Many #Startups don’t get sales or users because they don’t hustle hard enough

Startups need traction. Startup themselves are defined by their rate of growth. Speed is of the essence. It’s all the more surprising then to often find Founders or founding teams reluctant to sell. By this I mean, sell hard to their customers.

That might be selling a product, that might be simply getting someone to sign up; either way ultimately you’re trying to persuade someone to enter your engagement funnel, whether you charge them at the end of it for a product/service or not.

Startups get frustrated that they don’t get the growth they want. Yet it’s being bold enough to relentlessly push your product or service which will result in “sales” (and remember that sale could just be a sign up).

It’s surprising then when I am often able to sit down to mentor a startup or work with one of my portfolio companies and find that there’s a big list of things which haven’t even been tried – and these are often not onerous or expensive in development terms.

Give me an example?

This isn’t the blog post to provide an exhaustive list of what you can do to engage users en general, but I do want to give one example of what I mean by being relentless and hustling to get people in to your funnel, in this case specifically using a blog post as an example (the same by the way, applies to email newsletters).

I often see startup founders investing in time to write a blog post; but traffic on their blog is often low and the ROI of the time invested unmeasured. Worst still, there are seldom enough (sometimes no!) call to actions. So, what’s good practise? Well you can Google that to find exhaustive articles, but in short make sure:

  • the blog provides value to the reader
  • the blog is appropriate (and the value aligned) to the target audience of your product or service
  • that the blog is not a one-off and that you have in place a system to regularly* deliver that value as part of an ongoing persuasion campaign to on-the-fence potential customers
  • but most importantly that you provide comprehensive call to actions 

 * unlike this blog which has been woefully and sporadically updated!

Just take a look at this example from CBInsights, the tech industry data platform:

Startups publishing blog posts and even web pages often don't optimise for customer engagement and consequently rarely provide a good ROI. This example from CBInsights does.

Startups publishing blog posts and even web pages often don’t optimise for customer engagement and consequently rarely provide a good ROI. This example from CBInsights does. (ignore the blue menu bar half way down, that’s an error from screencapture)

  • items marked in pink are opportunities for readers to share
  • more importantly items in red are calls to action to funnel people into a sales process.

Why does this happen? Often because startups are under focused and under resourced. If you have minimal resources you can only do a few things well. Refocus ruthlessly, not doing ANYTHING which doesn’t move the needle on your sales or growth; then you’ll start having the time to pay attention to the detail of your sales or user engagement funnel, test, measure, interpret and iterate – and your sales/signups will go up. Simple as that.

So, still wondering why your sales (or user signup) pipeline is not working? Take a leaf out of CBInsights book and get selling, relentlessly.


A New Type of Tech Blog

The infamous wordsmith Milo Yiannopoulous has invited me to contribute a column to his new digital publication The Kernel.

Aside from it sporting an excellent name @Nero is intending his new venture to raise the game in Europe amongst the blogs and online publications covering the digital entrepreneurship sector.

My first column is a self flagellation on being too-early-to-market. Titled “Timing Is Everything” it is a brief cronical of two fairly visionary ideas, ultimately neither of which I executed on successfully.

The responsibility of course remains entirely mine for these failures. While mitigating circumstances certainly apply (for example, building forward thinking free-to-use direct-to-consumer services in Europe is almost impossible) the one who steers the ship is still responsible for it sinking in a storm.

You can read more here or if you’ve had enough of me already I highly recommend the other contributors, all of whom have made excellent launch contributions.

Viral Marketing & SEO: Blogging your company or startup

image1.jpgThere are probably many better resources out there than my blog to give you the low down on the 101 best ways to blog about your company; but some of my team recently wanted a few pointers – specifically how to find blogs relevant without wasting a lot of time. So I fired off this email to them, which I then thought other might find useful
The obvious are:
  • social networks
  • do a Google search (or be wild and try a difference search engine, like MS Live)
  • industry forums
  • industry groups on social media
  • social software sites
  • people you know who have blogs
  • your OWN blog
Further to our conversation about spreading the word via blogs (but without spamming) One little trick I use is Google Alerts for certain keywords to draw my attention to blogs and articles that I can comment on; this serves the dual purpose of keeping me aware of the industry. Ive got quite a few keywords I keep track of using Google Alerts (e.g. mobile social networks, rummble, lbs, mobile advertising etc etc). You could just pick something that interests you.
Clearly the comments have to be relevant when you post, but you should pick a topic and become an expert in that area –
It doesn’t have to be a technical topic if you’re not a developer; it could be privacy, or safety online, or mobile marketing. You can then:
  • comment with authority (so its not spam on blogs / articles)
  • become an ambassador for your startup in that area
  • converse with confidence at events on that subject
  • evangelize your startup as best practice in that area
Doesn’t matter if there is overlap with other people; and you dont have to spend hours and hours. Even just 5 or 10 minutes each day to put a blog post or a link and if possible get it back to your startup, or atleast put it in your signature; thats 7 a week, times by however many people in your team do it (in my view, all should!) by 4 weeks a month — thats a lot of references and eyeballs……