Startups have enthusiasm, optimism and interesting ideas but many lack a crucial ingredient: a different perspective.
It is not surprising given startups are all-consuming, 24/7 beasts. You’re so focused on dealing with the here and now that it’s often impossible to get a picture of what’s really happening.
This struck me during a recent meeting with an early-stage startup. Their sales efforts are struggling because potential customers can’t see the value or ROI in buying their product.
They were stuck strategically. It wasn’t because they weren’t smart or working hard. It had more to do with having a deep-rooted belief in the product and why it should be successful.
For startups, passion and vision are wonderful attributes but they lock people into an inflexible reality. Startups are so convinced about what they’re doing it is difficult to understandings don’t go according to plan.
In many respects, it’s a Don Quixote tilting-at-windmills world. No matter how hard you try, things don’t move in the right direction.
After spending an hour with the startup and tossing around some ideas, a few interesting concepts began to surface about how to jump-start sales. This isn’t to insinuate the concepts will be a smash-hit if adopted but some new options were sparked.
While I had little knowledge of the startup’s industry, I offered something valuable: a different perspective. I don’t have a vested interest in the startup so I’m not tied to a particular strategic or tactical direction. As a result, I have the freedom to ask questions that may not have been addressed or explored.
A different perspective is priceless because it allows strategies and tactical activity to be challenged and scrutinized. Perspective forces a startup to test assumptions and review things taken for granted. Perspective lets ideas arise because barriers disappear when someone is asking new or different questions.
While it can be uncomfortable, startups shouldn’t be afraid to get perspective. It is a healthy exercise to constantly keep them thinking, iterating and strategically agile. It keeps startups from operating in a bubble and connects them to other approaches.
So how do startups get a different perspective?
Create an advisory board featuring people with different experience and skills. It can be a formal or informal entity but the value comes in being accessing people who offer third-party insight and knowledge.
Talk to customers on a regular basis to get their feedback and thoughts. If asked, customers will offer information that surprises, intrigues, troubles and inspires. They will deliver honest feedback so they can get more value from your product.
Find a mentor who has walked in your shoes. Look for someone who can combine guidance, encouragement and criticism. You’re not looking for a cheerleader but a person who knows when to praise and when to slap you on the wrist.
Bring in a third-parties with different skills who can participate in brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas and approaches. Without an allegiance to a startup, these people can be a source of inspiration and a new way of thinking.
However a startup gets a different perspective, the most important thing is accessing people who aren’t sitting right in front of the proverbial fire. The more perspective a startup can get, the more agile and fluid they will be.
If you’re looking to jump-start your marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. Here’s how to explore the different ways we can work together.