Launching a Startup in 2014? Read this Advice from Successful Entrepreneurs and Business Strategists

Knowledge Center December 26, 2013 31 Comments
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Launching Startup 2014


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:

  1. Know the people you are going to sell your service or product.
  2. Know where they hangout (social networks, blogs, communities).
  3. 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.

Alan’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Alan’s (@alanweinkrantz) Three Pointer Advice for Startups | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://bit.ly/startups2014

  1. Is your company blog current? Be sure to have a body of work that supports your thought leadership and encourages conversation and engagement.
  2. Is your press room up to date with contact information, downloadable artwork? And, Are you easy to reach for further coverage?
  3. 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.

[Link: WordPress for Business with Mark Schaefer]

Mark’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Tweet: Mark’s (@markwschaefer) Three Pointer Advice for Startups:| via @Cloudways ~~~ http://ctt.ec/24IeM+

There are three concepts that are consistently overlooked by startups.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Ziv’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Tweet: Ziv’s (@zivtzi) Three Pointer Advice for #Startups: | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://ctt.ec/i28lb+

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Simon’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Tweet: Simon’s (@simonmainwaring) Three Pointer Advice for #Startups | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://ctt.ec/P7_Cb+

  1. Know who you are and [display it in] a simple and emotional positioning statement, so others can share your brand story.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Chris’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Chris’s (@ChrisReimer) Three Pointer Advice for #Startups | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://bit.ly/startups2014

  1. 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.
  2. Marketing cannot be the area where you cut. If you’re not marketing, who is finding out about your product?
  3. 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.

Aaron’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Aaron’s (@AskAaronLee) Three Pointer Advice for #Startups | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://bit.ly/startups2014

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.

  1. 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?”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Hiten’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Hiten’s (@hnshah) Three Pointer Advice for #Startups | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://bit.ly/startups2014

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.

 Andy’s Three Pointer Advice for Startups: Andy’s (@Crestodina) Three Pointer Advice for #Startups | via @Cloudways ~~~ http://bit.ly/startups2014

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Hosting for startups

 


 

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About Saad Khan

Muhammad Saad Khan is a content marketing adviser at Cloudways. He creates social media and content marketing strategies and maintains relations with industry influencers.
Stay Connected: Follow me on Google+ , Linkedin or contact me at saad.khan(at)cloudways.com

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  • http://askaaronlee.com Aaron Lee

    This is well compiled! Well done getting everyone to share their thoughts and thank you so much for thinking to include my thoughts too.

    This is definitely the article for businesses who wants to do something and make a difference in 2014.

    Will be sharing this to all my friends.

    • Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks a million @askaaronlee:disqus for your amazing advice for startups looking to launch in 2014. I have tried to cover different perspectives from some amazing people like you to actually give a look to budding startups about what steps to be taken before a launch & What strategies they can follow to get success.

      Thanks again for sharing this with your friends. :)

  • http://www.rizzotees.com/ Chris @ Rizzo Tees

    Great job, my friend!

    • Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks @RizzoTees:disqus. Your Three Pointer was instrumental. Do share it with your friends :)

  • http://www.cloudways.com/ Wajdan Gul

    Excellent post @muhammadsaadkhan:disqus!

    Thank you for getting these legends on our blog! Excellent advises from all of them. This tells us “the hard work has just begun at Cloudways” :)

    • Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks Wajdan for all your support. Humanized content is one of the finest forms of content and its just a beginning :) Cloudways has a great product/service, and we can take it to all the avenues around the world.

  • http://www.zivmeltzer.com Ziv Meltzer

    Honored to be on this list among so many talented fellas. Thanks for including me, @muhammadsaadkhan:disqus :-)

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks @zivtzi:disqus. I have first heard about you in Forbes Column by Shel Israel. It was really interesting to read about your health tech-startup Hello Doctor. It was great talking to you always. Thanks again for sharing your best three pointer advice.

    • http://workado.com/ Justin McGill @ Workado

      Good advice @zivtzi:disqus. Liked some of the specific goals (and one’s that aren’t for that matter).

      • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

        Thanks for chiming in @disqus_hX29zJgUbl:disqus :)

  • Renée Warren

    If you can’t get beyond this amazing post and still need some help, try Clarity.fm. I use it as a tool to connect with the right entrepreneurs who have been there before you. I have received advice on business strategy, copywriting, and even recruiting practices. Amazing line up of experts to chose from .

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Hi @renewarren:disqus :) Thanks for liking the content. Indeed Clarity.fm is a great place to connect with amazing people for instant and focused advice. Startups can actually get faster help from experts. Alan Weinkrantz is there too :)

  • Jane Goodman Zweig

    As the only female to weigh in on launching a start up here goes.

    I have been an independent analyst and consultant in the wireless space since 1989. I was the owner of The Shosteck Group. In 2010 I took a brief hiatus and am re entering the wireless space under jane zweig.com

    Since 1989 my clients included companies around the globe..large ones, start ups, vc’s. I consulted with start up about strategies and market entry. I consulted with large companies about which companies to acquire. I consulted with vc’s about how best to work with their investments so that the start ups would prosper.

    Without question virtually every start up falls into the same trap. They focus on best technology..not the end user.

    Who will be the beneficiary of their technology? Who are their competitors? what is the market acceptance for their technology? what is the accepted end user price point? what are the margins? how many people are dedicated to marketing? Do you start with a local market, a regional market or global one? What are the risks associated with each? What is the timetable for deploying? What is the 5 year plan? How do do companies evaluate success and how do they evaluate failure? Is there a metric in place for that evaluation? Do start ups or their investors retain independent consultants to help them review strategies? (this last comment is not meant to be self serving). Do boards have external independent consultants sit on them to advise them appropriately? Is there an exit strategy?

    So if you extrapolate from what I am saying here…basically marketing and markets often are not in the forefront. Due to limited budgets, many start up companies focus on engineering and forget that they need to understand and hire people who do understand marketing and markets. Sadly most don’t. Sadly most do not make it.

    • Saad Durrani

      @janegoodmanzweig:disqus: Excellent point you made in the last sentences. And, many do not realize that they can begin marketing by simply talking about their products in the right places. And, there are marketing tools that can help you start.

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks a million @janegoodmanzweig:disqus for introducing yourself to our readers and i am truly impressed with your take on this topic.

      You are very true, most of the startups emerging today looks to focus more on their product/service/technology rather then researching on the consumer. Its the consumer who buys a product, or hire a service or uses a technology. Consumer is KING.

      Secondly, you pointed out a very interesting topic, “How to Measure Success & How to Evaluate Failure”. Most of the companies don’t have this metric in their business architecture. You cannot make a progress in the market until you know what’s working for you and what’s not.

      One problem that i see with most of the startups today is that they focus more on short term goals. They resist to change with the changing market & behaviors of the end user. Hence they fall.

      I believe everything has a tipping point, those who chose to change and acquire the relevance, are the one who succeed.

    • http://www.polkadotsi.com/ Kiera Pedley

      Not the only woman now :)

  • http://www.polkadotsi.com/ Kiera Pedley

    This is a really well put together guide!
    I’ve taken notes!! As requested my three points:
    Learn sales and communications… you are nothing without sales.
    Never stop learning. Invest in an e-reader and read around your niche, and in general business.
    Never be too proud to ask for advice, but never be too humble to take all of the advice.

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks for your 3 pointer advice Kiera Pedley. Sales is extremely important. It helps in better understanding of a product that a startup has built.

      Secondly, In sales, relationships matter. An important expression to keep in mind is, “people buy from people.”

      As soon as a startup begins regular sales activity, it is important to create
      periodic sales forecasts. A sales forecast is extremely important as it helps in understanding and managing sales activities, but it also facilitates the growth and development of a startup company.

    • Jane Goodman Zweig

      Keira, I am so glad there is another woman commenting…yea for women! Glad to meet you.

  • Andy Crestodina

    First, thanks @muhammadsaadkhan:disqus for including me in this excellent roundup.

    One common thread throughout this post (and an in @janegoodmanzweig:disqus ‘s comment below) is the focus on the customers. Most of us reading this think about digital startups, but this same principle applies to any business from the innovative online business to the local dry cleaner around the corner.

    I’ve often said that empathy is the greatest marketing skill, but reading this, I’m realizing that it goes beyond marketing. There is empathy at the core of every great business. Thank you for pulling this together, Saad.

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      @andycrestodina:disqus First, i would like to Thank you for your contribution :) Indeed its an honor to have your advice on our blog.

      Second, I will never forget these words, “Empathy is the greatest marketing skill”. You are absolutely right that the same methodology applies to any kind of business and it works.

    • http://workado.com/ Justin McGill @ Workado

      @andycrestodina:disqus Loved your idea on content themes!

      • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

        True that @disqus_hX29zJgUbl:disqus.

  • Jonathan DeCollibus

    Muhammad has put this in a succinct, and applicable form. Having worked with Muhammad in the past – I can see his signature in this article. He is all about the client – the user – and this is where he starts and finishes. That is what makes a venture succeed or fail. Are we listening to the user – are we operating with a user-centric model – or are we entertaining ourselves? As you build your startup know this, the people you focus on are the people who will pay into your startup, this is the reason many startups never get off the ground, and are a money pit for the founders. This is also a reason why a few out of the flock rise to the top and serve and add value to the lives of many.

    http://www.jonathandecollibus.com

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Excellent words Jonathan. When you think like a consumer and build a product according to end-user. There is a less chance to fail. People consume what they want. You need to cover-up every minor detail to their desire to actually DELIGHT them once and for all.

  • Irfan Elahi

    Certainly one of the insightful article I’ve come across lately. The insights shared by the demigods of entrepreneurship are truly enlightening. Hats off to your efforts Saad bhai.

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Thanks @disqus_liSDvl3GFH:disqus for your kind words. :)

  • http://pk.linkedin.com/pub/tatheer-hanif/48/842/503/ PPC Specialist

    If i make it simple and staright, the first and foremost thing is that idea must be new and it should answer the needs of people around you, as you said as well in introduction. Secondly before initiating any start up research, research and research about everything. Last but not least focus on branding, marketing and sales be innovative in your techniques and be honest with your clients.

    I love the inspiration tips given by all your friends and specially @hiten shah. Well done @mohammad saad khan you have done a great job.

  • Andrew M. Smith

    Some very strong comments here, only thing I can add is to tailor your content to the buyer persona on each platform. Once you know where they are and the type of content they respond to or consume, that can help dig deeper in

    • http://www.cloudways.com/ Wajdan Gul

      @andrewmsmith:disqus Can’t agree more on this. Identifying and targeting buyer persona is in fact the key in start up and content marketing. Since we became buyer persona focused on Cloudways, we are noticing a positive change in lead inflow.

    • http://www.cloudways.com/blog/launching-a-startup-2014/ Muhammad Saad Khan

      Very True @andrewsmith1443:disqus — Knowing what people would love to read, and in what form they want to read it, is the most important thing for outlining a content strategy. We always try to write according to our buyer persona, we answer what questions they have, and that’s where they start trusting us (cloudways). Once, they get sure that we are going to help them in anyway we can, they opt-in and start using our services. Today, TRUST is the most important factor in B2B business.