Which Comes First, the Fish or the Lure?

January 29th, 2009 by | Print


I must admit, I love to fish. Send me out into the middle of the deep blue, no land in sight and the smell of salt in the air, tying Palomar knots and working the action of 40 lb albacore – I come back a better man. Although my preference is deep sea fishing, I confess, I’ll take the action from the middle of a lake or the shores of a river, too.


My 5-year old son discovered he was hooked on the habit after spending some time with his cousin the previous summer fishing on the Colorado River. Watching his cousin, Brandon, hook up a number of rainbow trout, he asked if he could have a turn. His cousin cast out the bait and got a bite. He passed the pole over to my son to reel it in. The energy sent up through the line to his little hands was enough for my son to pledge his passion for the sport. As a souvenir, his cousin gave him the lure that they were using – a big, shiny spoon lure.


So naturally my OCD son asked every day for the next year, “Dad, can we go fishing today?” It was easy for me to cave in on most occasions since I have the affliction, too. Believing that he had the magic bullet for success, my son always wanted me to tie on that big, shiny spoon lure. I tried to reason with him that the little fish in our local lake (really a glorified pond) were not interested in a piece of metal half their size. “But, dad, Brandon and me caught so many fish last summer with this lure. It has magic…” he said with a semi-crazed fish finding smiling. Have you tried to reason with an obsessed 5-year old?


So after about an hour of moving from spot to spot, casting and reeling, dropping the line in on top of fish that dared to show themselves, my son whined “… why aren’t the fish biting?” A few half-dozen casts more and my son was ready to pack it in.


Lately, I’ve been approached by many want-to-be solopreneurs that take the same approach to business as my son does to fishing. I am often asked, “I have this really great idea, but why can’t I seem to reel in the business?” Their excitement for their idea is undeniable – and I encourage entrepreneurs to be passionate about what they do. However, passion alone isn’t enough if you don’t know the market.


So which comes first, the customer or the business idea? My answer is either.


If you first identify a customer base that you are passionate about helping, excellent. But, what do you know about this market that gets them on the hook?


If you first dream up a product or service and believe that once you create it, people will be knocking down your door, it can lead to success, too. This is sometimes known as the “field of dreams” scenario – build it and they will come. Although you may be passionate about your idea, the paying public may not share your passion. Sure, you’ve run it by some friends and family and they all tell you that it sounds like an excellent idea. This is not market research. Following this quick-to-market formula will most likely leave you looking like an early round reject from American Idol crying into the camera and saying, “but everyone tells me I have a great voice!”


Regardless of whether the customer base or the idea comes first, you may end up with a successful solopreneur endeavor, but, you need to at minimum research the following:


  1. What are the demographics of your target market (age, location, affluence, gender, passions, and any common need)?
  2. What is the size of the market? Is it growing, staying the same size or shrinking?
  3. Where does your target market currently go to resolve the problems that you plan on solving?
  4. Who are your potential competitors?
  5. What solutions do they offer for the market?
  6. What are customers paying for the solution to their problem?
  7. What is different about your solution that will have them switch from the current competitors to you?


At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which is the inspiration for your idea – the customer or the product / service. However, simply wanting fish and taking your big, shiny spoon lure out in hopes of bring in the big fish is a risky proposition. You put yourself at high risk for wasting time and money – only to pack it in at the end of the day.


With research, you can focus your energies on fishing in the right locations with the right lure to experience the excitement of success.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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