Launching a startup can be an exciting experience. However, there’s a big difference between launching a startup and being able to grow it into a long-term success. After all, there’s a reason why many startups tend to fail within just a few years. If it was so easy to successfully build a company, probably everyone would be doing it, right? After the launch of a startup, founders sometimes tend to get overzealous with their efforts to monetize their products and services, while failing to build a solid foundation from which the startup can eventually turn into a viable company.
While running a startup presents many unique challenges, the reality is that its growth starts with one thing: building a customer or user base – or at least an audience of potential customers. If this remains the focus, and if the service or product that the startup offers is also good, success will most likely follow.
So what exactly are the best ways to launch and grow a startup? One of the most promising ways to do so is the Content Inc. model by Joe Pulizzi, who is also known as the “Godfather of Content”. Inspired by that model, here are the 7 main steps to successfully launch/grow your business:
- Find your “sweet spot”
First and foremost, it’s important to figure out your “sweet spot.” The sweet spot is where your knowledge and skill expertise intersect with your genuine passion for a subject. It means truly having a passion for the industry or subject matter, along with in-depth knowledge and/or skill within it. Of course, this is easier said than done, but the truth is that you need to love what you do and be damn good at it as well.
If you haven’t found your sweet spot yet, one of the best ways to go about finding it, according to the Content Inc. model, is to create a list of your Knowledge Areas/Special Skills as well as your Passions.
Don’t start thinking about where there’s a gap in the market or what you can do to solve a problem for customers. Instead, focus on areas in which you have in-depth unique knowledge and/or special skills in. You need to find out what your authority area is. Once you do, you then need to see where your genuine passion lies at. For example, if you have exceptional coding skills, and your passion is in cooking, you might want to consider ways in which you can merge the two, such as by creating a unique cooking app – or hopefully something more innovative… 🙂
- Discover your content tilt
Your content tilt is what makes your own approach to the particular niche or area that you’re going to business in different from everyone else’s. Find a particular area that there’s an opportunity in and a gap in products or services. You don’t want to enter an over-saturated market, but instead, to find a niche that is underserved.
Once you do discover what your content tilt is, it’ll be time to strike directly where there’s minimal competition so that you can gain first mover advantage and market share and make an impact. Stand out from everyone else and don’t blend in!
According to the Content Inc. model, some of the best ways to discover your content tilt is to create a mission statement, research customer needs, analyze industry trends, gain feedback from customers, and to always use analytics. Take your time and don’t rush the process.
- Focus on building your base
The third step in the process of launching and growing a startup is to focus on building your base. This means defining what your target audience is and then figuring out the best way to market to them. The four parts of building your base according to Content Inc. are the type of content, the platform of the content, consistent updates or engagement, and time to build the base.
In online content marketing, it’s important to build up as large of a subscriber base or as many social media followers as possible. Your audience is the key component to growth in both the short-term and long-term. Once you build your base to a certain level, you’ll have the opportunity to grow your revenue.
4. Begin to convert and harvest your audience
After you have your product and service on an online platform and have built your base, you need to also keep pushing to grow your subscriber/follower rate. One-time visitors to the medium that you have chosen should become subscribers. This will allow you to grow your subscriber list so that you can market products directly to them, as they’ll be the most likely to give you high conversion rates. In general, email subscribers tent to be much more valuable than social media followers, since you “own these contacts” and can reach out to them whenever you like – assuming that you got their active consent to do so. Imagine, while a message on your startup’s Facebook page might only reach 5% of your “fans”, an email will be delivered directly to the email inbox of your newsletter subscriber.
Nevertheless, the best way to grow your audience and newsletter list is to leverage social media and to focus on SEO. But remember: Even if you are able to attract a high amount of web traffic, it’ll all be for nothing if you can’t also get the visitors to opt-in to your content.
- Diversify from your core platform
After you have been able to build up your audience on your core social media channel, or blogging platform, it’s then time to expand to other channels and not rest on your laurels. You can do this by expanding into different traffic/media channels by which you hope to attract and maintain an audience.
This means not only having a successful landing page, but also expanding into every one of the main social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Not only will you put your brand in front of more eyes, but you can gain stronger loyalty and engagement from your current audience, as they’ll have multiple options through which they can engage with you.
- Begin to monetize your audience
The final step of the process of launching and growing your startup is to focus on the monetization of your audience. If you’ve followed the previous 5 steps correctly, you should by now have decided what your sweet spot is, found your content tilt, built your base and subscribers, and are on multiple platforms. It’s now time to reap the rewards.
The key way to monetize your audience is to see what works and what doesn’t work. You already have a decent subscriber count, so begin to analyze the quantitative and qualitative data and make adjustments when needed and see where there are opportunities to begin converting your audience into being paying customers. Be willing to adapt and to follow the path of interest that the audience analytics dictates.
7. Test, test, test and then double down on a winner
Especially in the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey it’s important to make not just one big bet, but many smaller bets and tests. This could be different products or services, or testing the appetite for your products/services with different target groups. It might take a few iterations before you find a winner. Make sure to use the lean startup methodology as an approach to test your business assumptions without investing too much time and money. And when the time has come that you found a winning product/service – double down on it and focus on that winner to make it big and sustainable!
Conclusion: Since most startups fail within their first two years, I’d suggest to increase your odds for success by following those seven steps mentioned above. In the end, you don’t need magic tricks to build a sustainable business, if you make sure to offer something that’s valuable and fills a market gap, build your audience around it, and then monetize it. Since attention spans of potential customers are shorter than ever, it makes sense to build your audience first and only then to focus on monetizing your product or service. In the content-obsessed world that we live in today, this is probably the best path to long-term, sustainable growth for your startup.