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Still Talking Features? 5 Steps to Getting Your Startup Story Straight

Tamar Yaniv, Co-Founder and CEO of Preen.me, recently guest blogged for us, sharing her amazing insight on storytelling for startups:

I recently spent a morning at one of the top accelerators here in Tel Aviv, doing a lightning round of storytelling with 12 startups. “Give me your 60-second pitch. Go!”.

After 60 seconds X 12, this is where I was at:

  • About one-third gave a pretty good, to the point pitch.
  • Another third needed a lot of help but I understood what they do.
  • The last third I mostly looked at blankly, not even able to grasp at a single straw to guess what they do.

The reason I was embarrassingly blank is that the fine entrepreneurs in the last third spent 60 seconds shooting a bunch of features at me. And for the life of me I could not configure those features in my brain to create any kind of narrative that would bring them all together and explain what the company does.

Now I know you’re in the trenches. I know you spend all day working on the product, staring at analytics, relentlessly working out bugs. I know you barely see sunlight. And that’s why you may not be able to see the forest for the trees.

Or in other words, you can’t see the benefits for the features.

So as someone who knows nothing about your startup, let me be painfully but necessarily blunt: no one cares about your features. They care about the benefits. About how it makes their life better, how it makes them happier. It’s about them, not about you. Your potential investors/customers/partners are accosted left, right and center, all day, every day, with people and products vying for their attention. You literally have a handful of seconds to convey why they should care about yours. And they will care because of the benefits, not the features.

Getting your story straight is the difference between –

“We organize all your files so you can access them better” to

“We streamline your life so you can spend more time on what’s really important”.

Get it? We haven’t said anything about features, or about how, but we have made your motivation to check us out crystal clear. We make your life easier. We give you more time with your family. We give you more time to surf. We give you more time to learn a new language, to learn how to make pasta – whatever. We’ve given you a proposition in which you get to fill in the blank with whatever is significant to you. That’s how we take a benefit and allow the audience to personalize it, so that it resonates with them and with what makes them tick.

If you’ve convinced your audience of the benefits, (the “why you want this”), you will be able to delve into your beloved features (explaining the “how we do it).

Let’s use an example of Fictional Baby Startup to see how we get there. This was them before: “We have created an algorithm to give you a better way to buy baby products.”

This was them after: “When you’re about to have your first child there are so many areas of anxiety and stress, and finding the right baby products is only one of them. It shouldn’t be. We help you pinpoint exactly what you need, and get it to you in no time flat. So you can focus on the joy of your new addition (and getting some sleep).” Can you hear the sound of relief that help is on the way?

This is how you get there:

1. List the top 3 features of your product and the corresponding benefits of each. Each feature should have a clear benefit associated with it, which is where your customer value will come from. (If you can’t find the benefit to a feature you may want to rethink the feature) Example:

Feature: Find exactly what you want |  Benefit: Satisfaction
Feature: Find it fast | Benefit: Saves time

2. Put it together in a way that is personal, that your audience can identify with. Example: “When you’re about to have your first child there are so many areas of anxiety and stress.” You’ve now transported them to the emotional place you’d like them to be in. In this case, it’s a place of stress, worry and indecision. They need help. Luckily, you’re here.

3. Add social proof and benchmarks. Example: “Companies like X and Y use us”, “We are the fastest/most efficient/etc”.Both of these allow your audience to “anchor”, in two different ways. Social proof, such as a well-known company or an X number of people using your product, gives your audience a sense of security: “If they’re using it, it must be OK”. A benchmark, such as number of users compared to a competitor, allows them to get a quick understanding of the landscape. Both social proof and benchmarks provide context within which the audience can quickly assess your product.

 4. Is it generic? Example: Do all your competitors save their customers time? If you’ve ended up with something that is similar to what everyone else in the market is saying, go back and find where you have a competitive advantage. This is where your value statement and subsequently your story should stem from. If the basis isn’t crystal clear, the story won’t be either.

If you’re having trouble finding that edge, ask your customers why they love your product and how they are using it. You might be surprised.

 5. Rinse and repeat. Think you’re done? I have news for you. You’re never done. The story of your startup is a living breathing, entity.

To work, your story needs to be consistent over time and across mediums. But you also need to recognize when it needs tweaks and adjustments (or a revolution). Because, as you well know by now, in startup land the only constant is change.

3 Things Startups Need to Know About Converting Customers

It’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed when so much is happening simultaneously, but as the founder of any startup, it is important to recognize your priorities and remain focused on the tasks that are paramount to the growth of your business.

Acquiring and converting new clients are two areas that deserve your highest regard and require your undivided attention. Success in these areas will ensure a thriving business for your company, and guarantee future growth.

Today’s increasingly competitive technology sector brings along numerous ways of converting customers. Here are three things that stand out among the rest that every founder of a tech startup needs to know:

Your Web Presence Matters

There are many different types of companies that classify themselves as tech startups, and although most vary in their specialty area, one thing is universal – the need for a solid web presence. This starts with a great company website.

Having a solid web presence isn’t just throwing out any generic site into the World Wide Web and calling it a day. The website of a tech start up needs to be innovative, revolutionary, and fully functioning to its users. This is especially effective in generating high conversion rates.

There are a lot of resources to be used to get people to visit a brand’s site, and it is essential that they don’t go to waste because your website is displeasing to your viewers. Having a faulty site is the easiest way to loose out on converting prospective customers. Your site’s design will play a significant role in the current success and future growth of your business. It is important to utilize social media platforms, and invest in a good web design so your brand is presented as something fresh, new and unique.

Think About Maximizing Clicks

Maximizing the value of each and every click on their website is something most entrepreneurs don’t think about, but this could mean the difference between success and failure of your business.

With the endless number of online websites, and with competition for clicks growing, generating traffic to your site is becoming a much more difficult and necessary task. Because of this, companies who are already struggling for clicks need to make sure that their visitors end up taking revenue-generating action when they visit the page.

Marketplace Competition Affects Earnings Per Click

Turn as many of your visitors that you can into paying customers. Achieve the highest possible conversion rate. These are two of your top priorities as the founder of a startup.

You should also be aiming for high earnings per click, and can increase their EPC by swapping out merchant links and replacing them with higher-paying links. This creates the incentive for advertisers to compete for exposure, and drives up EPC.

For advertisers this means brand exposure is hard to come by and that conversion rates matter even more. For online publishers and bloggers increased competition results in generating more revenue, which has made it more expensive and difficult to gain exposure. Many companies are starting to pay more to be seen less, causing conversion rates to decline. By playing your cards right, a startup can make sure its conversion rates remain the same.

 

As the tech industry evolves and expands, it’s important for founders of startups to understand the state of the marketplace and the best way to convert visitors into customers.

From Youtube Star to Brand Powerhouse – Michelle Phan

From Youtube Star to Being Her Very Own Brand Powerhouse – Michelle Phan

michelle-phanIf you’re a makeup lover between the ages of 13 and 25, you’ve probably heard of the YouTube sensation, Michelle Phan. If you aren’t one of her millions of loyal followers, or her ‘phanatics’, then you have probably seen her in a YouTube ad campaign, along with two other dynamic YouTube personalities.

What started as a personal hobby for Michelle, and a simple yet powerful way to give young women the makeup advice they most craved, catapulted into a massive brand powerhouse. Phan was the first female to gain one million YouTube subscribers (she now has close to 8 million)! You go girl!

Phan’s story is groundbreaking– connecting with her online fans has generated opportunities she never dreamed of – including a partnership with a big name cosmetic company, national magazine and press coverage and a newly formed partnership with a massive digital production company. What’s the key to Michelle Phan’s massive success? We’d attribute it to four things: 1) Her content is original and engaging. 2) She’s stayed 100% true to her fans through all of the skyrocketing success. 3) She’s kept a completely consistent brand message. And 4) She’s got a killer personality. Let’s dive into these a little further:

  1. Original and genuinely engaging content: Michelle Phan saw a unique opportunity to give something to her audiences that they couldn’t necessarily find anywhere else for free. She gave them a place where they could learn all the tricks of the trade when it comes to makeup application. She has provided countless tutorials with incredible makeup advice, all completely original and 100% engaging.
  2. She’s stayed 100% true to her fans: With a massive amount of success like that of Michelle Phan’s, you might think it had the potential to all go to her head. But that’s definitely not the case! Phan has actually attributed all of her success to her loyal fans, and she’s always made it all about them. For Michelle, going mainstream wasn’t as important as maintaining the uniquely genuine relationship she had with her followers. And it’s why they love her so much!
  3. Consistent brand message: You probably hear this all the time – it’s essential for brands to keep a consistent voice and message in order to communicate best with followers. Well, Michelle has totally kicked ass in this department. Even though L’Oreal offered to have her newly created makeup line promoted via every channel, Michelle has stayed true to her brand, and has chosen to have it promoted via YouTube and through Google searches. She knows who she is and what her brand stands for, and she continues to rock the message consistently.
  4. Killer personality: Let’s face it. Not everyone has what it takes to become a video platform sensation. What does Michelle have that gives her the star quality? She has an insanely engaging personality – she’s quirky, funny, inspiring and motivational all at the same time. And the Phanatics connect with that.

When Should Startups Hire a PR Firm?

When Should Startups Hire a PR Firm?

Startup companies blossom almost overnight in some cases. The young ventures, typically apps and tech companies, are in the industry of innovation and solving challenging problems. While brilliant specialists founded these companies, they may not be considered experts in the PR strategies that will further fuel their company’s success.

So when exactly should a startup begin their PR agency search? Well, the answer is simple: before they need one. The last issue you need as a startup, or even as an established company, is to be without coverage during an important business announcement or helpless amidst a public scandal.

Communication is key, so do your research. Learn the ins and outs of your prospective public relations agency, and in turn, make sure they are familiar with your business model, how you operate and what you are looking to gain from the partnership. Discuss which agencies other startups and companies have worked with. Find out if their experiences with these firms were positive or negative, and more importantly, if they would hire them again!

Realistic Expectations…not always easy when you’re shooting for the stars

One important thing every startup seriously needs to remember is to keep their expectations realistic. We get it, you’ve worked your ass off to get this far, and have a mindset that anything is possible (don’t get us wrong, we’re right there with you). While remaining driven and positive is important, knowing where to set your goals is equally critical.

Any news is not always good news. PR teams are comprised of trained professionals who know which announcements should be made on your behalf, and which audiences should be targeted with these releases.

One common myth about PR firms and startups is that you know your story best, so how could a PR firm actually help you? Well, you most definitely understand the ins and outs of your company more than anybody, but do you know how to communicate it effectively? That’s exactly where the PR agency comes into action. These professionals also have access to contacts you most likely don’t even have on your radar.

Perhaps during their early development stages, startups and PR agencies are not the right fit just yet. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense for either party to work together until the startup needs assistance with particular projects later on after launching. But, a PR agency will almost always help your business develop when partnered at the right time, for the right reasons.

The Disruptor’s Journey

success

After 15 years of working with Disruptors, we’ve recognized that this class of entrepreneur is a little different than most. The dream is not to start a business because “I hate corporate life,” or “I want to do that, too”, but the dream begins with a founder who:

  1. Sees a giant opportunity
  2. Identifies a pervasive and painful problem
  3. Feels a deep, aching desire to change the world- or a corner of it- for the better

And so the journey begins...

Build:

Most Disruptors are guided by such an immense passion that they set out immediately to do it all on their own. They start to build a product from scratch, sometimes tapping years of experience to bring a new vision to light. Others reach out and begin building the dream team – A-players only – who will are willing not just to build the product and its infrastructure, but who share the common vision, are willing to put on the armor and fight the good fight for the long haul.

Fund:

Inevitably, changing the world takes capital –lots of it. While most seek to bootstrap the effort at first, raising capital is critical to grow, scale and reach new corners of the market. It’s the lifeblood of a startup no matter how lean. It means the infusion of “smart money” to find talent, connections to first partners, customers, talent, and even more money later on. It also brings with it oversight, accountability, a board that must be answered to and the pressure to produce, perform and execute.

gandhiCompete:

It’s time to suit up. The Disruptor’s competitive field is ever changing. It could be a host of startups striving for the same target market, outdated government regulations whose time for oblivion has come, or the massive Goliaths who need to be dismantled. Google fought the encyclopedia; Apple fought Microsoft; Airbnb fought everyone. The charge starts and ends with vision, passion and the ability to execute, day-in and day-out.

Partner:

One thing we know for sure: you can’t do it alone. You build a team; you seek out advisors, you partner with people smarter than you to manage what you can’t. These are your CONNECTORS, and they fuel and grow the electric circuit you’ve built. Finding the right partners is critical, because the wrong ones will waste your time, money and your competitive edge.

churchillStumble:

Let’s call it what it is. Failure. It’s going to happen, so buckle up. Co-founders leave. Products fail. Customers rage. Trends die. Competitors occasionally win. Remember that these are battles, not the war. And the path to victory is not straight. Lick your wounds, reflect and learn the deep and ugly lessons. Then get up, get going and dig in.

Scale:

Proof of concept? Check. Customers? Loyal and growing.
Revenue? Check. Now it’s time to push – past the silence, the naysayers and the ones who laugh at your big, “change the world” idealism. The Disruptor needs more than just revenue, infrastructure and direction. He needs advocates, influencers, loud and fanatical followers, and a community of people who are touched his innovation

Finish Line:

At this point, you’re moving so fast it feels like your Disruptive machine is moving without you, and what you used to call a startup, is not. Hundreds of employees in multiple locations, and now new connectors are calling: acquirers, government officials, investment bankers talking about an IPO. You’ve done it – changed lives, changed businesses and happy customers. You’re hitting maximum velocity and global influence. Maybe this is your finish line, and you’re ready to step off the track.

Or maybe you’re just getting warmed up for your next finish line.

Keep Disrupting. Keep Connecting. Never Stop the Journey.