The “secret sauce” of growing a startup can seem like an elusive and abstract concept for many entrepreneurs. Here’s a look at three essential tips to consider when building a startup from the ground up.
1. Prioritize your stakeholders.
Consider every party that has an interest in your startup. Typically this will include investors, employees, customers, and suppliers.
In comparison, consider your shareholders, if applicable, who own a portion of your business through stock ownership.
The varied interests of both parties present a classic business-school dilemma: Should we attempt to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders or maximize shareholder value exclusively?
In the startup world, your primary stakeholders will inevitably play an important role in guiding your venture along its journey; more specifically, your customers.
Customers are stakeholders who have the ability to adopt the solution you propose and provide long-term sustenance. Too often, in business school, students will read of companies who launched products and services only to realize (after the fact) that there is a) no need, b) needs have changed, or c) the offering lacks high value benefits and features. When founders prioritize customers they gain access to a “direct pulse of a company’s performance and also how well their products are received.”
Your first customers (or beta users) are a treasure-trove of value. Learn from them, conduct informal customer interviews, and tailor your offering based on their feedback. By giving customers a “stake in the game,” their voices are heard and a sense of ownership is fostered. Moreover, personalization that addresses specific pain points is likely to benefit multiple stakeholders as a whole.
2. Solve a core pain point first.
Let’s face it — the world we live in is far from perfect. Customers experience pain points exist across all markets, verticals, and regions. However, many times entrepreneurs wish to find a solution that is too broad in scope, attempting to provide solutions to numerous pain points.
In the grand scheme of things this can leave you at a crossroads asking yourself: Should we tackle a number of pain points (and risk sending mixed messages) or conquer a core pain point? A focus on the latter, solving the “core” pain point first, has its advantages.
After you have successfully eliminated a core pain point for your customers, you can gradually expand into others. This approach has a perceived added value for customers down the line.
3. Learn the value of being ‘self-taught’.
The classic startup world archetype consists of a bootstrapped venture, where minimal funding available and founders leverage whatever resources are accessible.
Too frequently startups misappropriate an already limited startup budget. Building a lean startup means that, sometimes, learning additional skills on your own can yield dividends. This is especially true of marketing.
For example, learning about search engine optimization (SEO) sounds daunting, maybe even too complicated to master for some. The reality is that fundamental skills can be acquired with some practice.
In fact, “there is a huge benefit in pushing yourself to learn something on your own and achieving that goal. Perseverance is a valuable skill, and you will need it if you want to achieve anything that really matters.”
There are many cost-effective and free tools you can try before resorting to overspending on outsourced marketers and expensive campaigns. Many of the firms who offer online marketing services, such as SEO, to budding startups practice some of the same concepts and strategies available at no cost on Google AdWords help pages and community forums. There are also valuable free resources like HubSpot Academy, which offers learning resources about customer retention, engagement methods and more.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Daniel S. Williams is a graduating Advanced-Standing Senior at Boston College in the Carroll School of Management majoring in Management, with a concentration in Finance. Daniel has previously worked at several firms and startups fostering client-interactions, handling taxes, banking and filing systems, as well as marketing initiatives. He has been a part of Xperii since its inception and has served advisory roles with other ventures. Connect with @XperiiApp on Twitter.