Every aspiring entrepreneur I know is convinced that his or her idea could be the next big startup, blossoming into a billion dollar unicorn.
Yet I find that only a few are able to put their passion aside for a moment, and compare their solution to the attributes that really attract a large market of new customers. Investors, on the other hand, make it their business to look for these attributes.
For example, it's always smart to start by making your entrance into a hot sector. According to Inc data analysis from industry experts and investors, this coming year offers large opportunities in digital therapeutics and personalized nutrition.
Most trend watchers agree that it is time for a revolutionary new category of medicine treatment devices and customized healthcare solutions.
Thus if you need funding to support your efforts, it's well worth your time to take a hard look at how your offering might fit one of these sectors to appeal today to this new era of customers, as well as investors.
In my experience the key attributes in any sector would include the following:
1. A product or service with depth and a robust set of features.
As an investor, I always look for a singular focus to start, but a depth of follow-on that precludes you from being a "one-trick pony."
Customers will remember you and your brand for starting with a point of excellence, but they expect that to broaden as their needs and confidence in you grows.
Amazon exemplified this approach by first becoming the premier source of books online, and then expanding their scope to having the greatest depth of all e-commerce offerings and features, while still maintaining its lead in online purchasing and delivery services.
2. Solves a real problem for customers in intelligent new ways.
Smart solutions provide benefits that can be quantified, not simply cool or easier to use. Customers don't want to read instruction manuals these days, or attend a class to learn about features.
The best solutions look obvious in retrospect, and you wonder how you ever lived without them.
For example, the iPhone from Apple, although an integration of complex computer services with telephony and photography, is so easy to use that preschoolers catch on immediately, and most of us can't imagine surviving without a mobile link to friends.
3. Provides a complete and memorable customer experience.
Customers today are looking for an engaging total customer experience, including shopping, reviews from peers, speed of delivery, and follow-on options, as well as support and service.
They expect to be wowed by the product as well as the relationship with you and your team.
In fact, customer experience can be a greater competitive advantage than your product. Zappos, the popular online shoe store, creates such strong emotional connections with customers through personalized service that people rarely compare its shoe features.
4. Increase customer confidence and ability to control their life.
Both business and consumer customers expect products to empower them to make better decisions, and have more control over their life.
If your solution simply reduces the cost of a necessity, or makes things happen faster, it may not be enough to attract a dedicated following.
In the healthcare arena, as mentioned earlier, people now are looking for new offerings that can be customized per their own unique needs and desires, to extend their lives and maintain healthy lifestyles. More diagnostic tools to fix problems may not be competitive.
5. Satisfy a "higher purpose" as well as a current need.
Customers these days seek out companies that are socially and environmentally conscious, as well as responsive to customer needs. This should be something that matches your values, and can benefit from your strengths, to increase engagement and energy for all stakeholders.
Chipotle is an example of a company that has capitalized on the benefits of supporting a higher purpose, enhancing its fast food brand reputation at the same time. Its focus on healthy foods and sustainable agriculture motivates employees and customers alike.
In summary, the best product or service is a deep-featured one that meets customer needs in innnovative ways, comes with a great total customer experience, puts customers in the driver's seat, and has a positive societal impact.
Then just build a solid plan, find a great team to implement, and execute well to build the next big startup, have fun, and leave a great legacy.