How To Start A Startup
So you have a great idea and want to start you’re a new startup or business. Whether you are thinking of opening a coffee shop, a security technology company, or a the next cool app you will need a set of common setups and tools to set yourself up for success.
When we first started Best Website Store, we had no idea what we were doing, and a lot of what we learned we did by trial and error, as well as learning from others. As a startup you will still need to do a lot of that, but hopefully with this post you can at least understand the dimension of the elements that you need to put in place to be successful.
So, what do you need to start a startup ? Besides having a solid idea, and a great co-founder, you will need to think about the below 7 important tools:
- Lead generation Funnel
- Lead capture and management
- Information and Intelligence
- Communication tools
- Digital presence
- Online Store
Lead Generation Funnel
How are people going to hear about your new venture, product or service, and how will they eventually land on your website? Lead generation can be any of, or all of the following:
- Social media such as a Facebook page, twitter account, instagram account and so on.
- Facebook Ads, Google Adwords or another medium that works for you.
- Great content on your website that people want to read.
- Media Coverage.
Pro tip: Do not spend massive amounts of money from the onset on advertising. Invest in great content, and market that content on your social channels. When it comes to paid advertising test small, and then scale what works.
Lead Capture and Management System
Once visitors land on your website, then it becomes important to convert them into leads using opt-in forms. Obviously this sounds a lot easier that it really is. There are many strategies to get this done including locked-in content, offering eBooks, coupons or discounts, exit intent forms, among other strategies. It is important to work with a lead generation capture form that supports A/B testing so that you can test different versions of your forms to see which ones are better at converting. Of course your leads have to be stored somewhere. We highly recommend Mailchimp as an auto responder system where you can automate your email flows. We also highly recommend the Hubspot CRM which can help you keep track your leads and coordinate between your marketing and sales teams. Of course if you are very early stage startup likely your marketing and sales team are just you and your co-founder. That is OK.
Information & Intelligence
As Mike Tyson said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Nothing is truer about being an entrepreneur and building a company from the ground up. Assume that your initial assumptions are wrong and need to be verified. This is very difficult for an entrepreneur and certainly was difficult for us at PalGeek. You have to be able to question your most basic assumptions. Is your product the right fit, do you really know who your customers are? Do you have the right team? How do you get customers to adopt your product? Do you have the right pricing model? When you first start, assume that everything you know is wrong even if it is well researched. The litmus test is non affiliated customer adoption (In English: A customer who does not know you, and decides to adopt your product).
To test, you will need strong intelligence tools such as analytics to know what is going on with your website, Heatmaps to know who is doing what, and how customers are interacting on the different pages.
A quick break down of the most essential intelligence tools:
- Google analytics: Helps you know who is been visiting your website, which pages they landed on, which pages they exited, what devices they were using, etc.
- Google search Console: Tells you how your website has been performing on the Google Search Engine, which keywords you got impressions for, your rank, organic clicks, etc.
- Heatmap software: (there are various ones although we highly recommend Hotjar): Tells you what people have been doing on the specific pages.
As a startup / entrepreneur you will need two types of communication tools. Internal communication tools within your team, and external tools to make it easy for customers to reach you. The goal of internal tools should be to ensure that the team is constantly in touch, that project tasks are executed on time, and to synchronize who owns what in terms of execution. For internal use we have used a number of tools:
- Email (go for branded right away to help establish your brand recognition).
- Facebook groups for information exchange.
- Facebook messenger for group communication and one on one messaging.
- Basecamp for project synchronization.
We also hear Slack is a great team communication tool but we never gave it a serious try.
Communication With Customers
Obviously, the most important conversations you will ever have are with the people who buy, or are thinking of buying your product. Ensure that you give your customers multiple channels to contact you. Obviously not everything below is applicable to every business. It is important though to give your customers multiple options to how they can reach you.
- Ensure you have a clear contact form for your customers to send you emails. This is different from the opt-in forms that register users in your mailing list.
- Consider having a live chat component on your website. Zendesk has a very affordable solution.
- Consider having a Line2 number. They have a widget that can be embedded in your website to allow customers to send you text messages.
- A Support portal for customers to open trouble tickets.
Your business website is the most important element in your brand presence, marketing strategy and communication with your customers. It is where all the elements of lead generation, lead capture, communication, branding, and sales come together. Despite what you are told, not all websites are created equal, and a poorly designed or hosted website can end up driving customers away rather than bringing customers in. At minimum ensure the following in your business website:
- Create a website that converts visitors to leads. This is the primary job of a business website.
- We highly recommend that you use an open source platform such as WordPress, however alternatives do exist such as Wix and Shopify**.
- Design your website for your users, not for yourself. This means your website must be easy to use, navigate and understand.
- Your website must be secure.
- Your website must be fast loading.
For more information about the elements and features of highly effective business websites please read our eBook.
** If you had a choice between a smart phone that works with any service provider, versus one that is locked into a single service provider, which one would you choose? An open source platform is not connected to any single organization or company. This means that your website is protected and is owned by you. Most website builders are proprietary closed systems, that means your website is locked into their platform and you will not be able to change providers. While this maybe OK in the short term, it certainly is a long-term risk for a serious business or startup.
A mandatory component if you are planning to sell physical, digital or virtual products online. It is one of the best ways to get your products out and to reach as many customers as possible.
Shopify offers a great solution. Research the pros and cons carefully and make sure you understand their cost structure so that you are not surprised down the line.
We highly recommend WordPress/Woocommerce. The core software is free, and most extensions are in the Free – $99. These extensions are not mandatory to get started, and you can implement them as you grow and test your product and market.
As a small business owner, and entrepreneur you will need to educate yourself. You have to learn from the success of others, and from the failure of others. There are numerous blogs, and podcasts out there. Our advice is always always always listen to people how have real experience running startups and small businesses.
We highly recommend these blogs / podcasts
- Hubspot marketing blog
- Build Your Tribe Podcast
- Social Media Marketing Podcast
- Duct Tape Marketing Podcast