I have had the privilege of being a part of over 100 established companies and managing 5000+ big and small campaigns. Moreover, I have started and failed with many business ideas of my own.
I want to share what I have learned with my experiences and what I consider to be the best way of starting a startup, successfully.
Where to start?
The starting phase of a company’s development is really difficult, yet very interesting. It takes a lot of energy to take a startup to an established level, where it can make a lasting impact.
According to an article on Inc.com, 90% of startups fail in the first year itself. This is usually because they run out of cash. Often, founders do not analyze the market or conduct enough research to understand product requirements and what customers are looking for. And when the adoption rate is low, the founders tend to spend more money to achieve results.
In today’s competitive space, it is important to learn how to have patience and follow the agile methodology. Although, it is easier said than done. But every startup wants to grow as fast as possible, and it is beneficial to execute the plan, learn from the customers, improve the offerings/product and scale the business according to your goals.
Experts say that the first year of startups is really crucial and can determine their future. There are many aspects to consider to achieve success and bypass failure. Listed below are some best practices that will help startups move at a decent speed in the first year.
Startups should start lean
Starting a digital business is not very difficult, if planned well. The first step of a startup, should be to go to the market and prove that your product or services are actually required.
Ideally, startups should choose templates or products that are available online, to start raising funds. Custom development of products should be highly avoided. It is very tempting to build a full-fledged product to launch but it is also very dangerous.
Building custom products takes a lot of resources and time and can be the single most reason for failure. Also, building the product can take away the focus from the core business model. In the beginning, it is more important to prove the business model rather than building a custom product.
There are a variety of templates and prebuilt set of codes and modules available online to start lean. Any business, whether marketplace, e-commerce or B2B can start without custom development.
To save costs, startups should also start from smaller places. Mostly, entrepreneurs start from home to keep their expenses low.
In the beginning, startups should avoid hiring big teams. Instead, try working with freelancers and use external services until the business model is proved. It is also advisable to take help from family and friends that are experts in technology, marketing, content, sales or social media.
Build an active community on social media
Social media can be one of the most significant tools for any startup. Building an active community takes a lot of time and effort but it is worth it.
I would advise founders, in the beginning, to dedicate 1-2 hours a day to build a strong community which they can leverage moving forward.
The community building activities should be managed even before the product launch to create brand awareness.
Invest your time in making and maintaining communities on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can later expand your social media presence across other platforms as your business grows.
Focus on organic growth from Day 1
I have seen companies literally spending thousands of dollars in the later stages of their marketing campaigns. Especially when the Pay Per click (PPC) campaigns become expensive and the business cannot afford a huge cost per acquisition.
Here is a golden tip for you:
Companies who have a strong presence on Google have better chances of survival and long-term sustained growth.
Planning the websites and portals to be search engine friendly can give you a great advantage in the long run. It can otherwise be very difficult to rank higher with search engines.
The websites should follow all of Google’s guidelines for more useful information on SEO and more. Tools like GTMetrix and Google Webmaster Search Console can help in finding crawl issues and analyze website performance.
Finds hacks for your startup
The famous Airbnb case study shows us how they used Craigslist listings to achieve a huge amount of traffic.
Yes, using other website traffic can be a useful hack. Most businesses can find hacks that can help them grow in a particular phase or for achieving a specific goal. For a startup in particular, a goal could be: getting feedback from the first 500 users before scaling the business.
An ideal methodology to save time and resources, is to test one hack on smaller scale to ensure it works. If effective, you can plan to go bigger.
Use free or freemium tools
One of the suggestions I give to a lot of startup founders, is to use and test the tools available to find out which tools work best for them.
There is a vast number of tools available that can help achieve specific goals online, including email, social media, and chat automation. Automation, today, is ket for any business. Companies using better automation strategy can have a huge competitive advantage.
Content marketing rules
This is the most difficult but also the most effective way to build a strong brand. Founders should invest in good quality content and copy writing.
I have literally seen million dollar leads been generated through a good blog.
To write a good blog or a converting copy, you need to take the time to learn the art of writing for target audiences to increase engagement.
There are many blogs that can help you to enhance your writing skills. My favorite is Copyblogger.
Apart from what I have mentioned above, I also have learned a few other important lessons from Jack Ma.
Three important learnings from one of his interviews are:
- Take small steps
- Pick easy wins
- Try and make small profits from multiple people
Starting a business online in a smart way can really make a difference in the success or failure of your company.
If you have any more ideas or suggestions for startups, please share and I would be happy to add them here.