Startup strategy tactics for product market fit, traction and scaling-up
One key feedback we give to many founders is a lack of true focus. Interestingly, it's not always the immature companies that struggle, but also businesses with revenues north of a million and handful of client striving to scale-up.
Understanding and executing on what is the most important is the essential skill the CEOs and founders should attain and perfect.
1. FINDING PRODUCT-MARKET FIT
So, What is a product market fit? Simply put: make something clients/users want to buy/use without selling to them.
Just like when young graduates start their careers fresh out of college and perfect their resumes to tell a personal story, a start-up should spend all of their initial time on "product-market fit".
One might tell it does not come cheap nor fast, as it requires both client and MVP to show and bills need to be paid, yet best founders we talked to started collecting potential client's feedback before even they began to develop a product. Creating mockups is cheap. Revolutionize industries by solving problems first, not by swallowing endless integrations.
A good KPI achieving product/market fit requires at least third of users saying they would be “very disappointed” without your product.
2. GETTING TRACTION
Traction by definition is an adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a wheel on a rail or a tire on a road.
In essence getting traction means quickly obtaining users/clients. If you have focused on nailing your product-market fit, they won't leave you as swiftly.
One of the good frameworks on accomplishing this is to use Bullseye framework, which was introduced in book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGO. The key is finding one good marketing channel, not 10 of those, not 5, just one and pledging resources to it. If you have one, there is already a business. It is the poor distribution, not product - the number one cause of failure.
Referring back to the graduate example. Once landed a good job, no one is going to back to the market to find the next best thing, you are committing yourself to it until you nail it and ready to move for something more fruitful.
Some material on the topic.
Many heard of TTDDD formula (triple-triple-triple-double-double) to get to nine digits revenues, but hitting certain milestone is the outcome, not the right symptoms of business that need to be addressed to hit them.
As communications inside get more complex (factorial complex) with every new employee hired, it is the inability to grow leaders inside the company with abilities to delegate, predict and repeat outcome that kills further growth.
Prediction: Just as in media, capturing the eye of a reader on hot "breaking news", you just have to be seconds/mu quicker than your competitor, same goes in business. Capturing data on most aspects of an organization with transparent business processed helps leaders improve their ability to “see around corners” and keep ahead of the competition. Some companies might even still lack a sound CFO and simple budgeting functions and leads to finance procrastination and which if unmanaged results in poor prioritization in other areas, such as marketing and product development.
Repetition: Repetition encompasses consistency, that's why it's important to set in stone core values and purpose inside the organization while clearly communicating current priorities.
Delegation: Letting go and trusting others to do things well is one of the more challenging aspects of being a leader of a growing organization. Rule of thumb is to add a layer of management every order of 7 (7 - 43 - 343 - 2401)
Like most living organisms need a backbone, so does an organization. The backbone of any organization is their IT infrastructure, handling the complexities of communication and decisions making needed to reduce complexities with scale.
Stabilizing gross margin:
As the company hits eight-digit revenues, new internal and external pressures come to the forefront. Customers start to demand lower prices as sales losses its personal CEO touch, while with increasing internal complexities, margins can start to deteriorate.
To prevent margin erosion, it’s critical that to maintain a clear value proposition in the market. At the same time, the company must continually streamline and automate internal processes to reduce costs. Organizations successful at doing both will see their gross margins increase during this stage of growth, giving them the extra cash they need to fund infrastructure, training, marketing, R&D, etc
Revenue vs Cash dilemma:. When growing from 0 to 1, it's usually at the expense of efficiency, with end-goal to get to product-market fit and traction to kick-off the ground. Yet, as the company matures, growth starts to suck more and more cash to expand, so figuring out internal and external drivers to accommodate enough cash is key.
Occasionally, getting external funding might be a tougher than it looks so a lack of focus on internal channels with healthy unit economics is a company killer. Maintaining healthy customer lifetime value (CLTV) relative to client acquisition costs (CA) is key for survival..
All IT giants (from Пoogle to Microsoft, Apple, Salesforce, Amazon and even Adobe etc) nowadays are focused on building complete service ecosystems. With every day the world is becoming more connected, business processes laps, the in the medium term, the only way stay competitive is to lock-in your customer for good.
In summary, clearly understanding where your business currently stands today is key as your focus should greatly differ during company growth stages.
For those ready to scale up, highly recommend materials below: