Everyone told me I had a great business idea, but I’m finding it very hard to get traction in the market. How do I get people to know about my business? I can’t afford a big advertising campaign. — Anonymous
Most people think building product is the hard part about a start-up. Bad news: Building is the easy part. It’s sales that takes real hard work and brains. If you can’t afford to market your product, you can’t start a start-up. Before you start a business, make sure you have a customer. Minimise your downside risk by ensuring there is demand.
If you have a consumer product, the only way to grow without pushing money into marketing campaigns is by word of mouth. It takes a long time to build critical mass via word of mouth, so you need a long runway, ie. cash in the bank. Don’t start unless you have two years’ funding in place.
Finding your customer
If you have a B2B product, it’s a bit easier. Finding one or two customers is usually enough to pay your overheads. The trick is finding the customer. If you have no potential customers in your personal network, then find a partner that does.
I’m not making much traction with revenue generation. Everything hinges on conversations that are either not happening, taking too long or happening with the wrong people. Am I missing something or is it my lack of relationship capital? Should I get a job again?
Here are some thoughts:
- If you don’t have enough cash, you have no choice but to opt for safer income and build a buffer before chasing your dream.
- If you can squeeze in another six months, do it. Give it 100% for six months, if you still have no success then give up. You’ll just feel foolish if you find out you gave up just before the finish line.
- There is no shame in quitting. Sometimes you’re on the wrong path. Don’t let your ego stop you from retracing your steps and taking another fork. You have one life, don’t waste it.
Keep chasing meetings with new people
I can’t give any advice or contacts that could increase your odds of success, except to encourage you to keep chasing meetings with new folks. Let your passion show and maybe someone will give you the break you need.
Success is a game of finding one backer. Forget about the 100 dead-ends, all you need is to find the one winning path.
What do you think of the experience paradox? Everywhere I look, you need experience to get a job, but a job to get experience. It seems you’re finally hitting the right level of experience as you’re getting ready to retire. Jobs are not my path. Your thoughts? — Josh
Which comes first: Sales or track record? How do you get your first sale without a track record? How do you get a track record without your first sale? It’s like trying to figure out whether the chicken comes before the egg.
The answer is: Your first sale comes first. When it comes to your sale, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Somewhere along the line someone needs to give you a break. A stranger won’t take a chance on you unless they have a reference from someone they trust. You need to shamelessly work your network to get your first sale.
You need to develop a network
If you have no network because you went to a crappy school, or your parents are poor (or dead), or you’re in a brand new country, or whatever, then life is tricky.
The only way to break into the system is to pick a company you admire and do whatever it takes to get a foot in the door. Work for free as the floor cleaner. Work so hard that it’s impossible to be ignored.
While working in that company, you are building a network of people that can one day potentially buy from you. When you’re ready, sell to that network. Once you start selling, you can build a track record. Once you have a track record, the world is your oyster.
Do you have a burning start-up question?