But until you start solving the problems of other people, you’ll never make enough money to last. So before we can even talk about using strategies and tactics to scale your business, you need to make sure you’re in the right market first. You might think it’s going to be one thing, but it might change as you get real feedback from customers (who pay the bills). So the best strategy in the early days was to simply piggyback on other people’s platforms. For example, Unbounce was a brand new company only a few years ago. This strategy was incredibly simple, but it helped the company gain millions of users in no time. The trick with all of these strategies, though, is that you’re not asking these people for help. Give each of these big brands, partners, or platforms what they want or need. So the very first thing you need to do, before promotion, is to actually figure out what people want! What’s your favorite example of a strategy that a big company used to become successful?
The vast majority of new companies fail over the long haul.
I’m not trying to bum you out or anything.
But you need to know what you’re up against.
Again: Don’t be discouraged. I’ve had my own million dollar mistake.
The important point is to learn from your missteps so that you can figure out what went wrong and never repeat them again.
In this article, I’ll share my experiences from successfully growing multiple million-dollar companies so that you can learn from my previous mistakes without repeating them.
We’re going to talk a lot about successfully getting your name into the marketplace because most new companies simply don’t do enough to break through obscurity.
But first, you need to make sure you’re entering the right marketplace for your business. Here’s why.
1. Get your positioning right first, then worry about distribution
Many companies fail before they even get off the ground.
Here’s what I mean.
People in software always talk about “solving their own problems” when they create something new.
But you don’t pay yourself. Your customers do!
In other words, solving your own problems is fine. But until you start solving the problems of other people, you’ll never make enough money to last.
That means you go out into the marketplace to see if the same problems or pain points resonate with what you’re thinking.
For example, I used to watch The Daily Show all the time with Jon Stewart. Now I don’t any longer.
It turns out, I’m not alone. Nearly 40% of Jon’s previous audience demographic has stopped watching, too.
It’s not that the new host is bad. He’s just different. And he wasn’t the right fit for this old, existing audience.
So before we can even talk about using strategies and tactics to scale your business, you need to make sure you’re in the right market first.
You have to be ready and primed for growth before it’s going to happen. Here’s one way to figure that out.
The first trick is to look for ‘echo chambers’ online that already have big, engaged communities. For example, just start by looking for popular blogs (because these are going to be your promotion partners later).
I just picked a random idea off the top of my head to try this out.
I literally Googled “Gluten free blog” half a second ago and here’s what popped up.
There are two awesome things to note here already. The first is the market size: 15,800,000 results!
And these are just blogs with content creators. So think about how many people are reading these sites.
The next thing is that BeyondCeliac.org is already helping to feature the biggest gluten-free bloggers.
That means there’s a big market here, there’s an ‘infrastructure’ of leading organizations supporting it, and you already have a list of new potential promotion partners.
Now you know there’s already a market for what you have. The next trick is to figure out how you’re going to make your product or service stand out in this crowded space.
Marty Neumeier wrote a book called Zag: The Number One Strategy for High-Performance Brands in which he talks about “creating a category of one.”
Basically, the idea is to ask yourself a few key questions to make sure that you’re not going to be competing against a ton of other people with the same basic commodity (otherwise your risk of failure skyrockets).
So ask yourself:
- Is the value of your product or service easy to understand (and implement for the end user)?
- How are you going to change features, pricing, and other factors to be the only person who takes your unique spin on this problem?
- And are you supported by a trend where the market’s growing? (See that ‘echo chamber’ above.)
The Lean Canvas is one of the best ways to help figure this out.
In the early days, your ideal solution or product would evolve over time. You might think it’s going to be one thing, but it might change as you get real feedback from customers (who pay the bills).
And that’s OK.
For example, Cirque Du Soleil has become one of the biggest entertainment acts in the world over the last decade.
You can’t walk into a Las Vegas hotel without seeing one of their shows.
But when they started, they had to iterate a little to find the right formula. They obviously knew there was a huge market for live shows and a circus-like experience.
However, their innovation came in recognizing what was broken about the traditional circus and how they could change the rules of the game for themselves.
So they didn’t even bother with animals, for example, while at the same time, they added new elements like a show theme and a more refined venue.
The result was some weird cross between a circus and theater, but it worked.
There’s never a single moment that says you’ve figured it all out.
Instead, it’s a constant process during which you tweak your strategy based on feedback to continue moving in the right direction.
That helps you avoid making the same mistakes that often sink companies. They’re too stubborn to change or evolve over time, but you won’t fall into that trap.
Once you’re on the right path, you can start thinking about going for growth.
2. Start ‘piggybacking’ on other people’s platform
Moving too slowly is usually what kills new companies.
Nobody knows who you are, which means they don’t trust you yet, and they definitely aren’t searching for you by name.
So the best strategy in the early days was to simply piggyback on other people’s platforms.
Here’s what I mean.
Airbnb also started as a nobody. However, they embraced that and instead looked for places where their customers already were.
Back in those days, people still used Craigslist to find people in cities where they wanted to travel (or to offer up their own couch).
So Airbnb started by going after the people who were listing properties on Craigslist first.
They did that through a…