We already know the importance of focus when it comes to the core of startup: a clear vision, a useful product.
You might have heard MVP (minimum viable product) of lean startup. You probably have learnt that the focus on a niche as a first time founder is often the best bet for us (Joel Gascoigne from buffer app has a great article on this; You may even heard the notion of “reman profitability”, or “latte profitability”.
All of the above asks first time founders for one thing: vision focus.
Assume you have this vision focus. What next: how to let people know you are out there ready to serve?
This is where hustle to get your super user, hustle to get your customer comes in. I blogged about “startup hustle 101″ last month, as I am getting closer to soft launch my startup, I have learnt a lot from drinking my own kool-aid. To sum it up, it comes down to following:
1. Customers, customers, customers: Be very clear about who your potential customers are.
This sounds stupidly simple. But it’s not. If you find yourself being busy with going to lots of social events trying to bring “exposure” to your startup, think again: are these events where my potential customers (not just user) will be at? Next time you are thinking about shedding $250 to a pitch conference as a “founder”, think again. Are you actually focus on your customers? Jame altucher (@jaltucher) wrote about “how to survive your first year as an entrepreneur”, he repeatedly put “getting customers” as absolute number one priority, ahead of getting investor, hiring additional help.
2. Drink your own kool-aid: but how?
I am still at pre-launch, so I am only speaking to what I have learnt in this process of hustling to my target customers:
1) Find the voice of your potential customer, and start building relationship.
Take fitwow as an example, we are a platform focusing on bringing professional trainers to people to reach their fitness goals. Our customer? Trainer, and people with a fitness goal. Instead of thinking about, planning to go to that $250 worth of pitch conference pitching at ton of aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, designers, etc. I have been identifying the “leading potential customers”(or super audience). How? Remember Google alert? I set up dozens Google alerts for keyword such as “personal trainer”, “yoga instructor”, Google alerts bring me the actual people behind those voices. All I need to do is to comp through those passionate people.
2) Be smart about approaching the right audience: find power user.
Once you have an ever growing list of faces behind those voices, single out those with active blog, ebook with regular following, they don’t have to be TV star, celebrity, because honestly, if they are too big already, they probably won’t have time for you, it’s the economy of scale. Why do you need to find these super audience? Although this is my first real attempt at startup, I do have a few good friends with very successful ventures behind them. One thing I repetitively heard is “power user”. At the trial launch stage, quality is better than quantity. Let’s say I identified a personal trainer expert with a regular following: hundreds of beginner personal trainers who look up to him to get ideas and inspirations. By building relationship with this leading expert, I have better chance to get him talk to his followers about my product (given it’s a good product). As Clara Shih said in her awesome, practical and visionary book facebook era (at young age of 29, she is already appointed on board of advisors for Starbucks Corp): when a user logins with facebook account, they come with 150 friends; Similarly, when a super trainer mentions me, there are hundreds, sometime thousands of trainers will jump on the wagon. All of sudden, I am right in front of not just hundreds of “friends”, but hundreds of potential customers who might benefit from my product.
3) Find relevant, credible, power users, again.
I noticed an interesting aspect: I wrote this “startup hustle 101 for geeks” on Dec. 18, I tweeted once, and put on hacker news, got some visitors, but only a 2 retweets, 0 facebook likes. Today Jan. 3, 2012, I noticed there were 6 facebook likes, and 25 retweets! What happend? I dug a little deeper and found out @founding (founder institute) retweeted my article on Dec. 28, all 25 tweets came between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3. Wow! That is the power of relevance and creditable sources. Founder institute has 16k+ followers who are very willing to share startup related ideas. That is why!
As you can see, first time founder must learn to hustle with a laser sharp focus. Only this way, we can bring our laser sharp focused product to the right audience.
As good things tend to follow attentive minds, you will get your recognition.