In December of 2013, I started my first business out of home. In August of 2015, I opened shop. In June of 2017, I exited the startup. We had managed to turn a profit (month-to-month) in our last couple of months before selling the business, but ultimately lost on the investment.
There were many mistakes along the way – some more critical than others. We also did many things well. One of the things we definitely missed the mark with was explaining the business. Our messaging was off. The way we communicated the value proposition of our business was confusing. And that put people off. (Quick tip: you never want to confuse or challenge potential customers).
Our business was called Mirror Lake Laundry and Press. It helped busy people get their laundry done through pre-scheduled time slots and flat rate pricing (we’d provide the laundry bag). We were trying to sell a service with two lead features. Two lead value propositions. We should’ve chosen one.
What was more important to our customers: scheduled time slots or flat rate pricing? We didn’t know. So we marketed both. Looking back, we needed both features to deliver the full experience. However, one should’ve been marketed as the lead feature. What’s worse, we found out that we overdesigned the business. We offered customers a 2hr time window where we guaranteed pickup or delivery. That backfired on our logistics. Worse still, we realized several months later that our customers didn’t care for a slim time window!
A product or business is built to solve a problem(s). Properly identifying the problems will dictate the features that eventually end up being part of your offering. For our case (Mirror Lake Laundry and Press), we believed that laundry should be a recurring chore – on a weekly basis. In Kuwait, it’s a hassle to get a hold of the laundry’s driver/ manager in order to set up a pick up or drop off. We wanted to eliminate that. As a result, we designed weekly pre-scheduled time slots. You wouldn’t have to call every time you wanted a pickup. This was the main problem we were solving. Now in order to provide a complete value proposition to our customers, we believed that we needed to get rid of payments by the piece. Instead, we opted for a flat rate subscription fee. This further reinforces the idea of not having to call the laundry shop. This feature of the service, however, was a sub-feature since it didn’t address the main problem.
When you’re launching a new product or offering, you will be met with a lot of resistance. People don’t like change. They like doing things the way they’ve always done it. If you can’t properly articulate the main problem you’re solving for them, then you risk confusing them. People won’t do business with confusing messaging.