Dear ambitious startup founder,
Please allow me to help you move from
where you are today to where you
ought to be.
Some of this may seem very obvious.
Unfortunately early stage startup founders
seem to miss these simple principles.
This of course is the reason for so
many startup failures today.
“Learning by experience is fine…but the
experience doesn’t have to be yours.”
Step 1. Is this your best idea and are these the right features?
Don’t make the mistake of working on
your weakest idea.
Your best idea has the following characteristics:
1. Its an area in which you have deep
passion and expertise
2. It’s something that customers want
and are willing to pay for. (You may be
the best at ironing shirts but that may
not be commercially viable)
Step 2 Who is your ideal customer?
Beware of the temptation of trying to
build a product for every customer.
Most people don’t know who their ideal
They try to target a forest instead of a
In every market there are ideal customer
characteristics that will save you
Your ideal customer has the following
1. He wants your product and has the
ability to pay you (The best ones even
have a recent purchase history of a
competitor’s offering or inferior alternative
to your product)
2. She is actively looking for the solution/product you are
For example, a fitness app targeting mothers may want
someone with the following characteristics.
“Marie is a 29 year old business executive with 2 kids.
She lives downtown and drives an SUV to work. She makes
between $80-90k a year and spends her weekends engaged
in family activities such as soccer practice and church.
She wants to be able to fit in size 26 jeans by her 30th birthday.
She follows Oprah, Forbes and Joyce Meyer on Instagram.”
You see how different this is from the common mistake of just
lump in different customer segments together?
The better defined your ideal customer is, the easier it will be
to reach her.
Talk to people to find out what their hopes, dreams, expectation
s and fears are. Find out what kinds of media you can
use to reach them. Do they spend more time on Facebook,
Snapchat or Instagram?
Do they watch HBO or Netflix?
Do they get their news from social media or physical newspapers?
Is it easier to reach them in forums or at meetups and
Step 3.What goals and metrics are important?
How can you get to your destination if you don’t know where
you are going?
Most founders don’t know how much money
they want to make in the next 12 months.
They don’t know how many customers they want this month or
what growth rate is acceptable.
Let’s say we are having this conversation 12 months from
today. As you look back, how much revenue would you like to
Is it $100,000, $1,000,000 or $1,000,000,000?
Next, how many customers and sales would you need to hit
If 500 people pay you $200, that is $100,000
If 5000 people pay you $200, that is $1,000,000
If 50 people pay you $2000, that is $100,000
In our company, some of the most important growth metrics are
sales, profits, engagement, customer progress and market
As the business owner, your duty is to make sure the business
progresses in employee happiness, sales growth, profits and
market share. Unless your online followers and social media likes
can be converted into sales, they shouldn’t be your measure of
There are a lot of people who have a lot of likes but no
Step 4. What’s your message and positioning
Your message reinforces your positioning.
A framework you can use is “My Company will give you ABC
without or so you do not have to XYZ
ABC Bank gets you a loan in 24 hours without filling any forms.
ABC Delivery Company delivers groceries to your front door so
you don’t have to leave your home.
Growing Startup helps you increase sales and profits without stress and overwhelm.
Others ways to position your brand are-
Pick the right name for your brand and products
The names you choose should be easy to pronounce.
A business name that is suggestive of what you do is preferred
but it’s not the rule.
A finance website called Moneysign is better
than Green Paper depending on the market you are in.
Descriptive or suggestive names may save you money since you
won’t have to spend a lot of money reminding your market.
In the end it’s how well you manage, grow and scale the
business that counts.
Haagen-Dazs ice cream for example sounds European but
it’s made in New York.
Fix Packaging and Appearance
It’s a fact that we tend to judges a book by its cover. A
well-dressed man who smells good is more likely to have
more friends than someone who dresses shabbily and takes
a shower sparingly.
If you’re trying to attract adults or higher paying customers, a
more mature and contemporary appearance will be useful.
If your ideal customer is a teenager, having a fun and youthful
appearance is useful whether your product is digital or
Define your pricing strategy
Are you charging premium or mass market prices?
It’s a decision you have to make based on how much value
you’re providing and what your target market is willing to pay
Notice I didn’t say your price was based on your cost.
This is a common mistake of early stage founders.
They look at their cost and just add a little to it because
that’s all they have been told about pricing.
In my experience.
9 out of 10 entrepreneurs wish they
could charge more for their products but are afraid that
it will drive away customers. They are also afraid of
what their friends will say.
The golden rule of pricing is to charge whatever you
want as long as it’s a discount of what the customer is
getting. This means the customer should get more
value than what they are paying.
For example, a person who buys a $700 iPhone will
argue that the value they get from the phone in convenience;
being able to download their favorite apps and
even public perception is worth more to them than
N.B once a prospect believes they will get more value
than they are paying for, it’s only a matter of time till
they purchase your product.
Step 5.What will attract the next 1000 customers
Until someone is paying you for your product, you don’t
have a sustainable business.
After defining who your ideal customer is, you need to
find out what he needs to see or hear to give you
This is where you create an irresistible offer or incentive.
Think about the last purchase you made? What
were some of the reasons you paid for it?
I’m not talking about whether you needed or wanted the
product. I’m asking, “what story did you tell yourself to
justify that purchase?
Here are a few principles you can use to create your
Stories– Can you see yourself drinking a deliciously
brewed cup of coffee? How about biting into a freshly
baked and sweet smelling loaf of bread?
We all tend to buy things once we see that image in our
minds. For some reason, until your mind sees it, your
body can’t go there.
As an entrepreneur it’s your job to paint that picture for
Real estate agents stage homes because they need the
prospect to be able to see themselves already living
Car salesmen allow people to test drive new cars because it
makes the prospect see themselves exactly where the salesperson
If your app helps people to be productive, you have to create
demos or lead magnets that show them a picture of themselves
meeting deadlines and increasing their productivity.
Endorsements/Testimonials and Co-signs –
When you’re not sure whether to buy something, it’s good to
have a second opinion from someone who has already tried the
Testimonials, reviews and recommendations from the right
sources is usually enough to move many of us to try a product,
a new experience or that new app that everyone we respect is
Nearly every business has a significant portion of their revenue
coming from word of mouth. The question is what are the
mouths saying and how do you do you make sure it’s consistently
in your favor? (More on that later)
Reversing the risk
In every transaction, the customer usually has a certain risk
appetite. Some people will only try before they buy.
There are also those who need guarantees before they purchase.
The more you do to reduce the risk, the more likely it is for
a customer to consider you over a competitor.
If you can’t guarantee that what you sell will do what you
say it will, you should consider selling something else.
In our Persuasive Marketing program, we teach the importance
of mental triggers.
Mental triggers are the subtle nuances in human behavior that influence our buying
When you take the class, we advise that you
never use this ability to manipulate anyone.
The Takeaway is simply when you offer something and
then ask the prospect to qualify themselves before they
We have classes and workshops that we only open to
business owners who make under $10MM. There are
others where we only work with founders or the VP of
The better you understand positioning, the easier it will be
to create demand for your products using the The Takeaway
When a business makes it easy to purchase from them, it’s
better for the customer. Would you rather pay your bills online
or stand in line?
Would you rather open a computer to check your email or
would like to do that on your phone?
Your prices are a reflection of one of three things.
How well you understand customer’s buying ability.
Your fear to charge what you’re worth because you don’t
know what will happen if you do.
A combination of boldness, research and value.When you
know how much money you want and what kind of customer
is willing to pay that amount, your prices will be close to
Unfortunately it seems the only pricing strategy most entrepreneurs
understand is offering discounts.
There are more creative ways to increase sales by bundling, upselling or
creating special offers with affiliates.
Your price should be a discount of the value the customer is
getting. As long as people are getting more than they paid for
they’ll have a reason to keep doing so.
The easiest way to become a pricing expert is to understand
your customer’s mind and what they are willing to pay. Don’t
let your friends give you pricing advice unless they are your
Don’t let your competitors dictate your prices either. Apple
didn’t ask for Nokia’s permission to sell a $500 iPhone.
If your product delivers great value, all you need to do is let
the right people see it and then charge them what you want.
NB—Price isn’t just about money.
Time, convenience, peace, happiness and reputation are also currencies.
How much time will it take to learn how to use your product?
Will the customer have to give up something important to
become a customer?
Factor that into your pricing including how much it costs to
acquire, retain and profit from a customer.
Other principles you can use to create the perfect offer are
social proof, first truth formula, connection, Intrigue, scarcity,
reciprocity, fear of missing out, instant gratification, etc.
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