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You’ve probably already heard that 90 percent of startups fail. Fortunately for a lot of entrepreneurs I know, that high risk of failure is more exciting than it is intimidating. Not only do they have a great idea and the resources to get started, but they’re also even more motivated to be a part of the few startups that make it off the ground.
I recently connected with the founders of WUDN, Chad Keller and Phil Laboon (listed by Dave Kerpen as a marketing influencer to watch this year), and it was obvious that we all shared that energy for entrepreneurship.
Their company has become one of the nation’s top suppliers of handcrafted, real-wood everyday products. It’s even been approached by Spring and T-Mobile for exclusives on WUDN’s new iPhone 7 wooden battery case.
Within a matter of months, these two were able to catapult their startup and get national recognition. As the leader of a fast-growing company (and a dedicated iPhone user), I wanted to learn more about these two and their company. They shared with me a few pieces of advice I think can help any entrepreneur set him- or herself up for success in those early stages:
Spend wisely by allocating resources.
I’m a big fan of this one because knowing what resources you have available and taking advantage of them is a quick and easy way to help yourself succeed. A common problem for a lot of startups is cost. Now, I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet that at least some of the 90 percent that failed didn’t know where they could save money and still be OK.
One way to reallocate some resources and save money is by setting up shop in a co-working space like Keller and Laboon instead of going it alone. This allows you to free up some extra capital to dedicate toward other efforts, such as marketing, content, and promotion. Plus, it’s nice to work with other entrepreneurs in the same space. One of my company’s offices is in a co-working space, and judging by all the events, resources, and snacks they have, it seems like a pretty good setup.
Another area that can either drain some financial resources or help you save money is your website. There are a lot of amazing professional web design agencies, but they’re not your only options. Keller and Laboon recommend using a platform like Shopify to build your site because it’s easy to use and even has tools to help you focus on growing your business.
Know your market right out of the gate.
Honestly, understanding your audience and what it wants is easier said than done, and it doesn’t help that those needs sometimes change. As you grow, you have to constantly examine what you’re doing to make sure you’re still supplying what your target market demands.
When Keller and Laboon got their start, they thought their primary audience would be wholesalers, so they invested some early marketing dollars in targeting those businesses. This created some big delays in their workshop and slowed down sales, so they had to rethink what they were doing and who they were doing it for.
For the two of them, that meant going back to the drawing board and focusing on a new product line altogether: combining the simplicity of wood and cutting-age tech to create things like sunglasses, phone cases, and power banks. If they’d stayed on their original path, trying to deliver products to audiences that weren’t receptive, they’d have wasted resources at a very critical stage of the company.
Going viral is possible if you know how.
Some companies spend a lot of money trying to create something perfect that will go viral. Other times, it’s a weird combination of luck and fortune that come together at exactly the right moment (dressed in a red sweater and televised nationally). However it happens, when you’re running a startup, going viral can be one of the best things to happen for your brand.
It helps if you have an amazing product or service, but it’s usually not enough to rely on your features and offers alone to make it happen. You have to combine that with a strategy to get your brand out there.
One way Laboon did this for WUDN was by creating a quick video highlighting what was unique about WUDN’s stand-out product and launching the ad on Facebook. In a month, the video got more than 1 million views, and two weeks after that, it hit 5 million. Sales skyrocketed, and the WUDN brand itself received trickle-down success as its community of customers grew.
The first few months of your startup are the most sensitive — and possibly the most opportunistic. While you could be a part of the 90 percent that fail, you might also become a part of the 10 percent that make it. To increase your chances, it’s important to know what it takes to see success in those early stages and do everything you can to ensure your startup has staying power.