5 Tips For Growing Your New Startup
by Dominic Basulto, contributing writer
Launching and then growing a new startup company is likely to take up much more of your time than you ever imagined. Your “to-do” list will never stop growing, and there will always be something new to take care of before you head home for the night. So in order to avoid feeling too overwhelmed, here are five tips for growing your new startup.
Tip 1: Develop a unique brand identity
There are a lot of different factors to take into account when developing your brand identity. Most importantly, you want the brand to reflect who you are as a company, and what you stand for as its founder. When people think about your company, what do you want them to remember?
Of course, you can be a little creative here so that your brand really is memorable. For example, who could have ever predicted in the 1960’s that two of the most popular brand names today would include Nike (a reference to the Greek goddess of speed, strength and victory) or Starbucks (a reference to a character in the Herman Melville novel “Moby-Dick”)?
Moreover, you also have to think strategically about the digital footprint of your brand. If the name of your company is too hard or confusing to spell, people are going to have a hard time typing the name into their browser window on their phone or tablet. And if the name of your company is too long, it won’t be optimized for social media or sharing online.
Tip 2: Find creative ways to bootstrap your company
At one time, the only way to get a new venture off the ground was to bring in professional investors. That either meant going to the bank and trying to convince a risk-averse banker to give an unproven startup a loan (not likely!) or reaching out to professional venture capital or private equity firms (also not likely!). Thankfully, that’s no longer the case today. In addition to the default option of maxing out credit cards, there are also a number of options for raising capital online. If you are launching a new tech or entertainment product, a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter is one option, for example.
However, the term “bootstrapping” refers to more than just raising funding. It also means making optimal use of all the financial resources available to you. Your goal should be to maximize cash flow, while not taking on any additional debt. That’s why there has been so much talk about “lean startups,” and about running as lean as possible in the early days until you have a solid and stable source of profitability.
Tip 3: Get your new product to market as fast as possible
Just a decade or so ago, the classic way to bring a product to market was by performing elaborate rounds of testing and prototyping, in order to make sure that everything was just perfect before launching. But guess what? As a startup entrepreneur, you often do not have time for all of this to take place. You need a product to get to market as quickly as possible. And, for that reason, the whole concept of the “minimum viable product” (MVP) was born. You can think of the MVP as a slimmed down product that works “just good enough” to launch. By taking advantage of new rapid prototyping techniques, you can often get this product to market much sooner than you ever imagined.
The goal is not to launch a shoddy product, or a product that will damage your brand. But the goal is to get to market with an offering that you can test and evaluate. That’s why it’s so important to think about your customers as more than just a source of new sales – they are also “partners” in helping, guiding, and advising you on how to make your products even better.
Tip 4: Experiment with new growth hacking techniques
“Growth hacking” is another startup term that has made a splash recently. It usually refers to creative ways to help grow your company by leveraging the power of different digital platforms. You can think of this as a unique form of marketing strategy that recognizes and understands how different online platforms work, and then using them to your advantage.
For example, one classic story of growth hacking involves Airbnb, the revolutionary startup that is now worth more than $35 billion. When Airbnb launched, the concept of staying in someone else’s house or apartment instead of staying in a hotel was considered radical (if not a little dangerous). Moreover, Airbnb lacked the funds at the time to run a splashy new advertising campaign, explaining exactly how Airbnb works and why people should be using it. So Airbnb decided to leverage the power of Craigslist, which, at the time, was the most popular way to find temporary rentals or sublets. Airbnb encouraged every single person who signed up to rent their apartment or home to cross-post that same listing on Craigslist in order to generate traffic back to Airbnb. And they also reached out to people already advertising on Craigslist, asking them if they’d also like to post their listing on Airbnb.
Tip 5: Create an elevator pitch for your company
At some point, it might seem like you are always pitching your new company and describing its capabilities and purpose to others. Even a casual dinner with friends might turn into an impromptu pitch session. That’s why it’s important to have an elevator pitch ready – usually a 30- or 60-second summary of what your company does, why it’s unique, and what you have planned for the future. That’s a very short period of time, of course, but it can really help to focus your thinking. The term is actually a reference to a hypothetical business situation in which you happen to get in an elevator with an important person (such as a potential investor), and you only have a very limited period of time in order to make an impression before that person steps off the elevator. If you only had 60 seconds, what would you tell Bill Gates or Elon Musk about your company if you ran into them at an Orlando hotel?
These five tips cover some of the most important areas – marketing, strategy and financing – for any new startup. Master these tips, and you could be well on your way to driving the next stage of growth at your new startup company.