The road to launching a startup is long and arduous, with lots of potholes and dead ends along the way. Getting through the first leg of the journey — validating your idea — is hard enough. You must determine that your product or service meets a real need and that people will use it to solve their problems.
If you’ve already validated your startup, congratulations! It’s a huge milestone, but it isn’t time to roll around in a pile of money just yet. You still have to figure out how to successfully differentiate your product or service in the marketplace and gain new customers.
Here are five steps to guide you as you bring your startup to market:
1. Create a Minimum Sellable Product
Once you’re ready to go to market, you should begin building a minimum sellable product. At this stage, you aren’t just trying to build a product that people will use; you’re trying to build a product that people will pay for.
Just as when you were building your minimum viable product, you shouldn’t try to include every feature that you can dream up. You need to prioritize the features that will make people turn to you to solve their problems instead of your competitors.
2. Identify Your Key Value Proposition
After you have your MSP, your next step is to create a great value proposition. This is an important step because your value proposition will determine whether customers will actually purchase your product or service. It should answer the question “What’s in it for me?”
When you create your message, don’t speak in technical terms. Help your target audience understand how you will help them in terms of time saved, ease of use, etc. Your prospects are trying to do a cost-benefit analysis before they commit, so go ahead and do it for them. A/B test your messaging to discover what works best.
3. Develop a Pricing Plan
When you have your key value proposition finalized, it’s time to create a pricing plan. This should be simple, logical, and competitive. Don’t offer too many options (or you’ll risk confusing the customer), and don’t price yourself out of the market. The key is to define your market in detail so you know your competition, your potential customers, and the price consumers willing to pay.
One tactic worth exploring is to create exclusivity to increase the perceived value of your product. You can achieve this by offering your product or service at a high price to cater to a specific market or advertising limited availability. When done well, this can be a great strategy.
4. Establish a Sales and Communication Roadmap
Now that you have a minimum sellable product, a key value proposition, and a pricing plan, it’s time to decide how you’re going to let people know about your product and sell it.
First, define your niche. Who exactly are you trying to reach, and where are they receptive to messages about your product?
After you’ve created a roadmap, you can draft an 18-month operational plan that includes sales targets, marketing strategies, and more. With all the research you’ve done so far, this document should be detailed and offer a way to measure your progress as you stake out your position in the marketplace.
5. Tell the World
After you’ve gone through all the trouble of entering the marketplace and differentiating your offering, you need to work to get noticed. The easiest and most effective way to do that is by establishing yourself as an expert. Create content that addresses your prospective clients’ pain points. They’ll begin to recognize you as a thought leader, and when it comes time to find a solution to their problems, they’ll turn to you first.
When coupled with email marketing, social media, trade shows, paid search, and SEO, valuable content is a great tactic for getting your product or service in front of potential customers.
Entering the market is an exciting time for startups. You’ve already proven that people want what you have to offer; now you just need to find a way to differentiate your product or service. By clearly articulating your key value proposition, putting together a careful plan for pricing and marketing, and working to get your message out there, you’ll be on track to enjoy the next phase of the startup journey.