Dan Beeken, UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation
The 60th episode of Seinfeld was instant Gold – "Gold Jerry, Gold!” to channel my inner Kenny Bania. “The Junior Mint” ran during season 4 and put an Emmy in the hands of Michael Richards.
Elaine’s latest boyfriend, Roy, is a chubby “starving artist.” He ends up in the hospital to have his spleen removed, Jerry and Kramer watch the surgery as if they are at a movie theater, a junior mint flies through the air, yada yada yada, and Roy ends up cured.
Kramer’s quote sums up today’s nugget of wisdom – “Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint. It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint. It’s very refreshing” (To be honest, I think they are gross. And evidently, so did Jerry.)
We encounter startups on an almost daily basis who have created the next “sliced bread”, they love it and just know everyone else is going to love it too. Maybe. But all too often, we fling their Junior Mint through the air because we don’t like it, we don’t want it, so don’t even try to sell it to us.
That’s a shocking and often unbelievable piece of feedback for many entrepreneurs. We don’t like what you are trying to sell us. Rather than go down a new path, tweak our offering, or simply throw in the towel, it’s too often the case that the business owner continues to shove it in our face – metaphorically speaking of course.
“My baby is the prettiest baby and everyone will love it, and if they don’t, it’s on them. I’m not wrong, they all are, and eventually they will see the light.”
“...I mean, who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint?”
The power of Customer Discovery is real. Those who chose to ignore it often pay a hefty price of being irrelevant to the market they assumed couldn’t wait to buy their product. Please, please take a little time and ask prospective customers if they want your Junior Mints. Do it early on in your efforts, before you have gone “past the point of no return”, before you’ve developed blinders to what the world may think of it, and long before you’ve cashed out your 401(k) to finance it. At that point, you will be too close and too invested in the idea to listen to the customer. You’ll find creative ways to excuse their negative feedback. And that intolerance to others (potential customers) feedback could be detrimental to your business.
Put some questions together and ask a sampling of prospective customers what they think of your concept. This doesn’t need to be a double blind study carried out by an expensive third party market research firm. This can be as simple as you sending out a few emails to folks you trust. Solicit their feedback. But most importantly, listen to what they are saying. If they don’t like your Junior Mints, be ready to hear that and adapt. No one wins when candy is flying around the operating room.