Entrepreneurs generally tend to assume that if they are truly passionate about the products or services they sell, they'll excel in business. However, too much passion can actually impact an entrepreneur's flexibility, inviting a one-track mind that can lead to failure.
Tony Robbins has helped professionals across the globe achieve their dreams of becoming successful business owners. I recently talked to Robbins as he prepared to mentor companies for Shopify's Build a Business Competition. The author and business strategist partnered with the commerce company to help grow promising startups. He spoke to me about the key things that separate those who succeed from those who don't.
"I think it's really knowing more about their customer than anyone else does," Robbins says. "One of the most important things you try to teach small and even large businesses, quite frankly, is don't fall in love with your product."
A competitive world
As more entrepreneurs set out to build companies, it's obvious that the startup world has gotten extremely competitive. Additionally, the cycle of change is more rapid now. With those two factors combined, it has become increasingly difficult for an entrepreneur to succeed by clinging steadfastly to a passion project.
"Most entrepreneurs, especially small and medium-size businesses, often build products or services that they love, trying to match their needs," Robbins says. "They're still in love with it when all of a sudden the competition comes by and changes the technology or changes the price points or changes something that changes the way customers are even consuming the product or service or the industry as a whole."
The ideal customer
Robbins advises looking beyond the product to the customer who will consume it. This means focusing on the ideal customer, getting to know as much as possible about his or her interests and needs. Successful entrepreneurs know those customers from the start and put the bulk of their effort toward designing products or services that will meet customer demand.
"The goal is really to fall in love with your ideal customer and know more about them," Robbins says. "The only way to succeed is to know what I'm looking for and the company can find a way to truly innovate. Innovation is just a better way to meet the customer's needs."
Marketing to the ideal customer
As important as it is to innovate, Robbins believes that marketing is equally important. Before a business can market to its customer base, though, it must first know exactly who its target audience is. Robbins points to Steve Jobs, who had the insight to know what customers needed before they even realized it. Instead of spending years putting together focus groups, Jobs knew his ideal customer and created products that could improve that person's quality of life.
"The companies that can really understand their clients, that can anticipate and are constantly innovating and really making effective marketing and added-value marketing, those are the type of companies that usually get an added advantage," Robbins says.
The irresistible offer
Another approach that sets successful businesses apart is their ability to come up with what Robbins calls an "irresistible offer." He uses the example of successful shoe company Zappos, which once struggled to market its idea of selling shoes online. People argued that customers would never purchase shoes online, since they couldn't try them on. However, CEO Tony Hsieh came up with a business model that is used by other online businesses today. He offered to send customers as many shoes as they'd like at no charge so that they could try them on. If they didn't like any of them, they could ship them back.
"He built a billion-dollar business out of that," Robbins says. "He came up with an irresistible offer."
Brands that do extensive research on their target market and develop products or services that speak to customers' needs are likely to have long-term success. It's important that businesses always keep their focus on that ideal customer, though, to avoid getting caught up in what they personally want to see in their products.