I have been a part of marketing and growth projects for over 100 companies in different domains and managed 5000+ campaigns. I have also started and failed digital businesses. My learnings are huge and I want to share with those with the entrepreneurs.
Starting a company is really difficult yet very interesting and full of learning. It takes a lot of energy to take a startup to an established level to make a significant impact on people’s life.
According to an article on Inc, 9 out of 10 (i.e. 90%) of the startups fail in the first year itself.
I believe one major reason for startups to fail is that they run out of cash. I have been in this situations several times. Sometimes, I scaled too early without finding the right product-market fit. Spent a lot of money on getting more traffic without realizing whether there is enough demand.
The first year of any startup is really crucial and decided the future of its existence. I believe that the founders should take it slow in incepting the market yet be fast in learning, pivoting and finding that sweet spot for their business.
There are many variables that determine the success of any startup, like finding the right partner or finding the right talent or the timing of the business. I will not discuss those in this blog.
What I really want to focus is the right practices for an entrepreneur when they decide to start a digital business. I hope that I can put the best learnings from my experience below:
Starting a digital business is easier than any other businesses. There are ample resources available to start with low capital and resources. For digital businesses, there are a variety of templates and prebuilt set of codes and modules are available online to start lean.
Custom product development should be highly avoided. It is very tempting to launch a feature rich and a full-fledged product, but it is highly dangerous.
Building custom products take a lot of energy and time and can be the single most reason for the failure. Also, building the product can take away the focus from the core business model. In the beginning, it is important to prove the business model rather than building a custom product.
Any business whether marketplace, e-commerce or B2B could be started without custom development.
To save cost startups should also start from smaller places. Most entrepreneurs start from home to keep their expenses low, which is the right practice.
Also, in the beginning, startups should not hire big teams onboard. They should try to work with freelancers or use external teams until the business model is proved.
Take advantage of social media – Build a Community
For niches like lifestyle, food, travel, shopping or similar startups, social media can be a significant tool for future growth. Building an active community takes a lot of time and effort but it can be worth spending. Especially for e-commerce, marketplaces or peer-to-peer startups.
The founders, in the beginning, should spend 1-2 hours a day to build a strong community which they can leverage going forward.
Invest time in making and maintaining communities on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and start. Or even think of hiring interns that can help build an active community.
Before even the product is launched the community building activities can be started.
From day-1, focus on the organic growth
I have seen companies literally spending thousands of dollars to compete on Google. Especially when the PPC campaigns get expensive and the business cannot afford huge advertising cost.
This is a golden tip – “No matter what, make sure there are high-quality links been built, EVERYDAY”
Companies who have a strong presence on Google have chances of better survival and long-term sustained growth.
It is very difficult to get the ranking on the search engines but if the startups make the websites or the portals search engine friendly, they get a huge advantage in a long run.
The websites should follow all Google’s guidelines to google on-page and technical SEO. Tools like GTMetrix and Google Webmaster Search console can help in finding the crawl issues and website performance.
Finds hacks for your startup
The famous Airbnb case study tells us how they used craigslist listings to get a huge amount of traffic. Yes, using other website traffic is of a great benefit.
The way growth hacking works is, find a specific goal first. Your goal could be like – Get first 1000 users onboard or get 10 high-qualified leads. Make a list of 10-15 ideas that can help you reach that goal. Test every idea. Scale the ones that give best results.
Two important things to remember are – Test small and organize experiment process.
Use free or freemium tools
Using tools can make life easier. Tools can help automate processes and even help make data-driven decisions. There are thousands of tools available to achieve specific goals.
There are tools for email marketing, chat automation, social media automation.
Companies using better automation strategy can have a huge competitive advantage.
Content marketing can make a difference
This is the most difficult but also the most effective way to build a strong brand. I have literally generated million-dollar leads through a good blog.
Writing a good blog takes time and effort. So, start with a less frequency and move your way up.
There are many blogs that can help to enhance writing skills.
What I heard Jack Ma say?
Apart from what I mentioned above, I also have learned few important lessons from Jack Ma. Three important learnings from one of his interviews are:
- Take small steps
- Pick easy wins
- Try and make small profits from multiple people
Starting a business online in a smart way can really make the difference. I would love to hear more from people who have read this blog.
What is your smart way to start a startup?