This undoubtedly will seem obvious to you, but as I sat here in my office clicking away at my keyboard this afternoon, it struck me as something worth taking the time to repeat:
When starting any business, you have to have something to market, but if you don’t market the thing you have, the whole thing doesn’t work.
I’ve seen it happen too many times where startups have had great ideas and good product execution, but fail to go out and find their customers so they can connect with them, day in and day out.
Or they jump right on the marketing bandwagon and then fall flat on their faces because what it is they’re selling just doesn’t live up to the hype.
This is a fine line to walk, and especially for those of us of the agile and MVP persuasion, this can be a tough road to travel as we struggle to find a balance between building non-stop and then neglecting the need to pimp our products; or marketing something heavily that doesn’t yet exist, only to find we can’t deliver on the dream.
The trick to avoiding this is not to fall into the trap of pigeonholing yourself into one set of habits or the other. If you’re a single-founder, or even if it’s just you and a partner, there’s too much to do and too much that goes into a successful launch for you to ignore one half of the puzzle in favor of the other – so make sure you can juggle both.
If you don’t know how to build products, learn. If you aren’t comfortable with or don’t know how to promote them, learn that too.
And if your launch schedule is relentless, then actually calendar in time to work on the part you usually neglect. You literally can’t afford not to.
But by no means does that mean that doing both (or even one of them) is easy. It’s damn hard, actually. And time consuming. It’s also absolutely necessary.
At the moment I’m working on building two businesses, HackStack.io which offers “bite-sized tutorials for busy people” and is, as the tag line gives away, an infoproduct and educational content business.
The second is TrackThat.io which is a traditional SaaS startup, created to offer in-print marketers (like direct mailers, realtors, and local small businesses) the ability to plug their marketing materials into an easy to use, actionable (and affordable) online analytics tool so they can finally know what’s working and what’s not… and then do something about it; just as easily (or easier) as they can with their online ad spend.
My co-founder and I have been working on HackStack.io for exactly 4.5 months and in that time we’ve managed to craft a branding strategy (complete with super cute mascot), lay out our marketing plan, and draft a 75 page script which we are turning into a series of 27 video lectures that’s currently about two weeks away from launching as our first course together.
It has been grueling and I think neither one of us will be able to look at an audio waveform or a video editing timeline again, for a while anyway, without breaking out into a cold sweat.
We’ve also managed to engage in some pretty in-depth customer development which led us to the concept for TrackThat.io, develop a software solution to a real problem, wireframe and code an MVP version of the software and get our first test client signed up and ready to go.
But the truth is that despite my own advice, I’m guilty of not taking my own medicine.
We’ve been building for so long now (not in the grand scheme of things, thankfully, but it certainly feels that way) that as we inch closer to launch it feels like we haven’t put the time or energy into building the momentum that we’ll need to kick things off. But I’m a business developer at heart, and I know that even when marketing is meant to happen at scale, you can always light the spark that will fuel the flame of growth through relationships.
So, dear readers, help me out.
And if you’ve ever printed a flyer, handed out a postcard for your business, or left your marketing collateral for people in a brick and mortar store – or know someone who has – sign up at TrackThat.io to help us grow our launch list, or send the URL on to someone who should hear about this.
You, by the way, are awesome.