Startups sometimes feel fast, and startups sometimes feel stuck.
It’s a roller coaster, no matter how experienced you are.
One mistake I see struggling startups make is that they try to execute on strategies beyond their capabilities. You might be in that boat. I’m guilty of that too, and so are a lot of my smart founder friends.
Let’s get back to the basics. Here are a handful of questions to help us do just that.
1. Are you targeting the right potential customers?
As silly as this sounds, one of the main reasons that things don’t sell is because we’re selling to the wrong people.
Take a day to rethink your targets. If you have customers already, look deeper at their characteristics. Look at their motivations. Try to understand their reasoning. If you want to get really smart about it, just ask them!
Even the greatest products fall flat in the wrong market.
2. Are you selling the right product?
Let’s say you absolutely want to operate in a certain market.
If you want to stay in that market, then think about how you can adjust your product to fit their needs best. My one piece of advice about this is this: don’t adjust your product prematurely.
Here’s what I mean.
Too many startups make changes to their products based off of irrelevant information. One person will talk about their price point, and so they’ll change it. A very small group of people will comment on the product, so the entrepreneur will change it.
Let your tests run the course. Gather more feedback from the people meant to buy your product. Then adjust.
3. Are you “out there” enough?
Do you fully understand how people find you? If not, then find out and double down. If you don’t have a way for people to find you, then they won’t.
It’s as simple as that.
4. Do you have simple systems in place that make the work easier?
Stop doing everything yourself. Either pass it off to an employee, outsource it, or automate it.
To do so, you have to turn it into a simple process or system. Here’s how. Sit down and write out everything that you think you have to do. Circle the items that you can break into steps. Then break those into steps.
That’s the first step to gaining a little more freedom.
Use that freedom to focus on tasks with higher return on your investment.
5. Are you taking advantage of simple partnerships with other businesses?
Small businesses should partner with small businesses, and startups should partner with startups.
A note on partnerships like this. From experience, the best partnerships I’ve been in were friendly and lasted for a certain amount of time. I think it’s important to have an end date. People work harder for each other, and you don’t have to have an awkward conversation about if the partnership is ever going to end.
Find a mutually beneficial way to team up. Get creative. Help each other out.
6. Do you still believe in your product?
You’ll sell better if you’re a believer.
You don’t have to believe in your product in order to sell it. But is it worth selling if you don’t believe in it?
Think about it.
Business isn’t always easy, but it’s usually simpler than we make it.
At the end of the day, good business is more about trust than anything else.
If you think more about building trust with your customers, you’ll build your business.
Photo: Flickr/Caleb Roenigk