Dear Uncle Mat - how do we best explain our business proposition?

Mat Braddy, former chief marketing officer for Just Eat, founder of stylist listing app Rock Pamper Scissors and The Drum's startup agony uncle, offers his take on how a new business can best explain their offering when the concept is so original.

Dear Uncle Mat,

We've launched a startup and most businesses should have the budget, we believe that they need us, but perhaps we are not doing great at helping them understand what they stand to benefit. How did you convince the takeaway restaurants that JustEat was a great idea and they should sign up with you, especially when no one else was doing it at the time?

I know most of them had the budget and the need but how did you help them understand your offering and how good it would be for them? And for those who thought they didn't require your services, how did you help them see that although they didn't know it, they had a need for you.

Thanks

Takwirira

www.1morejob.com

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Hi there,

A common problem with new ideas. There’s no quick win to this one, it’s going to take some effort.

Firstly you say you ‘believe’ they need you but do you ‘know?’ A common mistake I see founders making (me included!), is to have had a brilliant idea, build it and then expect it to work. If you build it they will not come. You are not Kevin Costner. And worse, often we get excited and build what we think is a brilliant answer to a problem we actually made up in our heads.

To get real insight you have to get out and talk to the businesses and do this on an ongoing basis. At Just Eat everyone goes out in the field to spend a day talking to restaurants as part of their induction, and are then encouraged to do so on an ongoing basis. This was always the source of the best ideas for growth.

I still remember my first trip out. Just Eat at the time was giving away leaflets to restaurants to leave on counters pushing Just Eat. This was really stupid - why would the restaurant give a monkeys about pushing Just Eat? But it’s a common myopic mistake startups make - they want to tell the world about themselves. I also noticed how focused the owners were on saving money. Eventually Just Eat was able to build the brand through the restaurant partners by understanding this problem - we provided them with discounted menu printing prices if they popped our logo on the front. Both parties win. Just Eat got its brand pushed through letter boxes by the restaurants, and the restaurants were able to cut costs.

We made this mistake though again with Rock Pamper Scissors. We didn’t talk much to business owners or clients - stupid arrogance again. And the app didn't work that well. When we did start talking to people, we realised we’d built the wrong thing - clients told us that they were really worried about booking haircuts online as they didn't trust they would get a good stylist. Oh. Doh. We asked the stylists what problems they had and then we realised new ways online would solve them.

So we rebuilt our app with the stylist as the search result rather than the business they worked in and consumer satisfaction flew up. And we built a new set of tools solving the stylist problems and now one of our strongest growth channels is advocacy from them.

Another thing you realise quite quickly by going out in the field is that the decision makers are not sat in front of computers all day. They are sorting out stock, managing the staff on the shop floor etc. So reaching them digitally is not going to work.

The result of talking more and more to your clients is that you stop thinking of your business in an insular way; ‘We built this thing, it's great, please use it’, and instead start thinking like a partner; ‘What are your problems? Can we use technology to help solve them?’. And once you are a true partner to your clients then you will find it is a lot easier to get many more of them - you won’t approach a prospect meeting as a battle to persuade them they have a need for you, you’ll listen and help solve their real problems.

If you are a start up in need of guidance, then look no further. To ask Uncle Mat his advice through mat.braddy@thedrum.com

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