Why Building Your Personal Network Should be Your First Step
Most entrepreneurs have heard the often-cited statistic that nine out of ten startups fail. This is a tough statistic to process for anyone wanting to start a business, but it shouldn’t be discouraging.
Building a successful business is a lot of work; it can only be done with the right people by your side.
After you’ve come up with your startup idea, you will need to build an extensive network that will provide you with the resources and expertise needed not only to launch your startup successfully but to establish a sustainable business. Here’s what you need to consider when building your personal network for your startup.
It starts with your team
As mentioned before, launching a startup is a lot of work and can’t be done alone. Before reaching out to investors or starting your marketing plan, you will need the right team. You want to build your team as soon as you can.
The most important members of your team are the founders. Before bringing on anyone else, you and your co-founder must settle on how decisions will be made and the roles you will take on. It’s important to make sure you and your co-founder bring different skill sets to the table. For instance, if you’re the technical expert, it would be best if your co-founder is an expert in another field like marketing or management.
Once you’ve defined your roles, you should identify the other positions needed to complete your team. Start networking with your friends, family, business associates, and other professionals in your life to see if they know people that could help develop and grow your business. The more you ask around, the better your potential candidates will be. You can also use professional networking sites like LinkedIn.
Examples of positions that would need to be filled include those in programming, project management, sales, and marketing. When seeking candidates to fill these positions, make sure they stand out and bring talents that other team members don’t have. A team filled with technical experts wouldn’t accomplish as much as a team with diverse backgrounds.
You want to make sure that your team shares the same vision, and is clear about the overall brand and value of the company.
If you can’t afford to hire full-time team members, hiring skilled contractors or temporary advisors is a smart choice. You could network by attending industry events and talking with potential contractors face-to-face, or even through doing some research on top tech sites like Mashable or Tech Crunch.
No matter what, remember to reach out to people who are hard-working and truly committed to collaborating with you. Your team must be all-in, during the good and the bad, for your startup to launch successfully.
Don’t forget about investors
Once you have a viable business plan for your startup, and you know how much funding you need and what for, it’s time to start looking for investors. Investors can transform your startup idea into a viable business, so it is important to find one or more people willing to invest in your startup. Make sure you remember that not every investor will be the right fit for your startup and you might have to go through many to find the right one.
Startup launch platforms
Companies have launched platforms that provide startups with information, research, and most aspects needed when launching a startup. Startups.co is an example of a platform used to locate investors in an efficient way. It has over 13 million members, making it the largest startup community in the world.
Angel investors not only invest in your startup, but they offer you mentorship, solid advice, and access to their network of contacts. You can find angel investors on sites like Funded.com or through the Angel Investment Network.
Incubators and Accelerators
Incubators and accelerators have recently grown in popularity, and they often offer the space, resources, and capital you need to launch your startup. These investors typically take on a larger role than other types investors to help turn your idea into a viable business. Incubators typically have more than one startup working towards a launch, allowing for ideas to be exchanged and other networking to occur.
In exchange for their investment, startup incubators and accelerators typically ask for equity in your company. Incubators typically share their own networks with you once you start working with them.
Don’t be discouraged even when you hear ‘no’ several times; it just means you haven’t found an investor that aligns with what you have to offer. Continue to try and find investors through your personal networks.
Connecting with Customers
In order to connect with customers even before you launch, you need to make sure your startup idea solves a problem that your potential customers will immediately identify with. Also, your target market must be clearly defined.
If you know who would be interested in your product, you can begin to reach out to them through blogging and content marketing. This way, customers are already able to interact with you and make suggestions. If your product will be launching in months, you can keep bloggers updated and have them anticipating the launch. You can also communicate with customers through other social networks, like Twitter, or by adding them to a mailing list that provides them with updates about your startup.
Many founders make the mistake of creating the product then looking for users. This usually results in lower user adoption and lower revenues.
To avoid this, you must build an audience and connect with customers from the start. When you do this, you will have a group of people with an interest in your product that will give you feedback through testing and other ways when you need them to. After your launch, these customers can act as brand ambassadors and demonstrate the value of your product. Using this approach can save you from needing to make a very large investment in marketing the product at launch.
Public Relations/Press Strategy
Getting press for your startup is what can take your company’s launch to the next level; it builds a buzz and gets you valuable attention. Compared to simply advertising your product, people get to know the story behind your startup and the value you hope it will bring to its users. Getting press is not easy, so it must be approached strategically.
The goal of a blogger and journalist is to engage readers and expose them to new ideas. Journalists play a powerful role and have many startups pitching to them every day. In order to get a journalist’s attention, you must stand out. One of the best ways you can do so is by sharing a story that will intrigue and grab readers. Find a way to tie in something unique about your company. Your story should be newsworthy, meaning it shouldn’t be about your launch alone.
Before contacting particular journalists and bloggers, create a list of press outlets you will be reaching out to. Do some research and see which of them have written about products or startups like yours. For instance, sites like Tech Crunch and Mashable write about startups quite often. Once you do that, pitch your story and make it brief. Journalists have many emails to go through daily, so you have to be concise and only share the important details.
Another good tip is to try to engage with particular journalists before reaching out to them. This can be done through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. This way, the journalist will at least have a little idea about you and your startup.
For general press coverage, sites like HARO and Hey Press can help you find journalists that write your industry/product in particular. Hey Press has a large database and takes the work out of finding tech journalists to write about your business.
Building your personal network is important when it comes to getting press for your startup. Odds are someone you know, knows someone at a press outlet and can give you an endorsement. Being backed by the right investor or mentor at an incubator is an advantage because they are more likely to have already established connections with various press outlets.
All in all, building your personal network is extremely important if you want your startup to be a success. You simply can’t do it on your own. Reach out to those around you and try to find talented, hard-working individuals that will get the job done. You need a dedicated group of people around you, qualified to handle the various ups and downs your startup will face before and after launching. Lastly, put yourself and your idea out there, it’s the first step in transforming your idea into a viable, sustainable business.