What’s Really Limiting Your Business Growth

Small-business owners often ask us how they can attract more customers and improve their productivity. These are important questions for business growth, but they often lead down the wrong path. Ask the right questions and you’ll find that the answers are foundational. It’s usually not the lack of an effective sales and marketing strategy if you believe the data — and if you don’t believe the data, just consult the Magic 8 Ball on your desk instead. There’s no reason to read further.

Here’s the real reason a startup fails: It has an ugly baby.

Yes, there are lots of other excuses. Lack of money or an effective marketing strategy usually tops the misguided list. But the data-based truth is simple: Don’t try to sell a product nobody wants.

Ask the right questions and you’ll maximize the most valuable resource available. It’s the ultimate non-renewable resource: your time.

That Darth Vader Chia Pet was a great idea at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday, and there’s never been an all-night pizza place that didn’t have promise at 4 a.m. that same Wednesday. But how many other Chia Pets are on Amazon (free one-day drone shipping!) and how many other pizza shops (that don’t have drones yet!) are on the block?

Or, if you’re a lawyer and want to be serious for a second, there’s a desperate need for more customs and international trade attorneys to help navigate the increasing complexities of global commerce. Too bad you’re among the growing hoard of local general practitioners. Don’t waste your time trying to make people look at that ugly baby. (No offense, general practitioners!)

The more distance between the product or service that the customer desires, the harder it is to sell. Establish an airtight product-market fit and your sales and marketing fall into place.

The following foundational questions will help you find that airtight product-market fit and refine the core of what you’re selling — as well as who you’re selling it to.

  1. Why do we exist?

Consider what inspired you to start your company. Consider the passion that drives you to make the sacrifices you’re making, as well as those you have yet to make but know you will.  What’s necessary for your business to succeed is allowing customers to feel your passion. 

  1. Is your business a vitamin or an aspirin?

Consider the pain-points you alleviate for your customer. Also, consider the pleasure you provide. Humans are social animals. We have a basic need for community and to feel connected to others. This is the core value proposition of Facebook. Along our life’s path, though, we also experience pain: commuting, laundry  . . . Facebook. The market for alleviating pain tends to be significantly larger than the market for providing pleasure. People are much quicker to buy aspirin than vitamins.


  1. Is your customer you?

Consider if people who are not you want what you want them to want.

Please read that sentence again. It’s a lot to absorb. Got it? Good.

If the basis of your belief is that you think what you provide is cool, that’s not helpful. You’re chasing customers other than yourself or your too-polite family and friends. Again — and we hope this is sinking in — none of these people will tell you that your baby is ugly.

If you want business growth, forget searching Google for trends if that’s not relevant to the customer base you want. Instead,turn assumptions into hypotheses. Test those hypotheses. Collect data from potential and existing customers. Go beyond hope that you’re building something people want — know that people want it. Or, if that’s too much work, reach for that Magic 8 Ball, order a drone pizza and water your Darth Vader Chia Pet.

Merging the art of business with the science of business is a core purpose of our Efficiency Algorithm TM, and frankly, it’s why Agents of Efficiency exists. Continue browsing our site for more free resources and to start a conversation. Or, if you want a little help setting up some experiments to start testing the most critical hypotheses in your business today, use our Validated Learning Template to help get you started.