- Ryan Foland Contributor.
When launching your own startup, you need to realize that it is like going to war. There are many battles to face, but the more you know about these battles, the better prepared you can be. This lets you not only stand on the shoulders of giants, but also avoid dying a startup death on the battlefield.
The reality is that most startups fail.
However, the more you learn from those who have failed, the better your chances are of defeating the enemy, which is failure. You and your team will need real-world battle skills to achieve success. In order to have the upper hand, you can use various forms of communication to gain advantage.
Brian MacMahon, of Expert Dojo, helps startups go to battle. He is a startup sensei, training entrepreneurs the necessary skills to combat failure.
Brian and I have outlined the six toughest battles you are likely to face and the communication tools you will need to gain a competitive edge.
Ask yourself if you excel in these areas—if you don’t, get some training and practice in before you charge into the warfare that is entrepreneurship.
Know Where to Start
Do you have a plan? Do you have a budget? Do you have a market implementation strategy laid out? Do you have the team to achieve your development goals? Before starting any business, you should treat it the same as if you were deciding on whether it is possible to win a war. Each battle, in many cases, is won before it even begins.
Try this: start with a whiteboard.
Communicating your strategy can be enhanced with visuals. Simply talking about your plan can get confusing, especially when relating all of the various parts together. Try starting with a whiteboard—lay out the foundation of your business plan elements, like details on the product, the marketing, the team, the long term goals.
Once it is written down, you can start to visualize where you are at with your battle plan. Startups that run onto the battlefield with no plan may soon find themselves running out of business.
Create a Milestone Battle Plan
Once you have a strategic outlook on where you want your company to go, it is time to start marching. But you will need to know where to send your troops. You need a plan. This is not a vague plan on how many people are going to fight and when the battle will take place. This is a specific plan regarding every single aspect of your startup battlefield, from the soldiers who go to fight, to the weapons you use to the tactics you employ. Failure to execute any aspect of the battle plan almost guarantees failure.
Try this: type it out.
Now that we have an understanding of where to start, transcribe your whiteboard into a living, breathing milestone document. Set specific goals that you would like to achieve each month that directly tie to winning the war. If your monthly target is 100 users (sales, downloads, etc.), implement at least 3 channels and activities within these channels that will funnel into your goal of 100.
For instance, we know that partnering with Ryan and writing this article falls into our partnership outreach channel, a channel that has a monthly objective of 100 new users.
The potential outreach for the article has a numerical weight. For numbers sake, let’s say 100,000 potential users. Now, of the 100,000 we could potentially reach, we know that only a handful will be fit to fight with us—our prospects. Again, for numbers sake, let’s say 1,000— 1 percent—might be a fit. We also have to factor that only 10 percent will follow us into the Startup Battlefield.
Therefore, this article could help us reach our goal of 100 users. In a perfect world, we just hit our milestone for this month. But rarely do things go exactly to plan, which is why you should record everything and implement the right analytics to show what daily activities are leading you away from your objectives. Don’t miss your target because you found out too late that your plan was not working.
Select the Right Generals
You cannot win a battle alone. In reality, you are irrelevant once the battle starts because only your army can crush the enemy. This is why it is critical to ensure that every single member of your team is the best at what they do and that they know their roles when the battle begins. You will need several Generals who are in leadership positions over people or divisions to assist you in your battles. Never compromise with your generals.
Try this: communicate by asking more questions.
It is imperative that you communicate at every level regarding what needs to be done while the battle is being fought. Communicating in advance with every person involved in your battle guarantees victory. A great way to communicate with your generals is to ask them the right questions before sending them into fight. Ask about their goals. Ask about their strengths.
Are they the best at what they do and are they clear on what you need them to do? Ask about how they would deal with various situations that could go wrong. The more you know your generals, the more you can ensure that they are in line with the company ethos. You are relying on your generals to make the right decisions when you are not there. Communicating through asking questions is a powerful tool to make sure all of your generals are best fit for the battlefield.
Have the Right Weapons
Going into battle with a great plan, great generals and great tactics will fall short of victory if you don’t have the right weapons. In the case of a startup, the right weapons are the solution to the problem you are solving and how that solution translates into your tangible product. If your product is not the absolute best product compared to all of the other alternatives, then the chances of you being successful are greatly diminished.
Try this: learn more.
The ability to listen is one of the most useful tools in communication. Remember that communication and business are two-sided. Being able to listen to your audience and curate products, services, or technology that directly derive from their pain points is instrumental in being successful. The best way to validate your “weapons” is to ask and listen to the feedback you receive. The better you understand your customers, the more successful you will become.
Automate the Way You Communicate
Having to run five or six battles at the same time is extremely difficult if you need to watch every single thing you’re doing on the battlefield. The more individual actions, strikes, attacks, that you have direct communication with, the better your chances are of a ninja victory.
Try this: slack a little bit.
Thank you letters and follow ups can go a long way. But if you have thousands of customers, it can be impossible to make it to every single person. Or is it? Check out CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software Klaviyo.com, Salesforce.com or infusionsoft.com. They were designed to help automate following up with all your customers based on triggers and call to actions. It is crucial for every business to track their communication, and implementing a CRM to help streamline the process is highly recommended.
A new and powerful way to communicate with your customers is by building a BOT on FB messenger, KIK, LINE, SLACK, SKYPE and several other social platforms. BOTS are artificial intelligent communication tools for businesses to engage with the massive ecosystems and potential customers that already exist on the social platforms. Trust us when we say this, BOTS are cool!
Always make sure that your tactics are unexpected. Failure to be creative on the battlefield leads you to becoming predictable. When you are predictable in the startup world, your startup product becomes easy to copy and paste due to lack of innovation. Make sure that your product is the most innovative product that you can possibly have every single day.
Try This: read more.
In order to stay on the front line of innovation and creativity, try reading more. Books are a great source of inspiration, insight, and knowledge. Reading books written by other business leaders who have been through battle is a great way to learn from their successes and failures. Technology is constantly changing—the more you read and stay on top of it, the better you will be at innovation on the battlefield when the time comes. If you don’t think you have time to read, we encourage you to listen to audiobooks while you drive.
We hope these six tips help you become more of a startup ninja on the battlefield. If you have more tips, please leave them as comments!Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.