Most entrepreneurs fall on 1 of 2 sides of the fence.
They either fall on the:
1) product/engineering side
2) sales/marketing side
This post is mainly for those that come from the product/engineering side like me…
When you start a new venture based on your experience with product, it’s easy and natural to then become obsessed with product…
However, once you reach a certain threshold of product/market fit then this obsession must be tamed and you must transition to a new obsession: sales/marketing.
One of my favorite entrepreneur bloggers David Cummings shared a great post on this topic yesterday. He states:
Overall, the biggest takeaway is that there has to be a serious shift on the entrepreneur’s part going from product / market fit focused to customer acquisition focused. Lack of customers, and the resulting revenue, is the number one reason startups fail (no revenue = no business). Assuming there’s a good market out there, building a customer acquisition machine after finding product / market fit is the difference between success and failure.
I am sure everyone has heard that they have to find their niche before. It’s no secret why I named my startup Nichevertising.
If you find your niche, then do a great job marketing to your niche, you win.
Super angel investor/micro VC/startup incubator extraordinaire Dave McClure has a great post titled Niche to Win that explains why.
…you can compete with a much less mature product but much more focused customers, more specific problems, more targeted marketing (that probably costs less to acquire customers ready to purchase), and thus a more differentiated offering.
The above quote is a preamble for him suggesting you must start small if you want to go big.
McClure then states:
You need to narrow your field, find a very targeted customer, and work on a simple, crappy, focused solution for your customer.
So just Niche to Win, baby.
This is a fantastic reinforcement article from McClure. Please visit his blog to read his full post.
A crazy analogy like this can only come from the one and only Seth Godin.
Yesterday he blogged about this analogy and it immediately resonated with what I think all entrepreneurs go through in the beginning days of launching their venture.
Godin on why marketing is a thermostat:
Valuable marketing campaigns are the result of time and user experience, not media and more media. Tweeting more often doesn’t make your tweets have more resonance.
Godin on why product is a frying pan:
Extraordinary products, remarkable stories, intense connection via user interaction–these things actually do scale quickly.
In short, marketing doesn’t scale fast but product does. Read Seth’s full post titled The thermostat and the frying pan here.
When you are a new entrepreneur, it’s best to learn from those who have done it before you. Chances are, any problem you’re facing has been blogged about before.
Ramping up a sales team is no different. Don’t try to figure this out on your own. There is plenty advice on building a sales team in the blogosphere that will get you a long way….
The #1 tip to remember:
Don’t hire sales people too early. In the early days, the founders should be able to sell (and should be selling).
This piece of advice comes from Dharmesh Shah on his OnStartups blog. Shah also shares 13 other tried and true sales tips you don’t want to ignore.
The name of his post is Building Startup Sales Teams: Tips For Founders.
In today’s marketing automation world, new entrepreneurs tend to forget about the tried and true methods of old. Cold calling sales prospects is one of those methods.
Every entrepreneurs loves to hate cold calling. It’s a painful process. But as James Kennedy of Piehole.tv shares on the Mixergy blog:
“You can code the product all you want, but I wasn’t getting people to buy it,” he says.
It wasn’t until he hit rock bottom that he discovered how to get people to buy.
He was working at his brother’s burrito bar and would make sales calls for two hours every day. “I would sit in a 6’x6’ storeroom,” says James. “[I’d] pick up the phone and I would start calling, and eventually…I started getting a repeatable sale cycle.”
It may be the case that your business will never get sales through self-service transactions or passive marketing.
If you are having trouble getting new customers, then use these 3 techniques shared by Kennedy on the Mixergy blog post.
Writing is critical these days. Blogging is a must. Publishing an ebook is mandatory. B2B marketing with white papers is the standard. Content marketing is the hottest marketing trend on the internet right now. Need I say more?
If so, Jason Baptiste wrote a nice in depth piece of the popular startup blog OnStartups a few years back titled Why Every Entrepreneur Should Write and 9 Tips To Get Started. You should definitely read it. Jason states:
If you asked me to tell you a list of three of the best decisions in my life, I can certainly tell you that regularly writing is one of them.
It may sound counterintuitive, but I think it is safe to say that it’s practically a set in stone law of business that you have to start small to go big. This week, marketing guru Seth Godin reiterated this point in a blog post titled How big is critical mass? Godin states:
If your idea isn’t spreading, one reason might be that it’s for too many people. Or it might be because the cohort that appreciates it isn’t tightly connected. When you focus on a smaller, more connected group, it’s far easier to make an impact.
Live by these words, and your entrepreneurial journey will be much easier.
Coincidentally, two of my favorite entrepreneur bloggers pinned a blog post covering the same topic yesterday. The first was from David Cummings in a post titled The Power of Sharing Ideas – Pivoting Pardot 1.0. The second was from Fred Wilson in a post titled You Are Working Too Hard And Not Getting Anywhere.
Both articles cover the topic of pivoting a business model. In the David Cummings post, the key trigger to know that it was time to pivot the business model came when an experienced mentor shared a new market idea. In the Fred Wilson post the trigger came when the team found they were working too hard to get too little results.
Both are worth reading. The key secret sauce is to always have your antennas up looking for signals that an alternative market may be a better fit for the product or service you are selling. In Fred Wilson’s words:
The moral of this story is sometimes you have the right product but the wrong business model. Fixing the business model can fix the company.
Today’s secret sauce may be one of the most important ingredients for startup success. This advice comes from startup evangelist and developer advocate Don Dodge. I went really digging in the crates to find this on his blog as it is from March 2006. The post is titled Is your product a vitamin or painkiller? Don’s advice is that all entrepreneurs should know if their product is a nice to have or a got to have. If you have a nice to have product, then you must find out what, if any, triggers can convert it to a gotta have. His key recommendation is the following:
Make a list of the pain points your product solves. Make a list of trigger events that cause the pain to happen. Now think about how to identify these “trigger events” as they happen among the hundreds or thousands of potential customers.
Very few people in the world of entrepreneurship are what you call ‘gurus’. One of them is Seth Godin. On his blog he shares daily insights about marketing that every entrepreneur should spend at least 10 minutes of their day reading.
One of these insights came about a month ago in a post Godin titled Pitch your tent where it’s dry. His main premise is summed up in this quote from the post:
understanding the profile of what’s succeeded before you is a little like understanding where it snows. Sure, it’s possible to invent an entirely new market dynamic, to persuade the previously unpersuadable. If that’s your mission, go for it. But if your goal is to make your project work, to engage in a way that makes a difference right now, you’re better off planting seeds in fertile soil.