Why Do Startups Fail?

A multitude of potential pitfalls can negatively impact entrepreneurs as they eagerly try to build their fledgling companies…and basically crush their spirit if allowed. In my experiences, there are four reasons that stand out the most:

  • Lack of Research – Research is imperative. It provides insight about what your competitors are doing so can stay several steps ahead and create innovative ways to develop and market your offering. It also provides you with insight about the costs and components of running a successful business in your target industry. Spending time investigating a specific market will show whether there is a demand for your intended offering. Successful research will help shape your vision and strategy. Without it, you risk the future viability of your business.
  • Poor Planning – There are a lot of moving parts that need to come together before your finished product is ready for sale. You have to coordinate delivery timeframes with vendors and partners who are all part of your launch schedule. In addition, you need to plan for bill payment. Figure out what your accounts receivable schedule looks like so you can continue procuring supplies and services you need in a timely manner.
  • Boiling The Ocean – Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what will be a hit in the market. Hindsight is always 20-20. Sometimes you decide to make six different handbag styles, each available in seven different colors because you don’t know which one will be “the” one until it suddenly appears in an issue of InStyle and you now need to satisfy excessive demand without nearly enough inventory because you spread your resources too thin….ahh, but I digress. Focus groups can help! Talk to your target market and gather feedback. It may push out your delivery timeframes but the insight can help perfect your offering.
  • Nothing Unique – If there is nothing new or different about your product, nobody is going to buy – no matter how much you love it. It’s hard to pull off those rose-colored glasses and embrace the reality staring back at you. Leather handbags? Not otherworldly. Romance novels? Been there, read that. The key is to make your work stand out. Dig deep and find what sets your product apart from the competition and play that up otherwise it’ll get swallowed up into the abyss. Perfect your offering. You care, so figure out a way to make everyone else care. Establish a connection, show how them why they should be invested, convince them why they need your product.
Courtesy of www.digitalbuzzblog.com

Courtesy of www.digitalbuzzblog.com

Compete At Your Peril?

I just started reading “Zero To One” by Silicon Valley innovator, entrepreneur and prominent venture capitalist, Peter Thiel. He presents a unique way of thinking as a key ingredient for startup success. Startups have to generate new ideas and act on them rapidly to grow and expand their operations. That’s really the only way they can survive. They have to think out of the box and react quickly to take advantage of perceived market trends. Because of their small size, they can be nimble and test/document/respond to their ideas and deliver them in market with tight turnaround timeframes.

Courtesy of www.forbes.com

Courtesy of www.forbes.com

But that’s not an easy feat when you have to deal with that pesky little problem called competition. Yes, it fuels the creative flame but sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the rat race. As a small business owner, you need to make sure your brand stands out from the rest in a positive way otherwise you’ll never get the recognition you need to prosper.

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Competition is healthy to a point. It drives us to excel but it can divert our attention from developing new ways of becoming even better. Think of it this way. You make giglets and compete with three other giglet manufacturers. It’s all-out war between your companies because you are all struggling to be the number one giglet manufacturer in the world, all focused on being more attractive to prospective buyers, using new colors, shapes and sizes to differentiate your offerings from those of your foes, tearing down the competition at every turn, thinking, hoping and praying these methods will advance your sales goals.

But you’re all missing the critical element of innovation. Changing small facets of your product to make it look a little nicer isn’t transformational. It’s imitative and largely ineffective in the grand scheme of things. Focusing all your efforts on competing with others in your space is a waste of time, effort and resources and will only get you marginal results until another giglet manufacturer comes along and figures out how to take the show to the next level. Then POOF! Your giglets are history.

Instead, figure out what your brand brings to the table, what your value proposition is and how you can make your offering more relevant to the lives of your targeted customers. Do something BRAND NEW and go from ZERO to ONE. That type of thinking and execution results in positive impacts to your bottom line. Get out of the way of your competition. Let them spend their precious time battling for that top spot. You focus energy, time and effort on what makes your offering inherently great or how you can GET TO GREAT.

Your path to the top will then be within reach.

The Swifty Entrepreneur

I’m currently obsessed with Taylor Swift’s newest hit, Style. I admit I wasn’t always a fan but over the past months, I’ve changed my tune, no pun intended. Her music is peppy and catchy but what really impresses me is the way she’s been able to transform her brand into a vocal empire.

do-no-reuse-taylor-swift-the-beat-bb36-sarah-barlow-billboard-650

Courtesy of www.billboard.com

 

Three specific things come to my entrepreneurial mind.

1. Know Your Customer – When you’re building a product, you need to be in tune (ha! I did it again!) with the needs and desires of your target audience. Taylor’s demographic is primarily female, primarily millennial. She creates music that appeals to their tastes – snappy, bouncy beats tinged with a bit of heartbreak and vulnerability. We’ve all been there and can relate to the trials and tribulations of dating. Her blatant honesty makes her music that much more refreshing and you want to sympathize with her plight because, really, who hasn’t had their heart pummeled at one time or another?? As women, we band together (OMG, I’m totally on a roll here, right??) and support one another in times of need. It’s just our nature. And with her 40 million Twitter followers, she has a pretty captive audience for those tales of woe.

2. Perfect your Product – As entrepreneurs, we work tirelessly to build and deliver quality products. But if we can’t believe in them wholeheartedly, how the heck can we convince the world to embrace them? Sometimes we need to make choices about our market distribution. Setting the right perception up front goes a long way in resonating with your target customers. If they see you offering your product for a lower value than they perceive it is worth, you may lose them. Consider Taylor’s decision to pull her music from Spotify. Why, you may ask? Because she felt distributing her music through streaming services devalued it. She recognized that perception is reality and being true to her hard work meant she needed to be very selective about her distribution channels.

3. Stay True To Your Brand – Taylor is a crossover success story. She tweaked her image but never strayed from her core which is why she’s sitting pretty at the top of the charts. The beats changed but the message always stayed constant and her fan loyalty persists as a result.

 

Stop Hounding Me With Buy Links!!!!

People want to buy but they don’t WANT TO BE SOLD!

I love that quote. It’s so true. How many times do you go into a store, greeted by eager-beaver salespeople asking if they can help you find something to buy?

I could never be in sales…

But alas, I AM.

I’m an indie author. Not only do I write, but I also market and SELL.

Like with most businesses, the market is pretty much saturated with books. You name it, there’s a genre out there. And about a trillion books within each, with more and more being self-published on a DAILY.

Courtesy of 365til30.com

Courtesy of 365til30.com

As an entrepreneurial author, you may find success in publishing a book that embodies a brand-new concept, something new, different and alluring because it is outside the norm.

But that’s risky because people like what they like and most are creatures of habit. So unless you come up with something cutting edge that an influencer finds appealing, you may be SOL with that plan.

But fear not…there are other ways to gain an audience.

The world of indie publishing is very different now than it was a year ago. Isn’t that insane? I Google articles and if they are pre-2013, I rarely bother reading them because they are THAT outdated.

Social media takes the front seat with indie publishing. You need a presence and you need a ridiculously large network to get your name out there. But that’s not even enough…

The challenge is building a network where you form meaningful relationships, not just hey, post my link and I’ll post yours kind of stuff. That doesn’t do anything. It’s all white noise. And like I said, people get annoyed at the constant buy links. They aren’t helping authors move units.

The ideal is to build relationships online that translate to relationships OFFLINE. Grassroots efforts ultimately result in more widespread awareness, although they take time to gain traction. I’ve given plenty of books away…why? Because if you read “Unlikely Venture” and tell ten friends that you loved it, maybe they will buy and love it…and leave a review on Amazon. =)

And when “Nothing Ventured” comes out, they’ll be anxious to get their hands on that story and tell even more people if they enjoy it. By the time “Venture Forward” is released, I will have established a fan base (hopefully) for the rest of my author career.

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Here’s the key takeaway – Always keep focus on PEOPLE. Create for them, market for them, make them happy and excited because they are the ones who can make or break any of your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Steamy Shower Scenes & Swag

How many mailing lists do you subscribe to? Of all the emails that clutter your inbox, how many do you actually read or even OPEN, for that matter?

I’m sure the number is looooooooow. (It certainly is for me.)

So why bother sending them? They’ll probably get deleted on sight anyway, right?

Probably.

But if there is even a SLIGHT possibility a subscriber might actually take a minute to peruse the content, you better yank them in immediately otherwise any hope of getting them to take action is LOST. And if your emails are BORING and STALE, you might not get another chance to dazzle.

Courtesy of www.canalsidemedia.com

Courtesy of www.canalsidemedia.com

I sent out my very first newsletter about a month ago. I think it looked impressive. I tried to make it interesting, with pictures and graphics and cool content.  Nobody unsubscribed, so I guess that’s a good thing.

But this next edition needs to be BIG.  I want people to READ it and SPREAD the word.

Big news?  “UNLIKELY VENTURE” launches on Monday and I need my subscribers to tell their friends!!!

So here are some things I’m going to do to incent my audience:

  • Attract – An eye-catching headline will hopefully get subscribers to open the email. I’m thinking something relating to steamy shower scenes…that ought to raise some eyebrows, yes?
  • Engage – One thing I’m going to do is invite them to send me a funny picture of them holding my book (paperback or Kindle version – I won’t discriminate!). Then, I’ll post to my website and Facebook page. Everyone loves a little bit of fame.
  • Entice – I’m going to provide a link to the first two chapters of my book.  You don’t want to give away the farm, but providing a little taste of what they can expect is always a good thing! Plus, there will also be mentioned of GIVEAWAYS!!!!! And everyone loves swag!!!!

 

This Love Affair Will Cost You

There is a really good reason why feedback is so critical in the product development process.

MONEY.

Hmm, interesting.  Tell me more.

If you go down a path without prospective customer feedback, you run the risk that you will never be able to gain traction in the marketplace. You WILL feel strongly about your product. This is pretty much a guarantee. It’s hard not to take criticism personally when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your idea but develop a thick skin because not everyone will love it like you do.

Before you spend tons of cash to develop something you love, something you HOPE others will love, test it out. See how you can make it even better, more marketable. Gathering feedback from your target audience is the best way to find out if you have something people will want to fall in love with. After all, they are the ones who need to pony up the money to buy it.

Courtesy of www.opendemocracy.net

Courtesy of www.opendemocracy.net

Always aim to enhance your product but don’t go to market with too many variations. When we launched Krina, we went out with seven handbag styles, each available in about eight different colors. We didn’t get feedback until AFTER our prototypes were designed. And we’d already paid handsomely for the samples. The thing is, we just didn’t know which styles would take off so we diversified…a little too much.  Bringing many variations to market means you have enough products to appeal to a lot of tastes but then you get stuck making one-offs. Extremely costly, folks.

Be aware that there is risk in trying to satisfy too many masters.  Gather insights from a prospective audience, identify synergies among the sound bytes and prioritize the recommendations. You can’t boil the ocean and some recommendations may cost much more than others. Keep things simple to start. If you have a solid first iteration, you can always improve upon it as time goes on. Just make sure you start out with the right product offering to begin with and everything else will fall into place.

 

If You Want Perfection…Well, Good Luck With That!

www.bangsandabun.com

www.bangsandabun.com

Do you have any idea what happens when you change the ending of a novel?

You end up looking like THAT.

Figuring out the alternate ending was STRESSFUL!!!  But at least it got glowing reviews from my beta readers.

So I plopped it over the original ending.  But I wasn’t even CLOSE to done.  I had to open up the rest of the manuscript (previously perfected and edited, by the way to the tune of $850) and retool, revise and restructure.  I liken the process to a doctor sewing up a patient after a successful surgery, then realizing a scalpel was left behind.  Mother eff.  You have to get it out before it does any long-term damage.  And hopefully you can stitch up the patient even better than before.

The good news?  Well I don’t have any to share quite yet.  It’s heading back out to beta.  Hopefully, the changes were for the better.  I know it’s cliché but you only have one chance to make a first impression.  If your first book is a snoozefest, readers won’t give you another shot, no matter how awesome book 2 is.  So here’s to making every word count.

I thought Unlikely Venture was perfect.  Until I finished Nothing Ventured.  Then I understood what I missed the first time around.

I am on a quest to perfect these novels. But as anxious as I am to get them out there, I refuse to rush the process.  As a voracious reader, I know what it takes to capture an audience and I will continue to work tirelessly to meet that goal.  And with any luck, a September release is still in sight.

Vic-tor-ee!!!

So now I look like THIS!

southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com

southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com

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