Whatever your start-up is there is almost certainly one thing you have in common with every other one - you have very little. Little money, little time, little resources and in some cases and areas, little skill and experience.
To take your business into the market where you can take on the big players you need to be working at a level well beyond where you should be able to.
We hear a lot about the idea of “lean start-ups”, but what does that really mean? How can you be lean and punching above your weight? There are a range of ways to make it happen for you, but to truly make more of what you have you need to integrate it all the way through your business.
- The way you make it
It doesn’t make much difference whether you’re making apps, running an online store, making a ground breaking gadget or a combination of everything, when you start out you need to find ways to get your product to your customers for as little as you can.
You need to get what you’re making into the market as soon as you can, which means finding the balance between features, capability and testing to get your minimum viable product. You can’t compromise on your quality, you’ll become known for the negatives people see in what you do much more quickly than the positives.
Your minimum viable product might be a “version one” you intend to improve on, or it might be the core of your product range. Whatever the case, developing and producing your first product as quickly and inexpensively as you can lets you generate revenue while you gain first hand data about your market.
Create and iterate quickly while in the market and you should find yourself able to fund your own growth
- The way you manage
One of the biggest mistakes any small business can make is to try and operate as a bigger one. There are big companies all around the world trying to get back to their start-up roots, promoting creativity and ownership throughout the organisation.
The people you have working WITH you as a start-up are your biggest asset. The team and its dedication to achieving will mean more to the market, investors and your customers than what you actually produce. If people like you and what you stand for they will be much more likely to give you a chance.
Bringing people together and collaborating should be your management focus. There will be times when you need to make a call, but don’t dictate - the more people are passionate about working with you the more their passion will be shared by customers.
- The way you sell it
If you are able to land a great retail or distribution deal, congratulations. Chances are you won’t though, which means to compete against those who do you’re going to need to be creative.
Being fresh to the market gives you a unique opportunity to find your customers and give them what they want. You don’t (or shouldn’t) have to sell as much to reach your financial marks, so you can sell in a way which offers better service.
You should find your market where they are most comfortable and help lead them to purchasing. It should cost you less to be there and to convert your customers.
Hopefully you will score a distribution deal in time. By setting up other means of selling first you can set a customer service benchmark you become known for, as well as generating revenue in the interim.
- The way you tell people
For as long as you can avoid it, don’t advertise. If you have to advertise, keep your spend as low as you possibly can. There are many ways to let potential customers know about what you do besides traditional advertising.
- Promotions are great - devising a promotion where existing customers get something for introducing someone new, buy one and get one cheaper or get a simple loyalty discount, all attract new customers for a minimal outlay.
- What’s better than that though, is publicity. Being outspoken on relevant issues, providing opinion, sharing your vision and knowledge, and generally being visible all helps keep you in the front of people’s minds as they make their decisions.
- Publicity and PR foster more credibility than advertising as well, and help form a stronger relationship with your audience. It also costs a lot less to deliver, even if you pay for the time to prepare the material, you aren’t paying for the stories, articles or interviews.
- In your start-up phases the less you spend to reach your audience the more you will have to use elsewhere. By presenting as a leader your business is immediately placed outside the competition it would be in if you were advertising, and you’ll save money.
- Word of mouth is a powerful tool too. If you focus on building relationships with your customers they will open the door to more, with minimal time and investment from your business.
My golden rule is be real, be viral.
Breaking away from the traditional mould is one of the greatest opportunities of being a start-up. You shouldn’t see the fewer resources you have as a negative, but as a challenge and the opportunity to do something different.
Integrate your creativity and innovation throughout your business, you’ll be starting something new and if you get it right, something big.