You guys know J.K. Rowling, right? She’s the incredibly successful author of the Harry Potter book series. How about Zoe Sugg? No? Well, she’s the 24-year-old who just sold more books in her first week of sales than Rowling. How she got to that point is what gives me hope that independent musicians can achieve success without signing financially crippling contracts with major labels.
I consistently struggle with balancing my belief in the power of serendipity and my brain’s inherent need for strategic planning. It’s an epic, never-ending battle, one that pulls me in opposing directions on the daily. You could say my mind’s playing tricks on me. On the one hand, you simply can’t ignore the world’s seemingly random forces that create special alliances nobody would expect. And on the other, you have the hustler, grinding through carefully crafted plans to reach a predetermined goal. Every time I consider this topic, I’m reminded of how Steve Jobs approached the layout for Pixar’s headquarters.
This may not qualify as “new news”, but damnit, it needs to be shared [again...and again]. Too many startups struggle with a lack of focus. Lack of focus on product, on market fit, on appropriate growth tactics for different stages. It’s a hard game, I know. The to-do list is never ending and you’re constantly swimming against the tide while trying to guess what tomorrow will bring. As Sir Richard Branson observed:
An interesting moment occurred in a recent Startup Next session here in NYC. A really cool hardware-slash-SaaS product team gave their weekly <60-second pitch to the room, which included a few mentors. In Q&A, they asked the mentors for advice on how to effectively connect with retail store managers / owners to do some basic customer development. What we all quickly realized is that there was a clear lack of message optimization, which seems to be a struggle for some startups when efforts are moved offline.
That’s the name of a WordPress plugin I paid someone to build for me several years ago. I had no damn clue why I did it, but it was fun and funny and the developer (Nick Ohrn, he’s fantastic) got enough of a kick out of it that he gave me a nice price break. The concept was simple – right when you hit “Publish” on a WP post, a pop-up would appear that asked if the post was “truly fucking awesome” with yes/no button options. Clicking YES would publish the post and clicking NO would prompt you to go back, edit the post and “unleash the badassery”.
Quick-hit Friday morning thoughts focused on the polarizing Minimum Viable Product (MVP)…
- Viable, Delightful, Desirable – whatever term you use, don’t ever lose sight of what MVPs and Lean Startup exist for…validated learning.
- Validated learning can mean a number of things to different startups. Your founding team needs to decide what KPIs to use before running any sort of MVP-backed experiments.
- A sign-up page IS NOT ENOUGH. Neither are surveys asking “would you perform XYZ activity related to my made-up product?”. This video is the best way I can explain the inherent flaw in asking people if they’d do something.
On a recent Reddit thread in r/startups, a young founder asked the group for advice on the proper way to hire for a marketing position. Specifically, he wanted to know what terminology to use in the job description. This brought out a slew of answers, such as: customer advocate, digital marketing manager, community manager, and so on. Here’s what I came in with:
I’m working on a free Intro to Startup Biz Dev class on Udemy and in my research I ran across a piece by Gagan Biyani (co-founder of Udemy and advisor to Lyft) on startup growth. In it, he discusses the importance of understanding your product’s lifecycle and the underlying psychology for your users throughout each step. I’ve been thinking a lot about how business development “works” and how crucial certain processes are in the eventual success of a killer approach to biz dev. So, I decided to outline the anatomy of a biz dev program specific to startups, a system gleamed from my experiences and observations over the years.
My co-founder, Mike, and I started MusicBox without writing a single line of code. Truth be told, it took less than 5 days to cobble together a landing page, logo and brand messaging, an email distribution system, and to make sure we had enough approved inventory of up-and-coming music to get us through a month or two. We were far from geniuses about this, but we ended up well focused on our Minimum Viable Learning Environment vs. our Minimum Viable Product.
A Texas brewery recently unveiled a 99-pack of beer for $99. It’s seven feet long and 15,000 calories worth of brew. It’s been on Newsday, CBS, Deadspin, Business Insider…you name it. And though it’s clearly a (smart) ploy for some PR, there’s a deep seated psychological trick at play here. It’s called schema disruption.