Working with startups across different industries, at different stages of their development and with completely different teams running them, we’ve come across many different challenges, whether in marketing or sales, in finance or legal.
There are some principles, however, some pieces of advice that keep coming up and seem apply equally to all startups, whatever their specific circumstances. Read on to discover the 5 top tips for start-ups:
1. Be clear on your mission
You’re going to be working long hard hours on this project so you’d best have a compelling “why” for doing so. Are you in it for the money? Are you passionate about solving a particular problem? Do you want to reach millions of people with your offering? Having a clear vision, a fundamental objective as to what you’re ultimately trying to achieve, will keep you going when things get tough but just as importantly it will help you to make decisions on how to run your business. Having a bigger sense of your company purpose will also help to attract and retain motivated employees, as well as customers.
By definition, you’ll have limited resources when you’re first starting out – you’ll have a small team, a tight budget, and most of all you’ll have a limited amount of time. You may have grand ideas of all the different uses for your product, all the different customers who could benefit, all the different channels you could market through… but you simply won’t be able to do it all. Strategy is fundamentally about CHOICES: do you do this or that? target this consumer or that consumer? Having a clear mission should help you here: what do you value above all else, is it making as much money as possible, doing good, reaching millions…? whom do you ultimately want to serve? what do you want to stand for? Then prioritise your activities accordingly.
3. Know and understand your customer
Something else that will help you to focus your resources is an understanding of who your ideal customer is. What are the insights you’re tapping into? Which problem are you solving? What do you know about their behaviour? Where are they active and when will they be receptive to your message? Again, you can’t serve everyone and you certainly can’t market to them all. Technology now allows you to get hyper targeted – but for this to be effective you have to know whom you’re targeting! You won’t be able to afford expensive quantitative research, so think creatively about how you can get the information you need. Look at the general trends in your target demographic; imagine yourself in your customer’s shoes; look at your web analytics or send out surveys to understand the behaviour of your current customers; go out into the street if you have to.
4. Create value for that customer
There are bound to be others doing something similar to you, if not today then some time soon. What makes you stand out? What’s your unique selling proposition? What are your points of difference versus your competitors? Describe in one sentence why your customer should choose you over all the others. And by the way, this proposition can never be about money, you should never try to compete on price. Instead, think of the value you’re creating. What are you doing that no one else can do as well as you can? What does your brand stand for? Are there particular customer segments that will favour you over your competitors? How can you deliver more benefits at a lower cost (but not a lower price)? How can you make the customer experience extraordinary?
5. Know what you don’t know
This is perhaps the red thread that runs through all of the previous points. You and your co-founder(s) will be coming from a particular background and you’ll have certain skills and strengths where you will really excel. Recognise where you lack the required experience and find the people who do. If you try to micro-manage the business and your people and you’re putting far too much pressure on yourself to do everything, you probably won’t do any of it very well (or it’ll take you a lot of time) and it’ll never be scalable. You’ll be much more successful if you delegate to someone who knows what they’re doing and free up your time and energy to focus on the things you are good at.