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Proper preparation can save small business owners thousands of dollars and hours. With most people just starting out on a tight budget, this can be the difference between surviving the first few years and becoming just another statistic in failed businesses column. 

This should be balanced by action. Once a viable product is ready, it must be shipped. Waiting for a perfect product is just as damning--it'll never happen.

But a little bit of strategic planning goes a long way. If you're about to start a new venture or create a new product, ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. Who is this for?

While you may have a general idea, the more granular you get, the more likely you are to succeed in catering to this market. Try to get in the minds of your prospective customers, discover their wants, needs, and pain points.

This is why the concept of scratching your own itch (i.e., creating a product or service where you're the ideal customer) is so powerful. It eliminates a lot of the guesswork in this step. While it may be a lot easier, creating something for people outside of your own personal demographics is still doable; it just requires more due diligence.

2. What's the story they are telling themselves?

This group of people you are targeting has subgroups. About any given subgroup ask yourself: What do they believe?

Our worlds are shaped first and foremost by the stories we tell ourselves. By identifying the narratives the subgroups of your target market are telling themselves, you gain immense power. Marketing is now a cinch; you know how to reach these people emotionally and what to designate as the main benefit of your product or service.

Discover the narratives and your positioning will be near-perfect right out of the gate.

3. Has this group ever spent money to buy something like this before?

If what you're selling is exceptionally new, if nothing like it has ever existed, you will have a much more difficult time. Pioneers, as the saying goes, get arrows in their backs and die.

Now, while that's generally true, that doesn't mean it always is; universals are rarely ever true.

Depending on what you're bringing to market, it may not be money you seek. There's also attention and trust, and referrals that people trade on. Whatever you are trying to obtain, the same principal holds true: If your target market has never paid for--in whatever currency you're trading in--something like it, you will have a much more difficult time.

All that being said, if your product is brand new, don't fret. If the saying was always true, you wouldn't have a computer or smartphone to read this on.

4. Does this group know you exist?

Again, if the answer is no, you'll have a more difficult time than if it's yes. More time (and most likely money) will need to be devoted to marketing in order to build awareness. If you're well known by this group prior to launching, this is a phenomenal plus, especially if it's positive awareness overall.

If people don't know you exist, they can't buy from you.

5. Do the people who are aware of you trust you?

First comes awareness, then comes trust. It's an essential marriage in business. The former is immaterial without the latter.

When's the last time you bought from a company you didn't trust?

There are two major ways to build trust. The first one is guarantee your product or service. When you are first starting out this can be an invaluable asset for gaining customers. The second one way is testimonials.

Testimonials, especially by individuals who your potential customer considers to be like him or her (i.e., same gender, same race, etc.) is a powerful form of social proof and a potent sales tool.

How do you get testimonials when you are first starting out? Consider offering your product or service free of charge. While this may seem penny-foolish, I promise you more times than not it's pound-wise in the long run.

I hope you found this article useful. Remember, the quality of your questions determines the quality of your answers.