Five principles of “scaling up a start-up”

Start-ups are darlings of media and investors at the moment.  While many attract huge valuations and grab headlines, many of them bite dust or fade away.  Hoping you have built a start-up, how well it grows depends upon adopting few fundamental scalability principles.

First principle is checking the fundamentals. Validate your product/service is robust, and customer segments are there to encash.  Evaluate whether you have ironed out market fitment, you are relevant to customers segments that are likely to grow and spend. Finally, you have resources in terms of people and infrastructure to support the growth.

Second principle is to formalize process, and the culture you want the organization. Template and automate the surround process.  Detail the culture and align everybody in your current organization to own and drive the initiatives.  Identify and handover the management to entrepreneurs within the organization. Automate or outsource HR and related process. They save a lot of your time and energy.  Create process and systems for an organization 10X times than what you are, not to meet current requirements.

Third principle is to charge marketing. Bring in high voltage less investment drives, right from campus drives, free rides on techcrunch or IEEE or respected incubation platforms. See if you can ride on the ecosystem of OEM’s, educational institutions, HNI’s and angels.  More free vehicles better it is.

Fourth, keep your sales engine simple and stupid. Hire for their attitude than double degree MBA’s.  Bring in a centralized sales operations role that reviews and drives sale to success. Define incentives that are idiot proof.

Finally, but most critical is evaluate well prepared is the organization for your absence. Are there enough people who loose their sleep if delivery are not met or client meetings are missed.

Unlike what mercenary VC’s think, scalability is all about creating a homogenous unit. Scalability is all about creating an entity that breathes and lives a vision, follows common system and process, people and plans.

How effectively are you using your marketing assets…..

A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet Sales find the coverage insufficient. Look familiar. This is a common problems with most companies where marketing focus on few vehicles. Some believe in only the physical networking events and other lean heavily on social media platforms. Here again companies do not follow an “embellish” strategy.  Consider the broad marketing asset a company has its disposal. On the social media front, the assets range from infographics, blogs, extended blogs, videos, case studies, white papers, publications and community platforms. On the physical front, a company could use industry events, workshops, analyst meets, association forums, and breakfast meetings. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both physical and online assets and the assets within each category.  One strategy that could be effectively followed is to have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Then follow up a “embellish” strategy where in the messaging starts from basic assets and progresses to high scale assets. The advantage of this is that content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging emerge with each insert. For example, an infographic can be used to reward the reader with rich insights with high level cause-effect. Marketing team adopts a Tufte approach that may be high on information density and distilled functionality, focus on connectedness, and communicate through high imagery. Next level, a blog, which is used to influence, informative or thought provoking, may extend the infographic content using Kafka model. The blog could contain rich arguments and silver line conclusion. Whitepaper an extensive write up of blog may be used as a teaser before all material are tested, or position credibility and promote advocacy. Beauty of the embellish model is the content not only unfolds in a consistent manner, content is richer and all of them form independent hooks to improve visibility. Similar extensive strategy can also be used for physical platforms. Companies realize focus group meetings, followed by industry forum and curated events including analyst shows provide improve coverage and affinity. Moral of the story?. When planning for marketing, consider the complete assets at your disposal and build a embellish strategy that improves reach and richness of marketing communication complementing sales.