A lot of startups make a significant number of mistakes that doom their future health and any chance of breaking through. There's a lot that can conceivably be said about the best way to grow a startup and how to best manage going from zero likes to a million likes on Facebook. However, there are three key problems that all startups must solve. Often, it's a self-funded startup that's founded by a software developer that is susceptible to some of these issues.
Finishing The Right Minimum Viable Product
The concept of an MVP, or minimum viable product, has achieved some level of fame in recent years. Rather than taking out massive loans and investing everything into one grand startup, it's often recommended to build half a product first. This has a number of benefits, but a big one is minimizing risk. Given that most startups end up failing, it makes sense not to put all of your eggs in just one basket and take years out of your life for one startup. With a more minimal product, you can get it up and running and prove that works faster. If it doesn't work out, you can abandon it easier if it doesn't end up on the growth trajectory you were hoping for.
Software developers often have a hard time of this. Why? Because they like building complicated systems. When they build products, they see how the pieces fit together and how technology can be improved and expanded and they can't stop building a product. Then they like to build a large, highly scalable system on top of this. This often makes little sense when you have zero customers.
Choosing the right business model
In the last decade or so of the internet, it's been sort of a trend to give away everything for free. This isn't sustainable for most businesses. And you need a large-scale volume of traffic to make it up on advertising if you're not charging for your services. One of the hardest problems you'll have to solve for your business is figuring out the right business model - how to best charge for your services and what the right price points should be. This is where many startups end up failing. They either over-estimate or under-estimate their worth to their customers and either end up losing money or ticking off their customers by over-charging.
Ways of Finding Paying Customers
Once you have your product and have figured out the right business model, figuring out the best and most cost-effective ways to get more paying customers is the most vital challenge to solve most startups will ever face. There's a wealth of potential advertising options that are available even to most small businesses in 2014.
- Content Marketing - Whether it's on a company blog or elsewhere, people like finding interesting new products online and enjoy reading funny or informative new articles. This is one of the main ways that people find new businesses and why people decide to like pages.
- Email marketing - Despite not being hip and cool anymore, if you've done the hard work of engaging with people and have lists of customers through your website and newsletters and other things of that nature, you'll be able to accelerate your business by sending out focused emails that tell people about what you have to offer.
- Social Media - between Facebook ads, Twitter ads, companies where you can buy Facebook likes, Pinterest, and tons of other options for advertising your business on social media, there's an endless variety of ways you can use social media to help get more customers visiting your business.
- Search Ads - Google+ might not yet be as big as Google has hoped, but their search engine is still #1. Various types of targeted search ads can be incredibly effective for driving more business to you.
- Press Releases - An interesting press release can still have a positive effect on a business. There are many people who use various types of press release services to announce a new product or some noteworthy business event to the media and that gets seen by a lot of people.
- Search engine optimization - SEO is still a viable strategy for most businesses to take. However, rather than using negative tactics to get more links, the new age of SEO is more about following best web-development practices and creating great content on your website.
- Display Ads - There are plenty of blogs and ad networks where you can submit your ads and effectively pay for exposure and traffic. While these have varying levels of effectiveness, it can be a cost effective way to get a large number of ad impressions.
- Events and Meetups - Not only can hosting a local event or meetup get you some high quality local links in event directories, but it also can significantly enhance your reputation in your local community.
Test and Measure
Different types of marketing can have varying levels of impact on different types of businesses. You won't know whether email marketing is a more effective strategy for your specific business than trying to hit it big on social media unless you try both tactics and measure the return on your investment in each category. You can make educated guesses, but you cannot be certain without testing and measuring and this is a good long-term strategy to adopt. As long as you measure things in a scientific manner and keep good records, you can find out what the most effective type of online marketing might be for your business with the highest return on investment.