Build and sell superior products to survive and prosper

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Entrepreneurs who thoroughly know and understand potential buyers have a terrific opportunity to grow their businesses by building and selling superior products to meet customer needs.

Historically, the best approach to building and selling award-winning solutions is to talk with customers to learn about their wants, needs and wishes. This process begins by learning what clients have been buying to meet their needs. Questions might address customer satisfaction level with the current competitive offering, the price paid for the product, where it was purchased and any information about product features, warranties and support.

With this in hand, a customer-focused entrepreneur can build the first version of a compelling product. With this initial task complete, potential customers can comment on this nascent offering. That new information allows the entrepreneur to respond by implementing the appropriate modifications. The goal is to repeat this process between entrepreneur and prospective clients until the ultimate solution is in hand.

Savvy entrepreneurs generally adhere to a set of principles and best practices to achieve superlative product results. Parameters might include making a product that works faster or is less expensive. These entrepreneurs may see an opportunity to build products that integrate well or are complementary with other products. In some cases, a totally disruptive and innovative product might forever change the marketplace. With competitors in mind, entrepreneurs should also consider product features, costs, margins, pricing, service and support issues. The end goal will be to build and sell a highly differentiated product with superior advantages to incumbent product offerings.

Consider the success of two exceptional entrepreneurs who have built products and services using this business philosophy. The first entrepreneur is Amy Anderson of MediConnect. She has built a phenomenal company that sells a service to health and life insurance companies and law firms. The other entrepreneur is Curt Geiger, founder of the startup company Geigerrig. His company sells a consumer product to outdoor enthusiasts. Both leaders have exceptional companies that are flourishing with astonishing revenues. Why? Each is building, delivering and selling exactly what their customers want.

In the course of an ordinary day, MediConnect's team of highly trained agents utilizes custom-built, proprietary technologies to retrieve, digitize, index, code and securely deliver thousands of medical records from millions of facilities and provider locations across six continents. These secured digitized medical records are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week for immediate access on demand by any authorized requestor from anywhere in the world.

By their very design, MediConnect's products meet the health information technology demands of marquee health, life insurance and legal-services companies with medical record retrieval, online documentation and exchange.

CEO Amy Anderson leads this fast-growing business by deploying a process that considers the wishes of her customers. Anderson tells me that each request goes into a database of more than one million physicians and hospitals. As soon as the request enters MediConnect's system, the retrieval staff begins contacting providers, requesting copies of medical records that they immediately scan, digitize, index and link to the client's system. Why is MediConnet successful? It has developed a service that surprises and delights its customers by delivering digitized medical information quickly, reliably, securely, accurately and at an exceptional price.

Outdoor enthusiasts who hike, climb, bike, ski, hunt, fish and run need a source of clean water as they enjoy recreational activities. Geigerrig's hydration packs and filter systems are taking the country by storm with thousands of customers proudly telling their friends how much they appreciate the innovative products. Note the compliments of a loyal customer: "I love everything about my new Geigerrig hydration pack! The ability to attach an in-line water filter for all-day hydration makes for longer days without having to carry all the extra water weight. I also really enjoy the spray benefits from the pump-activated pressurizing system. It makes cooling off and sharing with others a breeze, especially filling up a water bowl for my dog who often accompanies me on my adventures. I LOVE this product."

Why is this new company soaring high? Why is it winning every international new product award? Curt Geiger, company CEO, has the answer. "I am making and selling products that customers have been waiting to buy. I am replacing the competitions' products." The Geigerrig-patented advantage involves putting a container of water under pressure so it can spray its contents. Competing products require users to suck the water from their hydration packs; not an easy thing to do when racing along a country road.

Designed with the customer in mind, Geigerrig products are exactly what the users want. They have the features, benefits, accessories and warranties that are important to all serious recreational buyers.

There is much to learn from these two great entrepreneurs on how to build a high-flying business. Let us all remember that entrepreneurs who rise above the rest do so by making and selling compelling products that have extraordinary customer demand.

Do you have a comment or an example story to tell? Connect with me at @AskAlanEHall or send me a message at www.AlanEHall.com.

Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is the chairman of the Utah Technology Council.

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