On Selling Bananas to Monkeys and Other Business Start-Up Tips.

I’m sure you’d agree that it’s much easier to sell a banana to a monkey than it would be to try to convince a fish that bananas are delicious and they ought to eat them. Perhaps it could be done, but it sure would be time consuming and expensive.

The same holds true for starting a business. Though, you’d be amazed by how many businesses have been created by super smart people with a naïve notion that the shear awesomeness of their product (as determined by the folks who made it) will cause it to quickly attract a large customer base and generate tons of revenue. From there the founders/creators imagine, they’ll grow their company by applying the same thinking to new products in other markets. Before long, they’re confident they’ll take the company public and all be rich. They’ll wear hooded sweatshirts and sneakers to board meetings, drive Lamborghinis and all live happily ever after.

In reality, (and I can tell you this from personal experience) this is very rarely the case. What is more likely to happen is that their company creates a super fabulous product for a market that doesn’t yet perceive a need to have it. The company’s founders wait and wait for consumers to wake up and realize what they’re missing. In the meantime, they continue to try to convince investors of the markets potential All they while, their company burns through cash. Eventually the business goes under, or if they’re lucky (and to avoid bankruptcy), they sell their start-up to a larger corporation that will fold the concept into their existing business. This leaves the start-up’s founders either working for the larger company or out on the street.

Here’s my suggestion. Why not avoid all that drama and consider this.

Find an existing niche market where there’s already a natural affinity for a product. Like monkeys and bananas. Next, find out what consumers of this product need, and give it to them.  Once you’ve successfully established demand for your product in the market (as measured by growth of a) customers b) revenue and c) brand awareness – not just shear awesomeness) you can look to leverage your market position and expand with other complimentary products or services.

This of course, is not a new concept. Many successful companies – like Amazon for instance, got started just this way. Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos began by identifying a niche – selling books to book lovers – and creating a business that would improve the buying experience for people who already wanted to buy books. Using the Internet he believed (and rightly so), that he could make book buying more enjoyable for these consumers. A book lover could go to the amazon site, read a book review, buy a book at a cheaper price than they would pay at a bookstore, and have the book delivered right to their door. Once Amazon demonstrated success selling books online it expanded the concept, selling other complimentary products online.  Now, 15 years later, Amazon is one of the largest retailers in the country.

And from what I hear…  they are even starting to sell bananas.

This much I know.


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