I don't give advice. I show you how to use tools to make good decisions. 2x failed entrepreneur. Startup mentor and advisor. After our first 5 to 10 minutes, we will have a plan that outlines how much I can help you.
I think that you are asking the wrong question. Any positive feedback you get on here shouldn't be used to make decisions about the idea unless it comes with money. The only feedback you should accept is that people say they see a need, which should prompt you to ask people to pay you to solve it.
First, let me answer your top level question. If you are asking future distribution partners to sign non-binding letters of intent, you probably don't really need to offer any incentive. However, I would argue that non-binding letters of intent are not nearly as useful here as they might be in other situations.
If I ask a real estate agent or a small business owner to sign a non-binding LoI, chances are they are going to take it more seriously than the document actually is, which is what makes it useful for validation. However, when you are dealing with a larger company that signs distribution agreements on a more regular basis, they might view signing your LoI as being the same thing as telling you, "Yeah, this is a great idea. Of course I would buy them." even if they never would actually buy any.
I would suggest getting an LoI to put out some test placements in retail stores. It might even make sense to try and get some contracts signed, though my gut is telling me that might not be the best idea.
In the end, a non-binding LoI is already one of the lowest risks way to validate something. I don't think you should be offering long-term benefits to the other party unless they are putting up with some of the risk. Instead, focus on the benefits to them. You might say you will give your first 3 partners an innovation award or something to recognize their forward thinking status in their market and community, etc.
"Every contractor we talk to tells us its a great idea and they would pay for leads, but we have yet to have anyone actually purchase a subscription to our site."
This seems like an obvious question, but have you explicitly asked them to give you money for the service? If not, then that is 100% the first place to start, bar none.
If they say no, then there are a few things you can do to help your cause. One is called reversing risk, which more or less means structuring your 'ask' in such a way that you are taking on a risk rather than the customer. In your case, the concept might be mean asking for a refundable 3 month service deposit.
Sales and marketing is where most of my experience lies, specifically in helping startups to find product market fit. Honestly, that is likely where you are having problems.
I would like to talk with you, so I will give you a clarity $20 promo credit to get us started and see if there is a good fit. If you are interested, send me a message.
There are many benefits, but for me it is the truest expression of myself. I can take the long view and set myself on a path of learning and growth that allows me to accomplish the change I want to see in the world. It allows me to express my personal core values through my business activities. But the best part? I don't have anyone telling me during an annual review that I "could be less ambitious." Good riddance.
Short answer: yes, its a waste of money in the context of what you are asking, but there are caveats. You will have to decide what makes sense to you.
I don't like talking about myself much, but it might be useful to you so here it is. Excuse me if it comes off as bragging. I don't know how to talk about myself and avoid that appearance.
Let me lay down some of my personal timeline for you.
2007, May - Graduate K-State (EE)
2009, December - Start teaching myself Java so I can get a job at BugLabs
2010, May - Attend Big Omaha, affirm that I should be an entrepreneur
2010, Sept (I think) - Startup Organizer Summit in KC, meet tons of people
2010, October - Start curating KC edition of StartupDigest
2011, March - Start writing for Silicon Prairie News
2011, March - Attend SXSW for the first time
2011, August - Close on home sale, move into parents basement
2013, May - Attend Big Omaha 5, take shirt off on stage during Noah Kagan’s talk
I am an introvert. SXSW takes everything out of me emotionally within 48 hours. But I did grow up in a military family and I learned to meet people.
Over the course of the past 3 years, I have spent two of them intentionally going out of my way to meet people. I knew I needed to have a network but I didn't know anyone, so I went out and got it. I count lots of fellow entrepreneurs from all over the globe as friends (some of them are commenting and active here on Clarity). I have had 2 hour sitdowns with internet famous people to give me advice. Even what is seemingly random stuff, like the Noah Kagan Big Omaha talk, formed the basis for a relationship.
If you don't want or can't put in the time to do it the old fashioned way (pressing the flesh, as my sales mentor would say), then go to school. But you can get other things done during those two years and still end up with a kickass network if you want to.
If you want pointers about how to build relationships, or just more detail, feel free to schedule a call. Cheers!
First things first. I fundamentally agree with what Dan and John have both said, and I have personally taken advice from Dan on a very closely related topic in the past.
I also mentor startups to avoid wasting time like I did in my startups. So beware, because not testing correctly at this phase of the idea is an easy way to cause yourself lots of future pain.
You have three big concerns with any new idea, whether you are a startup or a product manager at a corporation responsible for a new product launch. In order, they are:
1. Who? (is my customer)
2. How painful? (is their problem)
3. What? (will they give me to solve it)
The answers to these questions are obviously all related. The best way to figure out the answers to these questions is to talk to people and ask them non-leading questions (lots of info out there about how to do that. If you want to avoid reading too much, we could chat about how to avoid this.) How do you actually do this?
1. Write down the problem you think you are solving and who you think has it.
2. Talk to those people and ask them what their biggest issues are. Get them to explain any problems that you think might relate to the problem you are solving.
3. Ask them to give you something to solve that problem (essentially do what Dan and John are saying, try selling your vision of the solution). Take careful note of how they respond to the way you describe it.
It is important to note that even if the problem isn't a BIG problem for them, meaning it is not in their top 3 problems, that you still may be able to build a business out of it. However, if you are solving what is consistently their number 10 most important problem, your sales cycle will be longer, your growth will be slower, and you will learn how to patiently build a business.
Cheers! And good luck.
I will jump in here and say that if I was looking to learn more about the advertising industry, I wouldn't have any problem paying John to educate me.
I mentor startups on the application of product management processes to help them make better decisions.
Before you try to do sales analysis and forecasting, you need to find out if your potential licensees see value in using your solution. The best way to do this is to talk to some of their product managers and find out what challenges they face. Are they struggling to differentiate with their competitors? Are they getting lots of complaints or requests for improved visualizations in their product?
Once you understand their situation as they view it, you can explore to see if your solution is valuable to them by solving one of their big problems. At the point where you understand the value to your potential licensees, you can start to test pricing.
Let me know if you need more help here. Cheers and good luck.
I mentor startups in the product management process so they can make better decisions.
Quite frankly, you are asking the wrong questions. What accounting problem are you going to solve for startups? Without knowing this and verifying it with people that would be potential customers, you can't possibly know whether or not your vision of the solution will work.
I will go one step further and warn you that feedback you get on here about whether or not it will work should be taken with a grain of salt. Always beware of second hand customer validation information. If you need some help getting first hand information, I expect that I can help point you in the right direction.
Cheers and good luck!
Startup Consulting Product Management Lean Startups Early-stage Startups