Well, we’ve made it through 2020 and here’s hoping that we never see a year like that again. While 2021 is offering us all light at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccines and the prospect of economies beginning to reopen, no one is saying that 2021 will be easy for startups. So if you are launching a new startup or scaling up your company in 2021, what do you need to keep in mind and what’s been working for others over the last 10 months? Let’s look at how to Scale a Startup in 2021.
Scale Smart: Technology doesn’t sell, solutions sell.
It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Companies don’t buy tech, they buy tools that help them solve critical business problems. Pre-Covid, some companies would invest in technological experimentation. This meant that small software companies could sign large (sometimes even 6 figure deals) with global companies without even being sure of the use case.
These pilot projects allowed tech startups to learn about their market and get paid for it. But this money has dried up and startups need to sell proven solutions that can scale not just cool tech. At the same time, while experimentation budgets funded startups, experimentation projects don’t scale up. By definition, they are long to delivery and expensive to close, so if you’re asking yourself ‘how to scale a startup’, you need to find repeatable projects that are focused on real value for your customers not one off POCs/pilots.
The problem of falling into this “POC or extermination trap” arises because startups don’t know their market. Maybe the tech came out of university research and the team doesn’t know the best fit. This leads to the next point.
To Scale, You Need Choose
I hear this all time. Often startups say “we have a horizontal approach to the market”. What this means is that they don’t really know what their market is so they are trying to sell everywhere to find their market.
Makes sense right? No, not really. As a startup, you have limited marketing spend and limited time. If you try to serve every market, you will dilute your marketing spend so much, that you won’t really have marketing. At the same time, the companies you meet, won’t trust you since you seem to do everything.
But most importantly, this is not a scalable approach. If you go to a VC and show that you have 10 customers in 10 different markets, with 10 different use cases, they won’t be investing because VCs are tightening their belts post COVID too.
Instead, you need a methodical approach to finding your market. Make some educated guesses, get some outside help and then test those guesses before you spend real money. This approach of hypotheses and testing is well know in the startup space but often requires outside support.
Online Marketing Scales Easily but Your Website is Key
If You Invest in One thing in 2021, Invest in your Website!
In 2020, many companies who used to rely on events, networking, and word of mouth discovered that their lead generation had dried up. To combat this they invested in new tech, inbound marketing and list generation tools for prospecting. But anecdotally, I am hearing from a lot of companies that they aren’t seeing the results they wanted yet.
Often this is because they are investing in new things when they don’t have the proper fundamentals, i.e. an SEO-optimized website that looks professional and runs fast. A website is literally your storefront to the world and even if you have the best strategy and the best new tech, if your website isn’t up to par, you won’t succeed.
If you want to scale your sales, you need a digital marketing approach that relies on inbound and online lead generation, which means you can show exactly how many leads x amount of investment would get you.
So to return to the question: how to scale a Startup in 2021. You need to understand your market, target buyer and the problem you solve. Then you need a digital marketing approach built on a strong website that translates your strategy to the world.