Category: Startups

What Billions Can Teach Entrepreneurs

You Weren't Ready

I frequently work with start-ups. Sometimes as an advisor. Sometimes a supplier. Often, I’m asked to invest or help raise money. As I review pitch decks, I see the same theme repeatedly. Entrepreneurs, in love with their “baby,” focus too much on their product and how it’s going to “Uberfy” an industry. Unfortunately, they missed the critical elements investors target (in order):

  • They haven’t found a product-market fit.
  • They haven’t formed a team with proven success in that industry
  • They don’t have a command of the competitive matrix or their intersection
  • They don’t have command of their financials and, more critical, ratios.

Traction trumps team… Team trumps product.

One of the only television shows I watch is Billions, starring Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, on Showtime. In one episode, Axe’s wife, trying to raise a round of funding for her new venture, has negative experiences with potential investors. Axe adroitly explains why she’s not ready:

“What is it you do that you’re the best in the world at? You offer a service you didn’t invent, a formula you didn’t invent, a delivery method you didn’t invent. Nothing about what you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven’t identified an isolated market segment, haven’t truly branded your concept. You need me to go on?

So why would an investment bank put serious money into it? I all but told you that ahead of time, but you wouldn’t listen. Now you’ve heard it, but it’s too late. You. Weren’t. Ready.

Kick Start Your Marketing

Today I’d like to teach you about the three most important start up marketing tools you need to get and keep new customers.

  1. In person: It’s essential you meet with customers/clients in person whenever possible. This shows you respect them and take the time to work with your clients to give personal attention to each of them.
  2. Follow up letter: Always take a moment to send a follow up letter about what you talked about, new agreements or partnerships made and to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Likewise, you should always send thank you letters or small gifts to partners you find success with.
  3. Phone call: Use a telephone call to follow up with them to talk again about the matters you talked about in your meeting and offer any assistance you can to help their business run smoothly and more successfully.

None of these will work if you don’t have a quality product/service to back you up!

Here are the key steps for putting together your start-up marketing tools:

  1. Research potential customers, buyers, competitors and their preferred methods of distribution.
  2. Talk to potential customers. Take a hard look at your product from a customer’s perspective and see what it needs to be successful.
  3. Follow up with your 3-step process from above.
  4. Develop systems for contact follow through, quality control standards and customer service.
  5. Develop post-sale follow up system to keep lines of communication open is customers and build on your current relationship which increases future purchases.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs” Peter Drucker, management consultant

Here’s another one I love from an icon:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company

This lesson has offered you the tools to put together a start-up marketing plan that can be used over and over again to help your customer base and business grow in a manageable way.