01 Start with a great product
01 Start with a great productTwitter and similar Silicon Valley startups gained momentum with support from the so-called “digerati.” However, you don’t need the support of top tech bloggers or trend setters to launch a great startup. All you need is a really great product or service and a customer base that loves it. Do your research first and make sure you know there will be a market for your product or service.
02 Pick the right startup name
02 Pick the right startup nameWhen researching business name ideas, start-ups need to think carefully for both legal and marketing purposes. An effective business name could prove to be your most powerful branding tool and naming your business requires a lot of consideration. The biggest mistake you can make naming your new startup happens at the very beginning. If you have a name already in mind, while it may be your first instict to see if the domain name is taken, that's the last thing you should do. More than likely it won't be available, and that's when the arbitrary alternate spellings and additional letters start happening for many entrepreneurs. A much better strategy is to think about your brand name in the context of the real world, not among other startups or as a URL. Come at the name from every possible angle, make lists of adjectives and the human qualities you want to emulate.
03 Pay attention to your business plan
The plan itself is what’s supposed to happen, and why, and how much of this and that and when things are supposed to happen. The document, the pitch, the elevator speech, and the summary memo aren’t the plan; they are outputs, or summaries, of the plan. So why do we write it down? So we can review it every month, see what went right and what went wrong, and make course corrections. You can’t review the results of your plan if you didn’t write it somewhere. But don’t waste time making it pretty. Business plans are perishable, like food. Their shelf life is just a few weeks.
03 Pay attention to your business planEntrepreneurs may differ on the importance of a business plan or on what form it should take. But a good business plan is key to startup success. You’d think it would be obvious, but the business plan is supposed to be whatever it needs to be to solve the business purpose. For example, only very few business plans ever have to be documents – well formatted and carefully presented – to back up an investment pitch or loan application. While those uses exist, the vast majority of business plans need to be not pretty documents, but rather specific collections of lists, such as objectives, focus, tactics, specific activities, specific responsibilities, deadlines, performance expectations and so forth. They can exist in different formats and live on a computer, or a network, where multiple people can access, use and contribute to them.
04 Pricing your services, product or business model
The revenue model you select is basically the implementation of your business strategy, and the key to attaining your financial objectives. Obviously, it must be grounded by the characteristics of the market and customers you choose to serve, the pricing model of existing competitors, and a strategy you believe is consistent with your future products and direction.
So what are some of the most common revenue models being used by startups today? Here is a summary, with some of the pros and cons or special considerations for each:
1. Product or service is free, revenue from ads. This is the most common model touted by Internet startups today, the so-called Facebook model, where the service is free, and the revenue comes from click-through advertising. It’s great for customers, but not for startups, unless you have deep pockets.
04 Pricing your services, product or business modelOverview of the kinds of pricing decisions startups must make. These are not simply decisions about how to price a product or service competitively. They are also decisions about the kind of pricing model, for example, free product or service monetized by ads, freemium service. One of the toughest decisions for a startup is how to price their product or service. The alternatives range from giving it away for free, to pricing based on costs, to charging what the market will bear (premium pricing). The implications of the decision you make are huge, defining your brand image, your funding requirements, and your long-term business viability.
2. “Freemium” model. In this variation on the free model, used by LinkedIn and many other Internet offerings, the basic services are free, but premium services are available for an additional fee. This also requires a huge investment to get to critical mass, and real work to differentiate and sell premium services to “convert” users to paying customers.
3. Cost-based model. In this more traditional product pricing model, the price is set at two to five times the product cost. If your product is a commodity, the margin may be as thin as ten percent. Use it when your new technology gives you a tremendous cost improvement. Skip it where there are many competitors.
4. Value model. If you can quantify a large value or cost savings to the customer, charge a price commensurate with the value delivered. This doesn’t work well with “nice to have” offerings, like social networks, but does work for new drugs and medical devices that solve critical health problems.
5. Subscription model. This is a very popular model today for Internet services, calling for monthly or yearly low payments, in lieu of one value or cost-based price. Startup advantages include a more stable revenue stream, easier customer retention, and increasing customer investment over time. The customer advantage is a lower entry cost.
6. Product is free, but you pay for services. In this model, the product is given away for free and the customers are charged for installation, customization, training or other services. This is a good model for getting your foot in the door, but be aware that this is basically a services business with the product as a marketing cost.
7. Product line pricing. This model is relevant only if you have multiple products and services, each with a different cost and utility. Here your objective is to make money with the portfolio, with high markup and low markup items, depending on competition, lock-in, value delivered, and loyal customers. This one takes expert management to work.
8. Tiered or volume pricing. In certain product environments, where a given enterprise product may have one user or hundreds of thousands, a common approach is to price by user group ranges, or volume usage ranges. Keep the number of tiers small for manageability. This approach doesn’t typically apply to consumer products and services.
9. Feature pricing. This approach works if your product can be sold “bare-bones” for a low price, and price increments added for additional features. It can be a very competitive approach, but the product must be designed and built to provide good utility at many levels. This is a very costly development, testing, documentation, and support challenge.
10. Razor blade model. In this model, like cheap printers with expensive ink cartridges, the base unit is often sold below cost, with the anticipation of ongoing revenue from expensive supplies. This is another model that requires deep pockets to start, so is normally not an option for startups.
The rest of this feature will be continued in Part 2