Let me let you in on a little startup secret: you want your prospective customers in pain. Lots of pain. Really suffering, like if their hands were being held over an open fire and the flames were starting to make their skin blister, blacken and burn.
Now, I basically a nice guy and don’t want anyone (except most Republican Presidential candidates) to experience any pain at all. All rainbows, kittens, and puppies. But, I want your prospective customers to really be hurting when they hear about you – and so do you.
Here’s why: Pain changes behavior. While we all seek pleasure, pleasure is a weak second place when it comes to changing people’s behavior enough for them adopt a new product or service. Regardless of all the arguments you can make that your product will make this faster, richer, happier, more entertained or taller, customers will tune all that out as typical blah, blah, blah. Unless they are in pain and they decide your offering may take some or all of their pain away.
Keep in mind there’s all sorts of pain. From the manager who just got reamed by his boss to the mild, nagging boredom a 16-year-old feels when no one posts to them for like 10 whole minutes. And by the way, maybe your customer doesn’t even realize they are in pain, and with your help can get in touch with it (aka advertising).
But all and all, you, the self-funded startup founder (SFSF?), need to categorize, itemize, measure, and probe your customers’ pain, and decide if it’s enough pain to motivate them to listen to you, consider your offering, and ultimately buy.
I recently made that calculation with Solopomo.com. Sure, there are people out there who use Trello, and want to get their Trello work done using the Pomodoro Technique. While it’s a cool idea, and works, prospective customers are just not in enough pain to motivate the change in behavior Solopomo would need to succeed. (I’m keeping Solopomo around for a month or so, so if you haven’t picked up my nifty Trello tips, grab them before they go away.)
4129400323_03d17b79b0_mSo what’s next, side-project-wise? (I’ve got a day job that’s a blast) Time to return to doing a SaaS for a very specific group of people who are in real pain each and every day. They are feeling the pain of failing at building their dream. They are feeling the pain of sacrificing family time that can never be recovered. They are hating they day jobs. And they are starting to hate themselves because their best is not good enough to get the job done they way they’ve been trying.
I’m talking about you of course.
You’re reading this because you are trying, struggling, clawing to build¬†your self-funded startup. But you are not making progress, or enough progress. You need a new approach, a whole new tool, for building your startup that make it possible to really make progress, not tread water week after week. You’re not sure I’ve got anything you can use, but your pain means you’ll at least give it a try.
So are you in enough self-funded startup founder pain to try something new? Let me know in the comments or drop me a line at bob.walsh@47hats.com.

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