Pain Relievers vs. Vitamins

Think about the last time you were really sick. In those moments of agony, consider how much you appreciate pain-relieving medicine made to ease the torment. Most of us don’t hesitate to buy solutions that ease our pain.

Now, think about a time when everything was going your way. You may take vitamins to support a healthy lifestyle, but if you miss a day, who cares, right? Think about your medicine cabinet. For every vitamin you routinely take, how many others sit on the shelf collecting dust?

Vitamins are good, but pain relievers are great. This is an analogy we can bring into business. As you consider your product/service, are you providing something that solves the pain of a target customer, or is it a nice-to-have that may (or may not) provide clear value?

If you’re unsure, you probably have a vitamin. If people like the idea, but hesitate to buy, you probably have a vitamin. If you always find yourself explaining why someone needs what you have, you probably have a vitamin. How can such assumptions be made? Pain relievers are easy to spot. They sell as fast as the supply can keep up with demand.

Ready to mutate a vitamin into a pain reliever? Ongoing customer discovery is the best way to keep a pulse on your company and helps entrepreneurs build toward sipping from the holy grail: product-market fit. As you ease the true pain of your target customer, stories that sell (marketing) highlight how you do so. Forget the impressive jargon. Lean into the pain.

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Unrelated to this week’s reflection, I love local bookstores. I always spend more than I’ll ever make in sales of my own book on their shelf, but these places are just so cozy. It’d be hard to get rich, but the wealth of owning a bookstore must be endlessly rewarding.

Mentor Madness

Mentors help entrepreneurs without asking for anything in return.

These diamonds in the rough may be hard to find and the vulnerability to ask others for help can feel heavy, but don’t be afraid. Most entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs enjoy helping others. Not everyone is graced with extra time, but there are good mentors in every community. Local mentors provide huge in-person value and the online universe offers infinitely more ways to find good fits. The wider your engaged network is, the more strategic you can be when selecting mentors as well. Even with a wide spectrum of options, take time to consider whom you trust and who will trust you in return. Be respectful of everyone’s time, but don’t be afraid to approach the giants you admire most.

As an entrepreneur talking with potential mentors, be transparent about your situation, concise with storytelling, and clear with specific needs. Spell out your vision, the current state of your business, what makes you a pain reliever vs. a vitamin, and how this mentor’s experience could help you navigate the fog.

As you explore mentor relationships, it’s unlikely one person can support you on all fronts. This means you must get comfortable working with multiple mentors.

The more one mentor can help, the more attention they deserve. When you give a mentor more attention, it should not feel like they need to do the same. Approach each exchange with composure. Make it convenient for people who aren’t required to care. Go out of your way to be effective and efficient. Learn how someone likes to communicate and make detailed emails concise. Answer questions directly and find ways to keep connecting new dots. Think about deliberate deliverables. As things come together, slow play the delivery of assets and things you want to discuss. This will keep progress from feeling too heavy. It also creates space for concentrated feedback on more specific topics. A mentor who helps you in a meaningful way will rarely disappear, so there’s no need to overload them with too much at once. This practice helps you stay on top of ongoing conversations, while also allowing mentors to add more precise value. Optimizing mentor relationships this way will inspires trust, action fueled by accountability, and solidify a lasting sense of accomplishment for everyone interested in your success.

Along with learning from mentors, consider being a mentor yourself! Success (and failure) leaves clues so no matter what you’ve achieved in life, you have wisdom to share.

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Interested in mentorship? Here are characteristics to consider.

If you decide to offer your time in this way, be generous, but also realistic about how you can help. Mentoring can become a nagging task if you’re stretched too thin and the moment you feel resentment, the quality of your support diminishes. To avoid this pitfall, be upfront with the time you’re willing to commit and deliver whatever is promised. When volunteering a significant amount of time, be sure to feel at peace about the impact you’re making.

Your time spent mentoring should feel easy, efficient, and fun, yet challenging and rewarding as well. A #GiveFirst mindset paired with an authentic connection to founders you care about creates space for honest feedback and a magical experience for those who learn, earn, and then give back.

Super Sentence

Modern gladiators went to battle last weekend and it only took around 11 minutes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win Super Bowl LV. It’s interesting to compare such a small window of actual gameplay to the endless pregame analysis, commentary, predictions, production and post-game highlights.

With two weeks leading up to game day and another week highlighting this annual event, the Super Bowl experience basically lasts three weeks. That’s up to 30,240 minutes of potential attention the NFL can earn from each consumer. With those 11 minutes of live action only representing 0.04% of this three week long spectacle, clearly the Super Bowl is about more than professional football. It’s about the host city coming to life, a stadium full of fans, the TV commercials, the halftime show, the food and everyone sharing the Super Bowl together.

This is not by accident. The NFL understands their audience. They’ve achieved product-market fit and since 1920, have built around what they do best. This entertainment behemoth does American football really well, but $15 Billion in annual revenue doesn’t come from 150 snaps per game. It comes from being the best at one thing, then expanding on that with complementing (and profitable) activities. This has strengthened their existing fan base, created opportunities to increase their audience and transformed their product into a cultural phenomenon.

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If your company was given a free Super Bowl commercial, who would be your target audience? What story would you tell? What action would you want viewers to take and would you be ready to convert attention into trust when they took that action?

The NFL makes product-market fit look easy, but building something that satisfies true demand is harder than it sounds. Avoid getting sacked by admitting your idea isn’t special and that the future of your business relies on your ability to consistently execute. Trust that early success relies on clarifying your value proposition, evolving your business based on continued customer discovery and your ability to collaborate with those around you. This takes finesse, thick skin and a special combination of urgency mixed with patience, but as you secure more paying customers, you may be given a chance to broaden the impact.

Can you describe what you and/or your company does best in one sentence? Hit me with it! If you send me your own super sentence, I’ll connect you with someone who can get you to the next first down.