According to the Wall Street Journal, 3 out of 4 startups fail. I wonder where we go wrong with our startup! Is it the conventions that we are conditioned to follow? Is it Big Data which has made us myopic?
Having run my startup company for more than 4 years now, I have learned that not everything that they teach us in business schools can be put to work. There are lessons that were always meant to be learnt the hard way.
In this article we’ll ponder upon some startup myths that are widely prevalent in the startup community across the globe.
- Startup works only when you see it delivers fast.
- Start marketing of your startup only when you have a product fit.
- Do everything for your customers, and only customers.
- Design your product based primarily on user feedback.
- Live by the data.
1. Startup works only when it delivers fast
Impatience is not always the best way to deal with things.
We’ve all heard stories about how startup founders have to be impatient. I believe it’s more important to have the desire to change the status quo. Being impatient can take things wrong faster that one can ever imagine.
Expecting fast results can at times take the focus off of conscious planning. Startups with stellar growth – happens less often that we’d like it to.
Every new major thing you start working on – be it a new sales strategy, a new marketing strategy, or major changes in product positioning or functionality – it takes a fair bit of time to start showing effect.
At Hiver, we believe in a 3 months rule: Every time we start something new, we keep at it for 3 months without expecting significant results.
Start marketing of your startup only when you have a product fit
Market fit is the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand.
I was told that this is the first step to building a successful venture in which the company meets early adopters, gathers feedback, and develops the product accordingly.
No, you do not have to figure out a product fit in order to start marketing. It should infact work the other way around – build the product based completely on your instincts, and start marketing instantly.
Once you have your first set of users, start gathering feedback, and be quick to improve the product accordingly.
The users will help you get to product market fit quickly. It will also prepare you for ramping up marketing later.
Do everything for your customers, and only customers
I am not denying the importance of doing everything with the customer in mind. It is infact imperative that businesses strive to build a customer centric culture.
What I want to stress on is – put employees over customers, every single time!
Why? Customers can be unreasonable at times, and cause undue stress. Just because a customer is paying does not mean they are good for your business. There will always be customers who will try to micromanage, or goes abusive, or takes too much company time, or even threatens.
Where should the focus lie? Employees.
Employees are the backbone of a company. Treating your employees right will not just boost their well being and happiness, it’ll gradually trickle down to your customers.
Happy employees will:
- Have genuine interest in the outcome.
- Become your brand’s cheerleaders.
- Be more productive.
- Bring fresh ideas on the table.
- Strive to build customers’ trust in the business.
Our story: I knew that Shared Gmail Contacts is a great feature but, customers will take time to adopt it. Despite initial users telling us that it does not add value, I kept the product team motivated; I never let the feedback reach them.
The feature is a hit now. Why? My happy product team kept on putting in their best efforts.
Users will always tell you what they need
Users will always tell you what they want, and not what they need. It is never a good idea to ask users what they want.
What’s better to talk about with users?
- Problems that they’re facing.
- Stories about how they use other products.
- Their buying decision process.
- When do they use a specific product?
- Their lives.
They might not be great at telling you what product will they definitely use, but, they’re great at talking about themselves – which is a great thing to know if you’re making a product for them.
You can’t base all your product roadmap on what users tell you. Always base your long term product roadmap on your understanding and instinct about the market, the problem, and what you think can be best way to solve the problem.
Our story: We did not ask users if they’d like Shared labels in Gmail. We asked them if collaboration, or task assignment from email was time-consuming, most said yes – we had the answer right there.
Go big on Big Data
Data is good. Too much data is bad. Trying to out-think your rivals by looking at data is almost like shooting in the dark.
No matter how much data you look at, there’ll always be some you’ll miss. There’s a huge value in making decisions driven by your instinct, instead of getting stuck in analysis paralysis.
Especially in SAAS, because it’s possible to iterate and fix almost every aspect of your business if you are quick.
IBM says that it’s not just about data, it’s discovering the stories in it. A couple of pointers to keep in mind.
- Think strategically, act tactically – think long term, but take incremental steps which might not be purely based on data. For example, walking through the last few interactions with the customer is a better way to predict their behavior, better than any data about them.
- Find the story in data – a common mistake is looking at data with preconceived notions of the result, and manipulating the data to support that. It’s better to rely on instincts, analyze the data and act with intuition.
What have you done which they did not teach you at college? Do let me know in comments.
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