Know your product

In order to understand and articulate your vision, you need to know your product. You should be able to answer questions about it, including:

  • What are the main features of your product?
  • What are the benefits of those features? How do they help people accomplish something important or make their lives better?
  • What is your value proposition? In other words, what makes your solution better than other solutions out there on the market today? How are you different from competitors or alternatives like open source software?

Understanding these things will help you communicate with prospective customers and investors. It’s also a good idea to prepare a roadmap that shows where you’re heading in terms of feature development and other updates.

Understand your users and customers

As obvious as it may sound, it’s vital that you understand who your users are. This helps you define the problem you’re solving and the value of your solution. It can also help you create a cohesive message for marketing, advertising and sales.

In many cases, there’s a distinct difference between a user and a customer:

  • A user is someone who uses your product or service; they don’t necessarily pay money to do so.
  • A customer is someone who actively pays money to use your product or service.

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Understanding why people choose you over other companies is also important when deciding which features to prioritize in your product development cycle. While understanding existing customers can be easy if they’ve filled out some feedback forms or have used analytics tools like Google Analytics or Mixpanel, understanding users is more difficult. Some ways to understand what people think about your product include:

  • Surveys (Quantitative) – these often provide numerical data which allow an aggregated view of how people feel about things like ease of use, onboarding experiences and feature usability.
  • Interviews (Qualitative) – these are more detailed conversations with users where they’re allowed to freely express their thoughts on various issues concerning your product or service. Often this will reveal things that surveys won’t show, like frustration with particular aspects of the user experience that would otherwise go unnoticed by quantitative methods alone.

Figure out why people choose you over other companies.

Taking the time to understand your advantages and disadvantages is a smart idea for all business owners. Sometimes as business owners we are so close to our companies that it’s hard for us to objectively assess what makes our company unique and what makes us different from other companies. We might be able to list off the basics, but if you want a competitive edge, you need more than surface-level knowledge. You need to dig deep and figure out why people choose you over other companies in your industry, or why they don’t choose you.

This can be accomplished through a variety of methods including offering discounts/gifts in exchange for feedback, asking customers directly when they come into your store or call on the phone or conducting online surveys.

Create a strong brand

  • Define your brand. Focus on your target audience, positioning and messaging so you can create a consistent voice that resonates with the right people.
  • Communicate your brand. Make sure it’s visible everywhere: website, social media, emails, etc.
  • Be consistent. Consistency is the foundation of trust and loyalty in any relationship—and certainly in the business world too. Nail down who you are and stick with it!
  • Be creative. Find new ways to stay relevant and interesting to customers—be it through social media or other creative outlets.
  • Be unique. At the end of the day, people want something different and refreshing—they don’t want what everyone else is offering; they’re looking for an experience that feels fresh and exciting!
  • Be authentic. Don’t try to be something you’re not because it will show! The most successful brands know who they are and own their identity while remaining true to themselves at all times.

Build for change.

One of the key aspects of building a startup is how fast you can iterate on your product. As a result, it’s critical that your architecture scales and allows for flexibility. Steve Jobs was infamous for his mantra “design for change”.

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The idea of designing systems with long term planning in mind has been around since the 1950’s, but it has taken on an even greater significance as we move into the digital age.

By planning and designing your system to be flexible from day 1, you enable your company to quickly grow and adapt to change as needed.

A startup is about learning and iteration, so your success will be driven by how quickly you learn and iterate.

The key to learning and iterating quickly is to repeatedly try new ideas, measure and learn.

Some examples of how startups learn:

  • Gather data through analytics, user testing or asking users questions
  • test messaging, graphics, copywriting and more with A/B tests
  • try out a new idea for a feature on customers before it’s built.

Getting your startup off the ground can be a lot harder than it might seem. It’s a complex process that takes a lot of time, effort and hard work. But there are many ways to get yourself in the fast lane to the success you want. We’ve highlighted just five of these growth hacks that will provide you with a kickstart to get your business up and running.

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