The first weeks and months of a startup’s life are very important. It’s during this time that you will either establish roots or get swept away by the fast currents of competition. While there are no guarantees in business, setting yourself up with a strong foundation is a good way to bolster your chances of success.
In this article, we take a look at a few steps that will help your startup stand out and thrive during its first year in business.
Product is Everything
Before we get into any other considerations, it’s important to note that your product needs to be airtight. Great products can still fail without a great strategy, but bad products rarely take off.
Before you launch, make sure that the product you are selling is up to snuff. That should involve not only a well-thought-out development phase, but also a (hopefully data-driven) feedback loop in which you have your product or service evaluated, tested, criticized, and so on. You’ve got to make something people want to buy.
Hone Your Customer Service
Ok, so you’ve got a great product, but the problem is, your entering a crowded marketplace. You have it on good authority (mostly your own, but who’s going to call you on it?) that you’re actually a bit ahead of the pack in terms of product quality.
Great, right? Well….Let’s call it good. Great is when you have an awesome product and a hearty market share. You get that through customer service. Why? Because in a crowded marketplace, that is the clearest brand differentiator.
Let’s say you’re selling subscriptions to an automated billing platform. You know that your product is better than the competition’s. You know who doesn’t know? Customers. Because they aren’t billing experts. They’re people that want a quick, effective solution to their problem.
You give that to them through above and beyond customer service.
Establish a Strong Brand Identity
Think of your brand identity as back story. Your customer will come in once you are established with a product an logo, and so on, but your brand identity will be what tells them about who you are, what you care about, and where you came from.
Keep in mind that people like doing business with companies that reflect their values. So tell them who you be! Just remember, your brand identity should be:
- Honest: It doesn’t matter how popular sustainability is. If your business is dumping waste in the river (we hope it isn’t) you don’t get to be the business that markets itself on sustainability. Anyway, it’s much more helpful in the long run to establish a brand identity that is true to your values.
- Clearly visible: If your brand makes an identity and no one is there to see it, does it make a sound? Most companies publish their values on their website in their mission statement or “about us,” page. However, they will also regularly reinforce those values through social media and actual actions.
- Consistent: The last thing you want is to be accused of hypocrisy. Once you’ve established a brand identity, it’s very important that you never do anything to contradict it.
When you establish your values, you’re making a statement that extends beyond your business. It also has implications for how your customers see themselves. It’s important to get this right.
Company Culture is Important
Company culture, even for startups is an important aspect of your public image. People like supporting businesses that treat their employees right. Moreover, it’s a great way to attract high-quality talent, whether that be through internships or full-time hires. A positive company culture:
- Is excellent for recruitment: Did you know that most job seekers value lifestyle overcompensation? Millennials in particular consistently report that they would rather get paid less to work somewhere they love than get paid more and hate their job.
- Can help with retention: If customer service is a key differentiator for shoppers, culture is the same thing for employees. The way you treat the people who work for you is what sets your business apart from the competition. The happier someone is to work for you, the more likely it is they will stick around for the long haul. Retention is key to profitability and productivity.
All of that said, your company culture doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s perfectly valid to have a fast-paced work environment. You just need to be able to communicate what your office is like to employees on the front end. A well-developed company culture will organically attract the right sort of people for your business.
Get Set Up on Social Media
Social media is a great way to reach the public without spending a ton of money on marketing. While an upstart like yourself may struggle to gain traction online, you should still make sure that your social media accounts are live the day you launch.
Think of your online presence as a garden. The work you do now will pay off in the months or even years to come.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that social media makes your business look legitimate to consumers. Have you ever Googled a business and noticed with a skeptical frown, that they don’t even have a Twitter account?
You don’t want people to have that reaction to you.
Finally, make sure you capitalize on all of your networking connections. Having established relationships can keep you in the loop for trade shows, recruitment opportunities, favorable vendor relationships, and so on. It can also just help you feel supported and more secure in your business.
It’s hard being a startup. Never shrug away help from people who are willing to give it to you.