While definitely a click-baity title, this article and podcast by Louis Grenier featuring Seth Godin is a must read or listen for missional entrepreneurs at any stage. In it, he covers 5 fundamental principles that we would all do well to take to heart:
Market with people, not to people
Sarah Turner already did a great job writing about what this principle looks like for a missional enterprise in her post, The First Ingredient in Starting A Missional Enterprise. In essence, it is really easy to believe that you have come up with the best solution to a problem. The only issue is that more often than not, if you have not started with listening to your audience, you are going to be dead wrong. When you start a missional enterprise, do not start with your brilliant idea. Start with the people you hope to serve and LISTEN. An excerpt from Sarah’s post demonstrates how they took this principle to heart before they started Try Pie:
We began to hear and see these issues through the eyes of our friends, and grow confidence in research saying employment for teens could decrease involvement in crime and increase their likelihood to graduate high school, attend college and retain higher earnings in their future.
Focus on the tiniest possible audience
This second principle almost seems counter-intuitive. If you want to have a significant impact, wouldn’t you want to focus on the largest possible audience? The key to this principle relates to the first. When you start your missional enterprise, you need to know your audience intimately. You need to know their problems and what a potential solution looks like. Trying to do this well with an audience of 1 million people is going to be almost impossible, especially if you are just starting out. Instead, pick the tiniest audience that is viable for making your enterprise sustainable.
Create a remarkable product
The time where people and churches will be willing to throw money at unsustainable ministries is fading. If you want to start a coffee roasting enterprise that helps provide sustainable incomes for coffee farmers in Honduras, make sure you can produce coffee that people will love. Relying on the idea that people will buy bad coffee out of generosity does little to help the farmers or the coffee consumer. Create a remarkable product that provides real value to your audience.
Create an abundance of confidence
With an abundance of options out there, creating trust with your audience is key. Why should they visit your food truck when there are 30 different restaurants within a 10 minute walk? Why should they buy pies from you when there are 10 different bakers in the same city? To gain the confidence of your audience and market, Seth recommends showing your audience why they should trust you. If you have a food truck, give away free samples of your best dish. Make sure everything someone orders from you is spot on every time. If you are offering a service to the community, show people that you are an expert in your service area. Create an abundance of confidence and trust.
Make a spinner and spin the wheel
This one needs a bit of an explanation. In essence, the requirements of starting a missional enterprise or business are so numerous that it can be paralyzing trying to figure out where to start. Should you start by creating a prototype or should you simply start by talking with people? Should you try to get a mailing list together first to gauge interest and start building your network, or should you wait until you have something for people to look at? Seth’s answer is, “YES!” Don’t fret about what to do first, just pick something (spin the wheel) and do it!
If you haven’t read anything by Seth Godin or heard him speak, you are missing out on one of the best and most thoughtful marketers out there. You can check out his blog or read one of his many books here.