Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Want to fast track your startup? start building a Community

This post was first published on 99digital.co
fast track your startup
If this startup game was a matter of how cool or awesome what you are offering is, then a lot of folks would have conquered that word “Startup”; but it’s not – It’s essentially how you get the bucks to roll in.. cool or no cool.. just show us the money, then we know you are ready for business.

Joseph Barisonzi has this to say
startup vitamin poster: The Path to greatness..

The title of this blogpost, was the title of a talk by Community building authority, Richard Millington of FeverBee during a tech meetup event at Google campus London. The main content of this post, however are my processed thoughts on the subject. Though I will share 6 snipping points from the talk.
  1. Build communities, not audiences.
  2. Talk about the community, not the brand / product
  3. On how to initiate discussions: Ask a Question, don’t just give information.
  4. Build relationship with key people
  5. We interact in Niche groups. Friends and families first, then people with common interests –that’s a strong one.
  6. There is a difference between a [social] network of people and a community, one has no common interest and the later does have.
Our everyday living as humans thrives on Communities and if we can apply some principles of communities to technology startups in this digital age, we would have much better results.
Today, Technology allows us to create communities that have more diversity than the offline communities we create as humans. Notice the subtle irony in that. It’s powerful!

To the core of the matter – Fast tracking your startup, a.k.a Triggering Traction.

You have to totally dig that this is a marketing game.
Here is my point exactly: You are starting a technology business, a startup as it were, understand that the most critical thing to your survival is getting your customers to pay. You must find them and get them to pay. Hard stuff.- This is why advertising is worth A LOT.

Finding your customers and getting them to pay is the most critical thing – If so Why not do it FIRST.

The convention today, especially for technology startups,  is to have the idea, do some research and all gather all what is needed to begin execution and then begin execution.
The mind is naturally focused on getting the obvious work done. Without considering the most critical thing -the reason why you will be in business, if you ever get paid, that it: the paying customer.
This is the whole point of the Lean Startup-Get-outta-the-building-Customer-development chants you probably may have been hearing.
Tackle your riskiest issues first. The goal of a startup is to de-risk your startup ASAP.
Sigh. God bless Ash and co.
Bringing this back to community building, with a mind of having your first customers – you don’t make that so obvious by the way.
You’ll have to  discover a common interest that would resonate with the members and that your startup idea can relate with.

A few examples.

Felix: Edge of Space Jump
Felix: Edge of Space Jump
Redbull has a strong community and they rarely talk about the drink. The common interest is Extreme sports and that's what they really focus on. We all remember the Felix dude that jumped-off the edge of space.
Nike, the sport brand, has a solid community too. The common interest here is running.
The goal with the community is to foster engagement and interaction around that common interest. - That is like gold.
You will discover insights basically. A perfect platform to "customer develop" the members, but the aim should be to sustain and guide the interactions as much as possible to the point where-by the discussion nearly focuses or focuses on a point where your offering can solve a problem or meet a need. These are the moments you don’t want to miss.
By doing this the members discover the need for your product almost by themselves, you really did not bring it to them in their faces – which when they notice you are marketing, they activate their marketing guards, then it becomes tougher to sell.
By them discovering it as a result of committing their thoughts to something they are already interested in, selling would be easier, you would spend less on marketing, really.
However, community building is a skill on its own.
At this point, you have early adopters within reach. You can now offer the minimum viable product/offering, which becomes a way to demonstrate traction and begin business, weather by bootstrapping or via investment.
That, versus completing the product and them blasting everywhere with ads- “Hey this is a product x that does magic y, you will like.. bla bla bla” -You may likely do that for a while before anyone answers you. Reason being that, the process of selling is in stages.
You as a person don’t just see a new product and say “Chairman, take my money, I like you already” – rarely happens.
The process involves you getting the message clearly, then getting interested, then thinking about it, e.t.c
You don’t face that hurdle using the community way, they are passed naturally and quickly since interest exist.
The community way to building startups offers much more. If it is just for the feedback, that’s valuable enough. With the feedback, you involve those you are building the product for in the building process.
They would naturally accept it when they see elements that reflect their thought patterns or personality, that again, versus you and your team building the product from only your own thought lines and assumptions, and pushing it unto user. You are pretty much saying “This is what we think you need, this is what you must do and this is how you must do it and you must do it this way” and most of the time we are wrong.
Your community can be online or offline, the point is fostering the interactions – However you do it, really doesn’t matter.
So yeah.. ! That’s it on fast tracking startups via community building, I expect some thoughts would oppose to this, it would be nice to know what you think instead 
-Is there anything more critical than finding your paying customers?
If any, someone please enlighten my thinking.
PS: This post is supposed to be a follow-up post to this piece about 2 interesting ways to think about startups, I lost the points that connect them. Still a good piece to read.

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