Top 5 ways to go from startup to scale-up
Leading brand marketing agency for tech scale-ups, Bloom, breaks down 5 strategic ways to get your business from "cute startup" status to serious scale-up territory.
What got you here won't get you there.
A cliché, we know, but it's there for a reason. In the early stages of business, it's scrappy, it's nimble, it's fast, it's reactive and it's exciting. We love meeting new founders who are just getting going, entrepreneurs with an idea, businesspeople with the drive and energy and know-how to get things off the ground and really create something out of nothing. Zero to 1 - what a ride.
The big difference in the world is not between people who do a lot versus people who do a little. It's the people who do nothing versus people who do something.
But of course, what got you here won't get you there. It's time to pause, re-adjust, and re-calibrate for version 2.0 of your successful business.
1. LASER FOCUS
If you sell more things, you'll make more sales - surely? If you add more features, you'll get more downloads. Or if you onboard more partners, you'll have more to offer - right?
Trying to offer more things will hurt your business in more ways than one.
From a customer perspective, there is a fascinating concept called "analysis paralysis" - first identified in an Italian psychology experiment involving jam, of all things!
The findings showed that, whilst there is an initial lure of different options from which to choose, the fact is that too much variety can cause decision-making to plummet. Not only does it just become too mentally taxing for people to make decisions that should be quick & easy, but research also found there is a much higher level of "buyer's remorse" - meaning the few that did follow through to purchase in fact led to a higher rate of returns or dissatisfied customers.
From an operational perspective, there's resource and procedure that needs to follow each new product or feature or service added. Not so straightforward - do you really need all the bells & whistles? Does it justify the resourcing and training to line up everything operationally?
From a team perspective, this can lead to fragmentation and a disillusionment as people start to get confused about what the company is all about, and begin questioning the bigger picture like the ultimate vision.
And from a marketing perspective, it is vital to achieve the highest possible level of clarity within your target customer's mind. This leads to memorability, distinctiveness in the marketplace, and the holy grail of instant mental associations (e.g. "Beanz Meanz Heinz").
If your business is offering too much, it can confuse matters, lead to a loss of sales, internal misalignment, team disillusionment, and can cost a lot more than it's really worth.
Instead, hyperfocus on what you're already great at, what customers love you for, and double down on those core strengths for maximum returns.
2. CUSTOMER DEPTH
Anchoring this laser focus should be your Mission, Vision, Values & Purpose, and of course your customers. Your ideal, dream, superstar, sent-down-from-heaven customers. The ones who love what you do, whose pain points you are really solving, who pay the prices you set, and who rave about you to other people. (The holy grail of marketing is word of mouth - £0 CPA: ker-ching!)
When you're starting out and in "cute" scrappy startup mode, there's so much discovery and testing to find out who your broad target audience is, let along nailing key segments or niche sections of this set.
Now, you should have a much clearer idea of your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar - the marketing acronyms you need to know here) to take a deep dive beyond their demographics into their psychographics. Understanding someone better always leads to better communication, better relationships, and better serving their needs - this is no different with your customers.
If you can conduct qual research - be it phone calls, focus groups, or panel interviews - we urge you to do so, now.
3. NEW MARKETING
The time has come to graduate from pure 2000s digital and level up with new marketing channels.
In a 2019 study on campaign effectiveness by marketing professor, columnist, and all-round legend, Mark Ritson, one of the key factors that contributes to advertising success is the greater mix of channels, leading to something in the industry known as "the multiplier effect."
Not only does this mean the creation of new customer touch points (i.e. people see your brand in more places, more times), but there's a huge level of credibility not to be overlooked by introducing offline media like outdoor advertising, event sponsorships, or press ads to your marketing mix.
Of course, you and your scrappy team of nimble, pure-bred startup pros may need a few (hundred) pair of extra hands in order to really scale.
Human capital can come in a variety. of forms:
Direct employment of full- or part-time members of staff
Or, agency partners (like Bloom)
And sourcing those can be done by:
A recruitment agency
Directly posting to job boards
Freelance talent partner to handle a combination of the above!
Hiring or partner selection can be a time-consuming and arduous process - but it is a truly vital one. Working with the right people really can make or break a business - especially when you're in rapid scale-up mode, with little room for mistakes.
We love Matt Lerner's 'Hiring for Growth' webinar, by Startup Core Strengths.
5. SCALABLE SYSTEMS
You can have the best people in the world but, as you're rapidly expanding, they will be little use to you with no systems in place.
(And the term 'systems' here encompasses anything from high-tech automations to simple step-by-step procedures. At Bloom, for example, we've gotten into the habit of documenting workflows and creating guides & SOPs for standardisation - leading to both efficiencies and quality control for our clients).
The important thing is to have a set of practical, simple, easy-to-use-and-understand systems, for rinse-and-repeat solutions that your team can easily follow.
After all, you need to set people up for success in your growing team, and without the right tools and clear communications to do so, you run a very risky operation!
"Spend time upfront to invest in systems and processes to make long-term growth sustainable."
We recommend Growth Strategist, Sophie Thorne, for all things systems.
If you're ready to go from startup to scale-up, and take your tech business to the next level, book a 30-minute, no obligation call with the best marketing team here.