Over the years, I’ve had the great fortune to meet thousands of entrepreneurs. Throughout our many conversations, there are a handful of phrases I keep hearing founders repeat. Often, these phrases do the opposite of what the speaker intended.
It’s time to address those phrases and explain why they’re wrong and even dangerous to say. Here are three phrases I think founders need to stop using:
“If you build it, they will come.”
No, they won’t. You can build it, but no matter how good your product is, gone are the days when a product is so good that it doesn’t need marketing. It’s pretty simple, actually. You can build the most amazing product in the world but if consumers don’t hear about it, then they won’t use it.
The thing is, we all have more noise than ever before. The competition for our attention has never been fiercer. Everyone wants a piece of our brain and an allocation of real estate on our phones. Building a product is about 20 percent of the way to getting someone to use your product. The saying really should be, “If you build it, and then do marketing and user acquisition, they will come.”
“I have no competitors.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until I stop hearing entrepreneurs say this ridiculous and dangerous sentence. If you believe you have no competition, there are three options: You define competition incorrectly, you haven’t done sufficient research, or, well, you’re just lying.
If you are indeed correct and no one else has ever tried to solve the problem you’re trying to solve, then maybe it’s not such a big problem and there is no demand for what you’re building. If, however, many have tried to solve the problem and failed, or if they have succeeded, but there’s still room for another player, that’s when you know you’re on the right track. Competitors are not your enemies. They are your best friends, and they are the best way to validate your venture.
“I have an idea that’s going to be the next Instagram.”
Honestly, when someone says this, I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head. Let me simplify this for you. If you’re at the idea stage, there is zero percent chance that you know, at this stage, that your startup will succeed, let alone be the next big thing.
An idea, as I’ve said many times before, is a tiny microscopic part of your entrepreneurial journey. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Take your idea, add market research, the right timing, execution, iteration, a successful launch, initial revenue, some external funding, and then product optimization, and you have begun the journey.
When someone thinks at the idea stage that they know that their venture will be a successful company, chances are they have no idea what they’re about to experience and how hard the startup life truly is. To me, that means failure.
I don’t know who the first founder to use these phrases was, but he or she did an injustice to millions of entrepreneurs around the world. It’s time we left phrases like “If you build it, they will come” to movies like Field of Dreams because that’s exactly what that phrase is, a dream. It is not reality to assume that just because you have a solid idea, everyone will come running, no one else has tried this before you, and your idea is enough to build a large successful company.