5 General Rules of Running a Startup

There’s no handbook out there that lays out rigid guidelines on how to come up with or sustain your startup. It all begins with an instinct, followed by passion towards the idea which is then led by setting up other financial and physical requirements to sustain it. Depending on the success or failure, every startup has a different story and each thereby follows different rules to create breakthrough solutions. However, despite individual differences, there are some generic rules that all startups follow and vouch for. What are they?

Build a Stellar Team

Never compromise on the quality of the team. Hire talented, committed and passionate people because the idea in itself is nothing without those people who share the vision and contribute towards its success. Constantly seek for the right people who can fit into an organization and give life to your idea, even if you cannot afford them sometimes.  For that you may need to do some bit of extra networking. Mozilla, Barclays Capital, Gillette are some examples that made it big because they never compromised on the quality of their employees.

Know Your Competitors and Keep an Eye on Them

Always be on the lookout of what your competitors are up to. That will keep you on your toes to exceed beyond what is planned. Initial ideas often evolve into something much better and useful—always be open to change. That will help you stay ahead.

Keep your Customers Happy

Understand the pulse of the customer and deliver what you promise. That way they will spread the word about you that can help your business scale great heights. Use the Internet to network and market your products on a regular basis. That will make sure you don’t fade away from their memory and will help you sustain for a long time.

Spend Wisely

Even if you have the necessary funding to sustain your business, spend carefully. Remember you must focus your attention completely towards generating revenue. However, to achieve that don’t obsess over esoteric spreadsheets and spend more than required on networking. Spend to make a difference in the life of your customers rather than on swanky office spaces or facilities. 

Don’t give up!

Success doesn’t come overnight. It only comes over time with perseverance and focus.  If your business isn’t heading the way you intended it to, don’t get demoralized and give up. Try the SWOT analysis to identify your strengths and weaknesses to come up with strategies to help you rise. Rope in your entire team to come up with solutions.

Every startup has a different mantra for sustenance. But most successful ones would vouch for recruiting and building a team aligned to the company’s goal as the most crucial one. You must always have your eye on your mission and effectively communicate it to your team. Once you have these in place, your customer needs are automatically taken care of and if that it done, your startup clock will never stop ticking!

505 Words

SWOT Analysis for Startups: Why is it Crucial?

SWOT analysis for small businesses

If you are serious about your startup, you are not new to SWOT analysis. You understand that it’s crucial to unravel opportunities that can be exploited. At the same time, it underscores the weakness of your business, so you can be prepared in advance to face and eliminate possible threats. To put it in a nutshell, this simple tool, if used effectively helps you craft a strategy to stand out in the crowd and stay ahead of your competitors. To understand the basics of SWOT, look up here.

Why is SWOT analysis important?

  • SWOT analysis is very crucial for startups as it analyses the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats involved in a venture. It specifies an objective and identifies the internal and external factors that are favourable or otherwise to achieve that objective.
  • The results of the analysis are often presented in the form of a matrix of 4 columns for quick view and understanding. Strengths and weaknesses usually match listed opportunities and threats, though they must correlate as they are interlinked in some way. Billy Bauer, MD of Royce Leather noted that pairing external threats with internal weaknesses can put focus on the issues that need to be tackled on priority.
  • Entrepreneurs must constantly evaluate these factors and their effects on business. This can add value to the product, attract new customers and sustain the current ones, and extend services effectively for long.
  • Small businesses should take an extensive look at all internal resources and threats to map its future and SWOT helps achieve that in four straight steps. Once you have your analysis in front of you, you need to take a call whether it is more crucial to eliminate internal weakness or fix external threats to strengthen your business.

In the business context, SWOT analysis revolves around internal and external factors that need to be considered during strategic planning. What are these?

Internal Factors:

The first two letters of the acronym S (strength) and W (weaknesses) combine to form the internal factors which include, among others, the following:

  • Financial resources (funding, sources of income, investment)
  • Human resources (employees and target audience)
  • Physical resources (company’s location and facilities offered)
  • Trademarks, patents, copyright
  • Strong brand name, superior product and personnel
  • Good reputation among customers

External Factors:

  • Market trends (technological change that can make a product obsolete, shift in customer tastes/ unfulfilled customer needs)
  • Economic trends (financial trends at local, national and international level)
  • Relationship with suppliers/partners
  • Regulations (political, environmental and economic)
  • Age, preferences, gender, cultural needs of the target audience.

Once your SWOT analysis is in place, you need to come up with strategies and recommendations based on your findings. These should leverage your strengths and eliminate weaknesses/threats. While CEOs must be involved in the analysis, other team members can be roped in as well. That way, blind spots can be scraped off, which if left unnoticed can be detrimental to business. Prune long list of factors, prioritize them and make sure the options generated aid strategy formation. For better results, use them in conjunction with other strategy tools.

Look here for examples of SWOT analysis of real businesses to get ideas relevant to your business needs. They can help you spot ideas and get started.

539 Words

Is Your Startup Worth Investing In?

startup funding

Most investors receive an overwhelming number of pitches every day, though only a few get noticed. If you have to be one among those with a compelling pitch and wish to have investors come calling, then you must have a business idea that’s not just innovative, but viable as well.  What is it that makes your startup worth funding in?

When you come up with a new idea it is very critical to source startup funding to keep the business operating for the first few years. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds; it requires a lot of groundwork and convincing on your part to compel investors to fund your business venture. However, the good news is, there are several resources that help you track the right people, the right way.

Here are some tips to help you sail through this challenging task.

Lookup for Startup Launch Platforms and Angel Investors

These connect you to potential investors. You might also want to browse through crowdfunding sites that provide access to different kinds of investors who might be interested in your idea. Sometimes, it could be someone from the general public or an accredited investor whose business interests may be aligned to yours. You can find more details on these and more such sources here.

Know your Numbers

If you love to play with numbers and are particular about calculations, then calculate ROI to evaluate the profit derived from the investment. You might also want to access the NPV (Net Present Value) and IRR (Internal Rate of Return). These might be useful for those products with a long development lead time and whose returns vary every year. For details on how to calculate these, look up here.

Create an impressive Business Plan

This is crucial and must lay out clearly your business plans, target audience, and projected sales for the next couple of years. Make it look professional; you can browse through templates available online. You must be ready with answers to some obvious questions.

  • Is your idea useful enough to solve your customer’s problem and make their life easier?
  • If yes, do you have a specific solution and how is it better than what your competitor has to offer?
  • What is the size of the market that you are targeting?
  • How to you intend to make money and sustain the business?
  • How different are you from your competitor/s?
  • What are your marketing plans? Do you have a qualified team with requisite credentials and skills to handle their job well?
  • What kind of funding are you looking at? How much equity can you offer?
  • Do you have a projection charted out for the next 5 years in terms of revenue, expenditure, cash flow?
  • Do you have a plan for exit strategy—Merger/acquisition or public stock offering?

Hire an Expert 

If you don’t have prior experience, it makes sense to hire an experienced consultant. S/he can assist in convincing the investor for you.  Tell them how your startup is different as against your competitors. You could tell them about patents and differentiators that place you ahead of the competition.

Know your Basics Well

When you are reaching out to an investor over mail be careful to choose your words. It should not look like one of many messages you’ve sent out. Just as you need them, investors need you too. So, take the time to generate attention. You may hear a lot of “Nos”, but remember that’s part of the game to help you make corrections and move ahead.

All that is needed to make your business idea worthy of investment is smart planning, effective delivery and a professional attitude. At the end of the day, it’s all about how passionate you are about your new venture and how well you put it across. It’s not always lengthy presentations or statistics that make the cut, rather it’s the uniqueness of the idea combined with your effective communication that will decide the outcome.

672 Words

Inbound Basics : What is a Landing Page?

Inbound Basics : What is a Landing Page?
Inbound Marketing is widely touted to be one of the most effective marketing methodologies online. Purely from a marketers point of views inbound is placed in high regard due to it’s high return on investment. While details about inbound are too vast to explain in any one article, this one tries to highlight the definition and need of a Landing Page.
What is a Landing Page?
A landing is a website. A lot of people seem to confuse this quite easily (probably because it’s being called something different, it’s easy to infer that it could be something different). A better way to describe landing pages would be to call them very ‘brief’ websites. It’s called a Landing page because it’s where users end up ‘landing’ – they visit this page from other points in social media or the internet. The main purpose of this landing page is to quickly and completely explain it’s purpose.
 lumosity
Take for example the above landing page. It’s a type that let’s you scroll and in the contents of one page alone, explains what the company is and can do for you.
Properties of a Landing Page
1. A landing page quickly puts out the point that it wants to make. A visitor has no need to actually dive deeper to get his questions answered.
2. Sometimes a doesn’t necessarily have questions and could be just browsing through. A landing page, through the user of clever iconography can capture the users attention and ultimately give you something you didn’t know you needed.
3. While landing pages are often misconstrued for catalogs, the addition of Call To Action buttons across the page negates this point.
CTA Example

CTA Example

The button in grey is a great example of CTA’s. It has been conveniently placed to allow the user to go into a more detailed research if you choose to.
4. Specificity. This has got to be one of the best reasons to have multiple landing pages. If you business is catering to a wide variety of audiences, which it probably is, it makes perfect sense to assume that one landing page is not going to apply to all of them. I mean, you’ll try but, it’s just going to end up in a clusterfudge (for lack of a better term). So to make things more specific, you can easily cater to that demographics particular needs.
Targeting users using landing pages
This section address the mindset of the demographic that is likely visiting the page. It’s specific and probably makes the sale for those looking for these exact options.
5. A landing page may also be used to acquire essential user information that applies to your business. When a user enters their details, that gives you something much more valuable than the data itself. It gives you intent.
Why is intent so important?
The internet is full of ads. Nobody really likes ads. Except maybe marketers. But that’s an occupational hazard.
This basically infers a few things. People have become desensitised to a lot of the so-called information being thrown at them. But when they actually send you a message (an email form) it’s a clear sign that the user is looking for something in particular and has not treated you content as advertising. Of course, this isn’t so cut and dry. A lot of time, content needs to really make an impact and consistently so. Read Gary V’s Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook.
So this intent is almost like an invitation to give the user a great experience while fulfilling his/her wishes. This not only helps you convert efficiently, but it also brings about longer retention.
623 Words

All You Need to Know About Marketing Techniques for Startups

marketing for startups

Startup Marketing is different from traditional marketing due to a number of reasons (to know more on why read here). Therefore, this calls for a leaner and smarter management of marketing techniques for startups. You may have worked hard to build a product, but you must invest equally in acquiring customers; something that most startups don’t pay much attention to. Marketing is the strongest pillar which decides whether a startup will stand the test of time or get blown away even before getting stable.

Let’s take a look at some  marketing techniques for startups that are sure to guide you on the road to success.

Focus on Marketing Techniques  for  startups:

Every startup is unique. To reach product/market fit and acquire the right traction is tough because well-entrenched companies have the resources to dominate traditional channels and to break through them is daunting. Startups are bootstrapped for resources to make their customers know that they have a better solution for a critical problem.

Here are some tested and tried  marketing techniques for startups that will certainly deliver results:

  1. Startups must alter the rules of the traditional channels to grow meaningfully. They have to think out of the box, dig deep to churn out new ideas, and test them to win customers.
  2. Always keep two marketing strategies in mind:
  • Build a product that’s worth recommending. If a single user recommends two new users, half your work is done. This is how Dropbox, Snapchat, Mailbox acquired millions of users.
  • Align your growth plans with channels that your customers turn to, to know about your product.
  1. If you have more visitors to your page who are not converting into customers, ask yourself, ‘why’. Get their feedback via Survey Monkey, feedback forms or catch up with them on skype or Intercom to know what’s holding them back.
  2. Don’t start by targeting the mass market. Try to appeal the early adopters. They, in turn, will spread the word about you and convince others to try your product.
  3. Don’t spend too much time on what or how. Rather, tell your customers why you do what you do. That’s Apple’s strategy which makes their iPads, MacBooks, iPods most sought after.
  4. Use page-promoted posts in Facebook targeting people in the news feed as these ads have the highest click-through.
  5. If your product solves a critical issue that people search for, you must feature in Google Adwords. For this, you can bid to appear on Websites related to certain keywords.
  6. Remarketing techniques encourage your users to come back to you. When someone visits your page, a cookie is dropped on their computer. When they move on to other sites, your ads appear there that encourage them to navigate back to your page.
  7. If you have a compelling video, you can roll that out as a promo on major video networks such as YouTube,4od etc.

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Plan well and execute them flawlessly, no matter how small it is. Create a blog and use SEO to get noticed. The secret to successful startup marketing is a combination of several tactics, because the ultimate aim is to keep an eye on the shifting trends to connect companies and markets in a meaningful way. Before you start off, make sure you have everything ready to stay on top of things.

562 Words