Start-up reality, money, marketing and confidence

One of the things that fascinates me is how some people succeed in business and others fail. I think there’s much all of us can learn – whether we choose to be employees or scratch an entrepreneurial itch – from others. I think the most important lesson for anyone is that there is very little luck in business. Sure, a few inherit fortunes they transform into successful businesses or are passed down a legacy business, but most who make it face an often unseen tumultuous journey before they reap their rewards. Yet the media often only talk about their success glossing over the start-up battles with a small mention if at all.

This week I was talking online with a couple people about what it takes to succeed. @jacoutofthebox shared this great presentation by Tara Hunt on the realities of a startup, based on her own experiences with Buyosphere which began as Schwopp. I think her raw kick in the rear is the dose of reality anyone contemplating going entrepreneurial needs. The upshot? It ain’t easy. There’s no guarantee. And you’d better toughen up.

So along those lines we talked about how warm fuzzies in business don’t lead to success either. You can’t typically kumbaya yourself to greatness or just be generous and expect people to reward you for it with their loyalty. In fact, reality is, there’s very little loyalty in business – people are fickle and gravitate to where they either get the best deal or the best experience. So if you’re looking for the holy grail of loyalty, you must rock. Consistently. Develop a contagious business with a product or service that once people get hooked, the cost of changing is pretty high. Facebook is a prime example. Once you invest all the energy building a following, uploading and sharing links and photos and prose, how easy is it for you to switch? How easy would it be to move your following somewhere else? Right. It’s not.

So Men with Pens has an article about dispensing with the warm fuzzies and focusing on money. On not being ashamed to market and sell your stuff with gusto. Now before you start running off with a pitch, they don’t mean tossing the pleasantries out the window and selfishly selling at every turn. That clearly isn’t the road to success. No, it’s about delivering a great product people actually want and charging for it without apology. Like what Apple does.

While you’re paying attention to the money, as a marketer it doesn’t hurt to operate your own P & L. That’s how you demonstrate your value and show respect for your teams according to Geoff Livingston. It’s how you learn to respect measurement tactics and turn attention into action. Not bad advice considering how often marketers do not close the loop on measuring their effectiveness or implementing a closed-loop marketing process which tracks leads from first contact through the sales process and in the event of a loss, understands why. In this way you know what’s working, what’s not and have the metrics to know what levers you need to adjust.

I use Airbnb and appreciate the quality of their design – the user experience – and their concept. They’ve worked hard to make it what it is today and it could easily have gone the other direction as this article on their beginning illustrates. What I like is how they bucked conventional wisdom in the tech world that you have to be a total techie to succeed – they came from the design side – and how hard they worked initially talking with their customers and using their service.

It may pay to dispense with the warm fuzzies but as I alluded to above it doesn’t mean being disrespectful. You don’t have to be mean to succeed and Tim Sanders is anything but. He wrote the book, Love is the Killer App after all. But you do need confidence and discipline. This is the key to making it. Without confidence you’ll just crumble at the first rejection. Pandora was rejected over 300 times. Could you weather that? Tim talks about how to break out of a slump and move forward by sharing his real world experiences in his new book Today we are rich, which I plan to read soon. A particularly good read this week.

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