closing process. What client is not going to react favorably to "how would you like to lower your current costs by 33 percent, and not have to spend a single penny more than you are already spending today?"

Example: I recently met a B2B healthcare payments company that seeks to lower doctors offices' bad debts expense from 40 to 5 percent by helping them collect funds upfront at the time services are delivered, instead of 30 days later with an invoice in the mail.

Related: Here Is How to Get a VC's Attention

In a $100 billion segment of the industry, that is a $35 billion problem the company is solving, moving those previously-lost dollars directly back into the hands of the doctors. What doctor's office isn't going to want to install a technology product that can help them increase their annual revenue collections by 35 percent by simply changing their billing process from deferred to upfront collections?

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to focus on tackling big pain points for your clients, which will help them drive more revenues or materially lower their costs.  And, in the process, it will hopefully translate into big revenues for you, as a "must have" and not a "nice to have" for your clients.

With a "painkiller" approach to building your business, your company should be more appealing to prospective investors, as the bigger the market opportunity and revenue potential of your startup, the more excitement that creates for VCs.

Related: Why Too Many Startups Run Out of Money Too Fast

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It Started As a Joke and Turned Into a Startup That Raised $1 Million in Funding