"Right after going through 32 advices to improve my web design, and before the 101 top marketing tips, I’ll make sure to apply the 50 most important social media tricks."
Sounds familiar? Yes, they’re all important, but… are they, really? Get your basics right with a shorter list that should, if thoroughly put into action, strengthen greatly the foundations of your startup:
1. What Do You Stand For?
In an old and memorable speech from Steve Jobs (which I highly recommend), he says:
People with passion can change the world for the better.
It is the passion and love for what you do that keep you up for 3 hours in the middle of the night writing about your business, while people with just "a job" will stay asleep for as long as their alarm allows them to.
It was most probably Guy Kawasaki while he was working at Apple who came up with the term "evangelism marketing", which happens when your customers believe so much in your brand and your products that they go by themselves out of their way to convince others to use it.
In this more and more connected world, such a behavior can quickly have some serious consequences on your business.
But what is at the core of the evangelism marketing is the alignment between your beliefs, your passion, and your brand and product. If Steve Jobs wasn’t so passionate about making a difference, about building something remarkable that can have an impact on people’s lives, the personality of his brand just wouldn’t be there.
Without your passion sweating through each of the features of your product, your brand won’t have much personality, and it will melt with the other ones and go unnoticed.
That’s why you need integrity, you need to know your values and put them out there to give a sense of belonging to the people that will come across your startup idea.
2. So, Are You Passionate About Your Startup Idea?
Your brand will become stronger if there is purpose and passion behind it, it will have more personality, more style, it will talk in a more accurate tone to its target market, and it can lead to getting real fans amongst your customers.
But this is also important at a more personal level.
As a startup founder, you will spend so much time studying the industry you chose, learning about its history, the competition, their products and services, your customers habits, wants and wishes, the whole thing.
If you don’t quite like the industry you’re in, or your target customers, you will end up bored out of your mind with them, and you won’t feel that fuel and energy that others get when they work on something they love and support.
These guys with a cause, a big hairy goal that fits their passion can work so much longer while feeling really satisfied about it, getting into a flow and accomplishing a lot more than anyone just trying to "do their job".
Finally, in these ventures of high uncertainty, you need a strong and emotional drive to keep you focus and motivated along the way.
And if you are passionate about what you try to accomplish, it will be much easier for you to go back to the "WHY" of all this quest during your future moments of doubts, because there will be many.
Start it up with passion, or don't start at all.
3. Do You Have a Few Successful People You Admire Whose Path and Passion You Clearly Identify With?:
Find these successful people that share your values and passions, find out what they do, what tools they use. They’re successful for a reason and most of them have lots of content online, so go hack their brain, buy their product, get a phone call with them if possible.
It might be a relatively expensive investment, but it could be your best investment ever.
Imagine the improvements your business can get and the time you will save from meeting with a mentor you really admire…
As Seth Godin puts it seamlessly in his Startup School Podcast, the best thing you can do is meeting once a month with at least one experienced mentor that will tell you the truth about what you do, that will make you accountable, and that can advise you on your next steps. If you get the opportunity to have such a relationship, you won the lottery.
4. About the Problem You Want to Solve:
Is the problem you’re solving bad enough, so that your potential customers actively look for a solution online?
If you offer a solution to a problem that people might not know they have, it will be difficult to spread the word.
Instead, if there is an audience that looks for a solution to their problem and you’re solving it, you’re in the right way.
You want to address an audience that really feels bad about it, active in the search of a solution.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when looking to refine your product or service and its positioning:
(These questions come from the book ”The Blue Ocean Strategy“
- What is the opinion of the people on your industry, and on this type of product/service you offer?
If you find that there is a common belief that your product can address, solving exactly what everyone was thinking about the industry or this kind of product, jackpot.
- What do they do before, during and after the use of your product or service?
Maybe there is a combination that can be created, or a new product or service.
For example, do the cinemas care about babysitting services? Well, they should, as finding a babysitter is often a make or break part of enjoying a night out for parents.
- What are the alternatives to your solution?
What is it that people like about these alternatives, and what is it that they don't like about each of them…
Increasing the benefits of some alternatives and getting rid of the disadvantages of the others might lead you to a better product or service.
For example, Cirque du Soleil created itself a unique place in the market. It kept the acrobatics from the circus and the story telling from the theater, while removing all the animals (expensive and controversial), the circus celebrities (expensive and of poor added value) and the low sitting comfort from the circus.
5. Once You Have Your Solution:
- You need to go on the field, and validate your idea in the real world
That means actually selling or pre-selling a few of your products or services to non-family members, and no, friends don’t count either.
As Reid Hoffman (Co-founder at LinkedIn) said:
If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
Validate early, quickly, and make arrangements along the way, because the biggest risk you face is spending time creating something nobody will buy.
And because I like quotes, here is another one from Matt Mullenweg (Co-founder at WordPress):
Usage is like oxygen for ideas. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public, it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.
How do you do that? By getting in touch with potential clients. If for example you’re creating a software that classify something, sell it as if it already existed, and do the classification manually.
Pick up the phone and ask people to give you their credit card details for it.
Everyone wants to create a beautiful product, but nobody wants to pick up the phone… which is totally understandable. The level of potential frustration due to the emotional difference between being so enthusiastic about your project and being rejected by a stranger is tough.
Validating your idea can be painful, but it also has 2 major advantages:
- You will know quickly if your idea has any potential, so it might save you months of work in a potentially wrong direction.
- If the person you’re talking to doesn’t want to buy your product, you will have the opportunity to ask right away why he doesn’t want it, what would he like instead, and because you will have him on the phone or in front of you, pivoting your idea will be much easier with immediate feedback.
If you’re open to reconsider what you initially offer, this is probably the fastest way to adjust your product and solve a more important pain point.
These are to me the fundamentals about refining your startup idea according to the 2 main elements:
Yourself, and your potential market.
Next week we will focus on growth, bringing unusual angles and growth tactics on setting up a blog, optimizing your website, being crystal clear about your intentions and more. Stay tuned!
I’m passionate about Education, Growth Hacking and Animated Videos! If you feel a presentation video could look good on your front page, or if you just want to connect, you can find me here:
VideoIntroMaker.co or JonathanMagnin.com
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