This year’s economic landscape is proving to be very difficult for individuals and businesses globally. During this tough time, entrepreneurs should look at other ways of creating value for their customers. An example is to collaborate with other businesses or using technology to enhance a business to adapt to the current environment.
Staying focused while simplifying the value aspect of a business is one of the fundamentals. We took this opportunity to equip entrepreneurs about how to they can bring value to their customers by chatting with Ellen Fischat, the Founder of Story Room.
We’d like to get to know you better, please share a bit about yourself…
I am a social worker, turned social entrepreneur to impact entrepreneur. I am a people’s person, passionate about socio-economic development and how technology can accelerate that process. I have been working with tech founders since 2009 when I started coaching them at SEDA ICT Incubator in Mandela Bay.
How can entrepreneurs simplify value for their customers?
Founder’s need to be able to articulate the value of their products and services to their nine-year-old nephew and 80-year-old grandmother. If customers don’t get how your service makes their lives easier, they will not buy it. Instead of aiming to be the smartest people in the room, founders should aim to present the most familiar and easy to understand value offering.
Is there a particular method that can be used to define value, that is applicable to any business?
There are many methodologies to define business models and value creation. There isn’t a single methodology that guarantees success. A variety of factors, such as market size, economic circumstances, distribution channel and access to networks will influence the success of your service or product. I must say that although it’s been around for a while, the business model canvas remains a simple and solid methodology.
A lot of entrepreneurs get stuck in the creation of complex business models and ambitious financial projections. The simplest methodology is to actually test your product with real-life customers. Is anyone willing to part with their money, once you have presented it to them? And I am not talking about friends, families, and fools. If you get strangers to buy your services, repeatedly, then you know you are providing value and have found a good business model.
Is there any African or South African company that entrepreneurs could learn from?
There are so many examples of amazing South African and African companies. But Yoco, is a brilliant example of a South African company. They provide a highly cost-effective solution to micro-enterprises, solopreneurs and small businesses to accept payments. I love that any entrepreneur can keep more money in their pockets, in a safe and affordable manner. It’s such a simple, yet inclusive and impactful solution.
Some entrepreneurs see competition as a threat, what would you advise entrepreneurs do to leverage competitors in order to create value for their customers?
Our competitors are our second greatest advisors! We can learn such a lot from them, at almost no cost at all. Be brave enough to admit what they do better and learn from that. Sometimes it also just makes better business sense to “co-opt” with each other, than compete.
Customer experience is not yet at its peak in South Africa and this could be one of the ways in which entrepreneurs could bring value to customers. Please share ways in which entrepreneurs could use CX to create value.
I can’t say it often enough but test your assumptions and MVPs before you invest in fully-fledged product development and you have not tested the product with an actual user. Co-create your products with your potential customers. Invest in understanding their needs, instead of enforcing your own ideas. You need to see the world through your customers' eyes before you can create the most valued and easiest path for them.
Businesses tend to make assumptions about what customers need. What are the top 3 steps entrepreneurs should take to demystify assumptions?
1. Approach your ideal customer (as many as you can) and ask them to use your product or service and get their feedback.
2. Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is your test product.
3. Don’t take offense but listen and learn from their feedback. Amend and update the product and take it back to the customers. You will know you are successful when they can’t live without your product and pay to use it.
In closing, the hardest and biggest lessons founders need to learn, is to part with their egos and attachment to their products. All the sweat and hard work will not pay off if you don’t have the ability to listen, take on advise and create the value people ask for.