Every entrepreneur wants success: Unfortunately, its formula isn’t a copy/paste set of steps that everyone can follow. However, in my experience, there are a handful of winning strategies that any professional can apply, regardless of chosen industry.
1. Stand out with corporate culture, not just a strong product
Having a solid product is pivotal, of course, but it’s important to remember that riding the wave of an innovative and well-received product isn’t everything. It’s even common for such success to mask internal problems like poor organization, lack of quality management and a nonexistent work-life balance.
What’s better and more lasting is to make a true name for your brand by enforcing a flexible and people-first corporate culture. An excellent example of this is Fairchild Semiconductor, established in 1957. The company became a world-changing legend, one that laid some of the invention and approach foundations of Silicon Valley, but that was only possible because it shied away from the tight-laced, bureaucratic and relentless work ethic that was prevalent at the time. It attracted the strongest, brightest and most creative minds because it created a unique culture of passion and diversity, along with risk-taking. It also embraced a “work hard, play hard” mentality, one that likewise became a model for tech startups.
Adopting this same kind of irreverent, passionate and people-centric culture attracts strong experts in the field and makes them loyal to your brand.
Related: Great Company Culture Isn’t Magic — Take These Steps to Create It
2. Get your product into people’s hands and listen to feedback
A common problem with startups is getting too caught up in developing the “perfect product” before launch — spending too much time on minor details, obsessed with getting everything just right before anyone tries it.
I understand the urge, but it’s backward. The best thing to do is get a minimum viable product (MVP) into the hands of a target audience. MVPs are the bridge between where you currently are and where you want to end up, and if you can get a raw, workable product into the market, you get the benefit of being able to tweak it to meet the specific complaints or needs of the people you’re selling to.
For Novakid, of which I’m the co-founder and CEO, our initial offering was pretty rudimentary. It had enough basic features to demonstrate proof of concept, but was nowhere near perfect. However, I was able to get valuable feedback from kids and parents to better understand what they needed from our platform. I saved a lot of time, money and worry by allowing users to dictate how we developed future versions.
3. Stay on top of the latest trends and engage a young audience
If your brand is taking a long-term development strategy, then you have to stay up to date on what “the kids” are doing. Yes, 12- to 16-year-olds might not be your demographic right now, but in 10 years they’ll be in their 20s and may be precisely who you’re marketing to, and if you’re out of touch now, you likely won’t be able to suddenly pick up on what appeals to them down the road. So, study your future consumers with just as much interest as your current ones, which puts you in a position to understand their motivations, struggles and needs better when they become your marketable audience.
Even though my company’s product is aimed at school-age children, I still have to stay abreast of emerging technologies and new trends so our platform will appeal to future generations. For example, we know that Novakid will have to integrate AR and VR capabilities and lean into gamification even more if we want to hold interest.
Related: Is It Better to Stay Evergreen or Jump on Trends in Content Marketing?
4. Show real people, not just results
Entrepreneurs already know that it’s important to be profit-oriented for long-term success. Still, many forget that it’s just as crucial to have a recognizable human face for a company. To that end, instead of just having the CEO or CMO give media appearances, allow young professionals with niche industry experience to show a more personable side of the brand. If possible, also let users speak for you on social media.
Research by psychologists George Newman and Paul Bloom has revealed that “Perceptions of authenticity (or, inauthenticity) have been shown to affect people’s judgments and behavior across a wide variety of domains.” Put simply, authenticity creates value, and the more customers can see human involvement behind your brand, the more authentic they will think your business is.
Related: A Face Behind the Brand: How to Humanize Your Business for Maximum Growth
5. Work on specialized solutions
There’s no question that personalization is the future of success for just about any brand. Everything is about product localization, individual user characteristics and personal interests. This means that you need to know as much as possible about your customer base, which further means that you need strong internal analytics. Team members also need to understand how to integrate that analysis into both marketing and product development.
Nearly half of consumers expect brands to know them and understand their needs as individuals. In education, that means we create competence-based solutions that allow us to measure which educational mechanics are successful and which are not. The data we collect can be leveraged to create more personalized lessons for students, but it also allows my company to evolve as a platform into something better and more useful for the kids we teach.
I firmly believe that a passion for what you’re doing can carry entrepreneurs through rough patches, but I also know that it takes much more than just passion to create a lasting, thriving company, and integrating these strategies into your culture will help ensure that happens.Start the conversation