Archive for the ‘startups’ Category

Managing Your Expectations After the Launch

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Most entrepreneurs are human and the products we build reflect that.

This often means that the products we offering the market aren’t fully baked or just don’t match the assumed needs of the market.

This is natural, but the trouble comes in when you have overly hyped expectations for your product’s intitial launch.

A public launch is a huge milestone for any startup. It’s a big event, you invite as much press coverage as you can get, you email all your friends, you email grandma (“Grandma, we’re launching!”), and you push the button.

What your expectations are for what will happen next almost never match reality. You expect: buttloads of users, signups, customers, rivers of money flowing into your bank account, whatever…

But that almost never happens. More than likely, you’re going to see a trickle of that kind of a response at best.

So if you’re going through this after launching your initial product, don’t be disheartened! It’s only the beginning, so pat yourself on the back for reaching this milestone, and get back to work.

Now is when the hustle begins, the “real work.” Now is when you’ve got to persist because after your launch party has died down and you’re yesterday’s news–realizing that can comes with a wave of discouragement.

As long as you’re aware of it, it’s easier to fight through. Emotions are often clues to some greater meaning, but in this case, they can confuse you so question them and ignore them.

If you’re not growing a little bit every week, examine why that is. It’s quite possible that people don’t understand your product, or maybe they have difficult in using it (i.e. getting value from it).

Accept all this as part of the process. Keep persisting and keep iterating. When you create something new, you’re most likely not going to get it 100% right on the first try.

 

Get Customers Before You Build the Product

Monday, May 17th, 2010
action shot

One of my current clients for Blue Sky Local

If you’ve tried to build one or more businesses, this technique may be useful to you. It may seem counter intuitive to some but it is absolutely the best way to de-risk any start-up business model, but especially web-based business models.

If I could go back and do each of my business ventures over, this is the one thing I would do differently: I would get customers on board (ready to pay or paying upfront) first.

This is because, in part, if you build the product first and sell it to customer second, you’re likely to make more mistakes since the customer (the end-user) is not engaged in the development, thus it is less likely that what is built will meet all of his or her needs. A customer who is on board and paying from the start has a vested interest in making sure your product meets his or her needs.

For example, say I was interested in launching a Groupon copy-cat website for Long Island, NY. With this business model I would talk with local business owners and get at least a few dozen of them on board. To do this I might have to prepare a little slide show presentation (but building the entire service first is NOT essential!).

Simultaneously I would tell friends, family, and strangers through various online and offline means about the concept and convince them to hand over their email address for great deals. After I’d reached a sufficient number of signups for both businesses and customers, THEN I would build the web product and launch because at that point I would know almost certainly that I would be making money right out of the gate.

What if you cannot get customers on board in advance? Then don’t build the business. It’s that simple.

There may be some skeptics out there who might reply to this by paraphrasing what Steve Jobs said, which is sometimes the customer doesn’t know what he or she wants until you build the damn thing and give it to them to try. This is true to an extent, so there will always be some sort of up front investment but it in most cases it will not require that you exceed the scope of creating some design mockups or a short power point (as in the example above).

Businesses fail because they fail to make sales. They fail to make sales because there’s no market for their product.

Sell first, not second.

1 Critical Design Mistake to Avoid when Starting Your Web Business

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

homepage_old_design

We all know about the importance of conveying our ideas in effectively, especially in business when it comes to telling prospective customers what it is we’re selling and why they consider buying from us. If you’re like me, you think this is true, but you might be terribly wrong when it comes to implementation.

For example, about a month and a half ago I was out at a small party. There was a laptop that everyone was using and since Blue Sky Local came up in conversation, so I showed the website to a couple of friends. For each person who I showed the website to, he would stare at the site for a minute or two, then look up at me and say, “Ok… neat…” or “Ok, I don’t get it, like… what does your business do?” This should have been a red flag at the time, I rationalized and ignored it for several weeks. Finally, after speaking with an entrepreneur friend of mine last week, Matt Turcotte, I was re-reminded of of this feedback.

newhomepage

Now that I am proposing a redesign of the website (see above), I’ve realized the mistake I’ve made—that the current design and text on the site simply hasn’t conveyed the key points of our service in a simple and succinct manner so that anyone, including my mother (who is definitely not a technology person) or friends (who are not in our target market), will quickly “get it.”

The assumption I’m making here is that if they don’t understand what my business is in 30 seconds or less, how can I expect prospective clients to understand it? It’s a reasonable assumption. If your customers do not easily comprehend what it is you’re selling and why it’s valuable, they are much less likely to buy from you.

My mistake was not keeping this at the fore-front of my mind and not testing the site design more frequently with friends and family members earlier on. In addition, my desire was to convey what was “cool” about our service rather than why it is useful to potential clients.

In Review:

  • When designing your website, put aside any personal desire you may have to explain why your product is awesome
  • Ask your current customers or users what they find value about the service
  • Test understanding of the website’s design with people outside of your target market (this may seem counter intuitive, but it’s important)
  • Don’t ignore the feedback you get—take it to heart and translate it into design changes!

The Top 3 Most Scalable Sales Methods for Startups

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

How are you going to sell your web-based product or service? It’s a question that all internet entrepreneurs must ask if they are serious about turning their idea into a growing, robust business.

My current start-up, Bluesky Local, which offers a web-based, automated small business marketing service for restaurants and stores, is in the midst of making this important decision.

There are numerous sales methods that could possibly be employed. However in making this decision, it is important to consider how scalable each option is. For the purposes of this blog post, there are two definitions of scalability: labor efficient scalability and cost efficient scalability. First the former, then the latter. Labor efficient scalability requires the least amount of additional physical labor capital for every additional sales lead generated.

Here is a listing of possible sales methods for generating leads among the local business owner community in order of how scalable they are based on labor efficiency (1 is the most scalable). (more…)

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