I have always been a fan of Eric Ries, famed author of The Lean Startup.
He says: “Start-up success is not a consequence of good genes or being in the right place at the right time. Success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”
Being a “growth hacker”, I have worked a lot with startup businesses to figure out a clear path that can lead their businesses towards success.
The first thing I advice to a startup is find a PURPOSE in their idea.
And I ask them all a simple question: “Is your business going to solve a problem that exists in the market?”
That’s where I know, where we are heading towards.
People are looking for answers of their questions. They are looking for solutions of their problems. The opportunity lies everywhere. It’s upon you and your idea that can help people in finding answer of their questions and solve their problems.
After replying to the above question, the next thing that comes up on the table is: “Where to start and what to do?”
My three pointers would be:
- Know the people you are going to sell your service or product.
- Know where they hangout (social networks, blogs, communities).
- Let them know how your service or product can help solve their problem.
While writing this, I thought it would be unfair to share only my voice as a strategist. It’s always better to listen to the stories of those people who run startups and get to know how to make a fortune from scratch. So I contacted some of my friends (Startup Evangelists, Marketing Authors, Business Strategists, and Entrepreneurs) to contribute their three ideas each. Let’s dive into their advice and then conclude on higher note.
P.S. If you like this post, you might also like 5 Startups To Watch: How Companies Leverage The Cloud To Handle Big Data
Alan Weinkrantz – Startup Evangelist (@alanweinkrantz)
Alan is the best guy to ask: What three essential things that startups need to know before going live? Why? Because, he possesses 30 years of startup experience with focus on PR, social, and content. He has served many U.S. and Israeli companies and now he is serving the new generation of startups disrupting every phase of business. The list of clients he served includes companies like Rackspace, SummitPower, SecureLogix, and many more.
- Is your company blog current? Be sure to have a body of work that supports your thought leadership and encourages conversation and engagement.
- Is your press room up to date with contact information, downloadable artwork? And, Are you easy to reach for further coverage?
- What’s your plan to thank early users and partners?
The best gift you can give an early customer is to recognize them with stories about them, contribute with them for your content, or provide them with early access to future revisions.
Mark W. Schaefer – Marketing Educator & Best Selling Author (@markwschaefer)
Mark Schaefer is an acclaimed college educator, author, speaker, and consultant who have been featured in Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CBS News. He consults on marketing strategy, business development, and social media marketing. Mark also writes a very popular blog which has an active following from all corners of the world.
There are three concepts that are consistently overlooked by startups.
- First is the consideration of risk. There seems to be a dialog about facing risk that almost makes it seem glamorous to some people. The best entrepreneurs do everything they can to AVOID risk. So do whatever research you can up front to brace yourself for the competitive response!
- The biggest mistake I see startups make is overlooking the need for a marketing budget. Many people think marketing can be covered “later” or in a “do it yourself” mode, never realizing that marketing is absolutely crucial to what they do. No business can exist without acquiring customers. Make sure you have professional help in this area.
- The third thing startups must realize is the balance between bootstrapping (running a business on a very tight budget) and the importance of image upfront. Let’s say there are two similar businesses competing in the same space. One has a crude website that is barely functional and one has a very professional website that communicates stability, usefulness and competence. Which one would you visit?
My point is that everything you do communicates and even if you are start-up, you don’t necessarily have to look like one on the web today. Everything communicates and that might just be the difference between making it and falling short.
Ziv Meltzer – Startup Owner, Co-Founder (@zivtzi)
Ziv is a young user experience designer from Israel and a co-founder of a health startup HelloDoctor, a mobile app that help patients in complex medical conditions to regain control over and easily navigate through their medical documents when they face their doctors.
- Your company’s bank account, your company’s successes and failures, your tests and milestones don’t matter. Some of them you can control, others you can’t, but they don’t matter. Your team does. And your co-founders the most. Argue with respect to each other, and celebrate every single win.
- Forget what you know, and what you think you know. Be prepared for changes, be open to new ideas, and test often. You’ll be surprised by what reality has for you. And most importantly, learn from each such small experiment, though you think you know it all. I sure thought I know a lot, but keep learning every single day.
- Raising money is a tool, not a goal. Selling your company fast isn’t a goal either. Getting feedback emails from users [who are] asking for more features, that’s a goal. Hearing a user saying “You changed my life” is a goal. A new version with bug fixes and A/B tests is a goal. Celebrate each goal you complete!
Simon Mainwaring – CEO We First Inc, Award Winning Branding Consultant (@simonmainwaring)
Simon is the founder of We First, award-winning branding consultant, advertising creative director, and social media specialist and blogger. He is the author of NYT’s bestselling book, We First. According to his experiences, following are the three points that startups need to know before the launch.
- Know who you are and [display it in] a simple and emotional positioning statement, so others can share your brand story.
- Remember that you must speak with your audience in mind and so, frame all your marketing messaging [about] the benefit to your customers rather than what makes your company so good.
- Everything you do must be informed by an overarching mission that remains constant even as your company’s pivot. That way your company will remain meaningful to you and others.
Chris Reimer – An Entrepreneur & Vice President of a Company (@ChrisReimer)
Chris Reimer is currently working as Vice President for Social Media at a digital agency known as Falk Harrison. Chris advises on social media strategy, new business development, and content management. He also owns a popular T-shirt business named as RizzoTees as his entrepreneurial venture.
- Startups, in general, should always try to budget for lean times. And when you’re a startup, lean times can last for years! Try to have more cash on hand than you thought you would need.
- Marketing cannot be the area where you cut. If you’re not marketing, who is finding out about your product?
- Remember this: YOU are very excited about your product, because after all, it was borne of your brilliance. But, it is likely that the general public won’t be as excited. You might build a wonderful product or service, and people may love it, but just keep in mind that customers might not get AS EXCITED as you. This will keep you from getting disappointed over the general public’s reaction to your launch. Think about it: “Who could be more excited about your awesome new product than you?”
Aaron Lee Wei Ren – Blogger and a Startup Owner (@AskAaronLee)
Aaron Lee is one of the finest bloggers on the web right now, who writes on the topics related to business, social media, and marketing. He also owns a fashion startup known as Leneys. Let’s dive into his three pointer advice.
When I (Aaron) was a child, my grandma used to share with me a popular Chinese quote that her mom told her when she was growing up.
The saying goes like this: “The best time to plan a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today”. This sets the stage for my first tip.
- Start engaging early: Just like the quote. It’s every company needs to start engaging TODAY. Every company or startup needs to have a “face” or someone who starts engaging early WAY before the company officially launches. This helps the company to gain traction early because they have built a foundation of relationship with people that they can approach and say: “Hey, I have this [product or service], would you like to test it and share it?” rather than built and then say: “Now, who can we pitch it to?”
- Know your identity: What is your identity? Are you a tech-savvy goofy brand? Humorous brand, maybe? This is important because this will determine how you present yourself in front of others.
- Its okay to fail: While it’s fun to see company getting for billions, not every startup will go on and do that. In fact, many will fail. Jon Oringer, founder of the successful Shutterstock founded many failing companies before finding the right idea with Shutterstock. Billionaire Mark Cuban lesson to entrepreneurs is that “you only have to be right ONCE”. People will only remember you for your right ideas and not your wrong ones.
Hiten Shah – Founder CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics (@hnshah)
Hiten Shah is an American entrepreneur and startup advisor. He is the cofounder and president of the analytics companies KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg.
- Create a problem hypothesis from your idea
Relate your ideas with real-time problems. You need to turn them into solutions in order for them to work for you. At the time of starting KISSmetrics, very few businesses considered Twitter as a marketing tool. When we started, we observed that people were following us. We created a simple PHP script for scheduling tweets. Later, it turned into a Software-as-a-Service application named ShareFeed. The hypothesis of ShareFeed was: Twitter users have a problem of tweeting things. (ShareFeed was later bought by Buffer.)
- Setup a system to pull people to you
Cultivate curiosity. It is easy said than done, but you need to do that in order to pull people in. For a new product, you can create a simple landing page where people can come and put their email. Just make sure that you communicate clearly with your prospective customers on this page. The landing page can lead to a survey where you can ask the prospect about his or preferences. Use the survey findings to validate your idea. In data, you will find what you are up against and what kind of users you have.
- Find the pattern of pain
This is the tricky part. In this one, you need to identify if you and prospective customers have the same pain. From your survey responses, shortlist the ‘ideal’ people for your product. Develop conversations with them and listen to what they are saying very carefully. Make sure during your conservations you do not enforce your views on them. Only discuss and detect the pain points. Once you understand the pain, you will be able to build something that people will truly love.
Andy Crestodina – Author and Founder of Orbit Media (@Crestodina)
Andy Crestodina is the Co-founder & the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. He is also an author of a marketing book “Content Chemistry”.
- Know your value
Knowing exactly what problem your startup solves is the first step. You need to know who you’re talking to and what unmet need you’re meeting. Even a very simple positioning process will sharpen your message.It may change later as you learn how your audience is using your services, but the position you start with is the cornerstone of your marketing. Miss this and all else will fail.
- Get a few early champions
Even if you have only one customer, get a quote from them to use in your marketing. This is important social proof that shows visitors that you’re legitimate. Eventually, you’ll want to use these testimonials everywhere: your home page, product/services pages, landing pages, and newsletters.This kind of social proof is most effective when used near calls-to-action. Don’t make a separate testimonials page. Put the proof right in the pudding of every page.
- Set a theme for your content
Time to choose your topics. This is where you’ll be teaching and publishing, having conversations, and ranking in search engines. Chose one or two complementary topics that are relevant to your audience.Stay within a narrow range of topics. It will be almost impossible to compete with bigger sites for general topics. The tighter the topics, the easier it is to rise above the noise and become relevant.
Example: Buffer App makes social sharing easy and social marketers more productive. What is their content about? They publish on social media marketing topics, but they also share the latest research on productivity and efficiency. So their blog and newsletter are about both marketing and “life hacking.” They chose two narrow topics within a broad theme, knowing their audience cares about both.
Conclusion and No Conclusion:
Well, it’s my responsibility to conclude this piece with my thoughts again, but that seems pretty mainstream. So, why not we break the norm this time and let the readers conclude. It would be real nice if you can share your three pointers as well.