Competitive Industry! How “Prospect Listening” Saved My Ass (Part Three)

Part Three: Do Or Die -> Step 2 And 3 Of “Becoming An Outlier”

To end this series, the training wheels come off and we’ll run through brainstorming financially viable ideas and the scientific way to hate your ideas. Think of this last part as your personal idea feedback loop. Also, a few advanced growth marketing tactics will be discussed.

Disclaimer: If you’re a new reader of this series, there’s a small chance you won’t fully understand some of what’s discussed below. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 to help you catch up.


Step 2: Brainstorm Financially Viable Ideas That Solve Users’ Core Problem---->

This is the longest stage of the entire process. Take a long look at the list you’ve made from step one and write down as many ideas as you can, while aligning them with the end result that users already love and are accustomed to in your industry.
The key here is to think as outside-the-box/creative as possible because you’re only trying to improve a weakness. And no, I don’t mean coming up with a disruptive new idea. It could be something as simple as offering a more attractive user experience. It doesn’t take much to paint a different kind of user experience in competitive industries. In other words, think of different ways to get users the same core goal, if not with more value (where core goal is the outcome they’re used to, like Uber supplying transportation or Costco giving customers cheap prices).
Some multi-billion dollar startups have found success not by disrupting a competitive industry with an innovative idea, but by improving the experience. Take Tinder for example. The concept is the same as that of thousands of other dating sites, but they improved the user experience of the match-making process. Who knew swiping for matches was more enjoyable over clicking “send message” under a pretty girl’s bio? Tinder even admits that there are a ton of options to choose from on their website. Seriously, their website! See the image below:
Indie Hackers - Tinder's Why Choose Us
The result of Tinder’s hard work? A $10 billion dollar valuation and over $1.4 billion in ARR!

Another really good example would be Amazon’s early days as an online bookstore. They didn’t invent the concept of selling books online. Barnes and Noble (the largest bookstore within the US at the time) had been experimenting with the idea years before Amazon came to being in 1996 (though they didn’t launch their website till around 1997), but Jeff Bezos declined working together with Barnes and Noble for this reason: he was focusing on using Barnes and Noble’s size at the time (358 brick and mortar stores) against them. This screenshot of Amazon’s early days website pretty much explains it:
Indie Hackers - Amazon Early Days Online Bookstore

Step 3: Develop Deep Hatred For Your Ideas ---->

The final, yet the most crucial stage. Unlike subconsciously being your worst enemy through imposter syndrome, in this stage, you’re voluntarily being your worst enemy. Throw as many grenades as you can at your ideas. Force yourself to accept that they won’t work by listing strong data or research-backed reasons why. Some ways you could do this are by:

  • Carrying out a series of social sentiment analysis on something similar
  • Researching competitors doing something very close
  • Thinking of niche audiences within your competitive industry and who’d be the best fit
  • Bouncing the idea off 3 different sets of friends (friends who’d least likely use the product, friends who’d fit your target audience and friends who you’d consider experts in that industry).
  • Pitching the ideas to prospects (in a conversational way- no selling!)
  • Doing a ton of “prospect listening”

Prospect listening means you’ll go beyond the surface with prospects to try to understand how they make their choices on a psychological level. In other words, you’ll construct powerful questions that allow you to psychologically mine a prospect’s brain and heart for their hidden desires.
Those same hidden desires that convince them that getting your soon-to-be modified product/service or entirely new offering is the best thing for them. It gets easier the more you do it, especially if you’re the type to analyze each conversation you have with a prospect. The better you carry out these things the stronger your idea becomes.
It will transform from a mere theory, to a realistic new edge for your company due to your research and the data you’ve gathered. Turning your strongest idea into a prototype becomes 1000x easier once you’ve done steps 1, 2 and 3 well. For prospect listening: I personally fuse my consultative sales background, my customer success background and my marketing background.
But I know that takes quite a while to master, so you could instead try to modify some of Pipedrive’s amazing guide on consultative selling. Try to make it feel like a pleasant conversation for the user, not a sales pitch and your end goal is to gain hidden insights. In other words, think of what it is you wish you knew (could be data perhaps or something else) that would justify your idea.
You can also choose to carry out step 3 as you brainstorm each idea from step 2.

Pro Tip: Try not to completely write off an idea, especially in the early stages. Just “archive” it. With steps 2 and 3 acting as a feedback mechanism, your own understanding will become enhanced overtime. Meaning? Sometimes your first idea only needs a few more tweaks to end up becoming your champion.

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PREVIEW: WHAT’S NEXT? ---> I found a product that has a hidden potential to disrupt market research and is without a doubt, highly beneficial to tech startups. How? It starts at $30/month (a mere 5-10% of the average costs) and scales much faster for little to nothing.
I’ve partnered with the CEO of that startup to go in the fields and carry out my “prospect listening” process. In my next release, I’ll go in-depth by sharing all the steps I took, along with visual takeaways and insightful data from my demo. Ensure to hit follow me here on Indie Hackers so you’re notified as soon as I release it.

  1. 2

    I totally agree on this! Like Michael Siebel from Y Combinator said - find reasons to "not do your idea", and be hard on yourself! After the process, evaluate if those reasons are serious enough, and if there's a way to workaround them.

    Can you explain more about the best tactics for prospect pitching without selling?

    1. 2

      That's a really good question and one that's very complex to answer in a generic way (I'd have to know your business), but personally, I use prospect listening to most effectively carry out prospect pitching. And a tactic I tend to use sometimes to start prospect listening is by: asking the stupid questions.
      You have to think like the prospect. Like for example, asking yourself how would you act if you have 0 knowledge about your industry, like digital marketing in my case.
      I did this for when I came up with my "7 growth marketing skills bundled together" competitive edge because I asked myself: If I had a small local shop, didn't know shit about digital marketing and also barely had enough capital and wanted to go and successfully thrive online, what would I need and how much would I have to spend for true success?
      I then went out and started interviewing entrepreneurs with an existing online presence or if they knew anyone who shared that experience. Then I also searched for the entrepreneurs that don't have an online presence (excluding Google My Business) and asked if they ever took the steps to try to get one. Why? I wanted to see what they did to get here. How did they respond and what were the steps they took? Were they happy with what it took to get there, financially and emotionally? What were their doubts?
      I listened and listened and documented everything, including the trends between younger and older entrepreneurs and also the percentage of people that took the same next steps and I eventually acted on one of those pain-points and it worked well for Targeted Right.
      Think of prospect listening like a form of social science. You're trying to understand entirely different sets of minds that doesn't belong to you. Your mission, as a knowledgeable marketer, is to get from point A, to point B (seeing them in you).
      This make prospect pitching much easier because you're now directly telling them what other entrepreneurs like them have told you and letting them imagine a world where your new idea would fix that. Think of it as the same science behind prospects trusting a testimonial but instead, you're acting as the medium/messenger.
      I hope this helps in answering your question.

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