I’m lucky enough to be part of the Cintrifuse advisor network. As an advisor, I work with earlier stage startups. I love the chaos, creativity, and passion I see in people at this stage. The hard part as an advisor is helping people focus on the few things that matter. So what matters?
For early stage companies, it’s your product or idea, and placing that idea into the market with a customer. Many startups want to focus on raising money first. Raising money is second. Money is hard to come by for startups.
If you want to raise capital, you need to raise customers first. Startups that show they can connect with customers get money. Startups that want to raise money then find customers rarely get funded. VC’s know that customers make a startup. How can you find customers?
Making an idea into a startup is difficult. First, you need a killer idea and a market that will pay you. Second, you need look like a “real” company. Real companies have a digital footprint. Real companies have processes and tools to connect teams, customers, and partners.
As startups, we need to look at how we can create a footprint and process to develop trust with our company. Potential customers look for signs of maturity in the companies they work with. Outside of your idea, your initial footprint can help your company get to the front of the line for mentors, team, and money. Having a good footprint makes you appear ready for growth.
So what is a good footprint? Most startups need this general footprint as a starting point. Spending the time to review and lay out your footprint shows when people look at you online. A great footprint shows consistency in updates and style.
Logo and brand standard
A logo is our identity. A brand standard is a guideline of fonts, colors, and logo usage. We use this to make our footprint match. Simple is good, just be consistent.
A website can be simple, but needs to match our brand standard. Themes are a great shortcut. A website is where people judge us before they commit to working with us.
A blog is not a website. Blogs are not sales brochures for your product. A blog is our chance to create and use content. Content is the great equalizer. The best content helps educate and build trust with potential customers. A great blog generates conversation and attracts people to our value.
Social is more than just posting updates. Social is starting and maintaining conversations around our sector and customers.
Many startups set this up too late. Get a ticketing system and knowledge base, and include help links in your apps. Customers that see you have support feel confident to buy.
Email is still the best marketing method on the Internet. Email can be your individual emails that have a great footer, or newsletters. Build your lists. Only email your lists with great content.
Don’t just use your cell phone. Setup a phone number with features that let you press one for sales, etc.
Imagine you are customer looking to solve a business problem. You search Google, and look at two results. The first is an one page website, with a mix of mismatching social links, and no content updates in the last month. The second result is a professional looking website, has a fresh blog, and links for support and sales. Which do you choose? Which would your potential customers and partners choose? Which would you look at further for investment?
Bad footprints keeps many startups from moving forward. Ten years ago, the cost barrier of setting up a full profile kept many businesses and startups from “looking big.” With the onset of the cloud, we can setup all these things for a startup, and on a minimal budget. The challenge is knowing what and how to setup everything.
The good news is that Cintrifuse is hosting Zero to MVP, a 5 part workshop to help early stage startups setup a footprint, build an MVP without code, find contractors, pick a tech platform, and how to manage coders for non-coders.
Our goal is for your startup to attend and learn some of my methods for getting an idea to market on a tight budget. Our workshop series will be in person, and also streamed online via Google Hangouts. For corporate Cintrifuse members, the zero to MVP approach can help you validate ideas, without getting into budget or compliance challenges.
Eric built his experience working in the tech sector for 20 years. He is CEO of Campus Suite, a content management and communications platform for schools and colleges across the US. Eric is also COO of Soundstr, a Brandery graduate backed by Gracenote, and COO of Craftforce, a skilled trades marketplace. He helps Cincinnati startups as a advisor for Cintrifuse. Eric brings his experiences and methods from running multiple companies to the startup ecosystem. His key skills include team management, platform design and development, process design, and inbound marketing. Connect with Eric on LinkedIn
Feature image credit byung chul kim. Image has been cropped.