BREW panel: Finding the right product and market fit is all about priorities

    If you’re starting a business, pick one specific client you want to serve. The smaller your focus, the better your odds of success, a group of panelists told Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week attendees at today’s Entrepreneur Day.

    Four local entrepreneurs sat on the panel discussion, called “Hard Pill to Swallow: Lessons Learned in Product/Market Fit.” They each talked about their respective business journeys and advised aspiring entrepreneurs how to narrow their target customer base.

    Courtney Sparkman, founder and CEO of OfficerReports.com, filled a void in a niche market when he catered to the companies hiring security guards. He suggested testing out as many different concepts as possible for as inexpensively as you can when finding the right product or service.

    Take notes from your competitors, or companies you aspire to be like, said Calvin Mills, founder, president and CEO of CMC Technology Solutions and SLT Technologies. Mills studied what worked and what didn’t work for Best Buy, where he was working when he was coming up with the idea for his company.

    “I studied a multibillion-dollar company and learned how to be better than them,” he said.

    Pick your ideal client—down to age, gender, race, occupation and income level—before launching a startup, and cater everything to that one client. Then come up with another three or four client profiles, and prioritize them in order of how much they need you. Provide services to them in order of priority.

    “You want your client base to need a little more than you can give them,” said Mary Ellen Slayter, CEO of RepCap, a content marketing agency that serves clients in the financial sector. “It might sound counterintuitive, but that puts you in a position to say no, and you’d rather be vetting customers than petitioning them.”

    Vishal Vasanji, co-founder and CEO of Relief Telemed, encouraged attendees to narrow down their market opportunities by looking at a market where no one else is looking and making that client pool your top priority. He knows he’s successful, he said, when a client tells him, “This is exactly what we were looking for.”

    “You can’t make a product for everybody,” says Vasanji, “because if you do, your product is for nobody.”

    BREW kicked off Tuesday evening with an Opening Night networking event and entrepreneurial showcase. Ruby Receptionists founder and CEO Jill Nelson delivered a keynote address titled “Culture Powered Growth” to kick off Entrepreneur Day this morning.  

    BREW wraps up on Thursday evening with “Get Started Louisiana,” a high stakes pitch event hosted by Cox Communications and PitchBR that will feature five entrepreneurs competing for a top prize valued at $10,000.

    Get complete BREW event details and tickets.

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