Tuesday, September 4, 2007

5 Things a Start-up can do to Improve their Sustainability

  1. Be market driven, not product driven
  2. Maintain focus and execute
  3. Leverage other companies’ resources
  4. Be clever
  5. Watch your cash-flow like a hawk

Be market driven, not product driven
One of the most difficult things to do when developing a new product or service. Seeing the forest through the trees can be a challenge. Start-ups need to step back look at their solutions from their target customer’s perspective and the market as a whole. This is especially true when developing new product and service features. Look at the needs of all the people involved in the buying process and make sure your feature set addresses everyone’s requirements. A cool product with no market is a short-term exercise and not a sustainable endeavor.

Maintain focus and execute
Ideas fly in Start-ups. This is often the most satisfying part of the start-up experience. This enthusiastic exchange of ideas has to be matched with the discipline to maintain focus and see these ideas to completion. Make someone accountable for the execution of an idea or strategy. Reaping the rewards from a well executed strategy is one of the most uplifting milestones a start-up can have, and a big morale booster when times are tough. Unfortunately, many small companies change focus constantly and never take any of their ideas to completion. Key employees in these companies often become disenchanted over time and move on to greener pastures.

Leverage other companies’ resources
Start-ups can extend their customer and market reach by leveraging other companies’ sales and marketing resources (and their customer base). This strategy can greatly fuel the growth of a small company, and can often surpass the results from an internal sales team. Always be on the look out to leverage – make it a part of a daily ritual (and see my post "Leveraging the Big Guys").

Be clever
A nimble start-up can and should be clever. This is especially true for bootstrapped companies where funding and resources are limited. Think of cleverness as a competitive differentiator. How many large companies do you know that are clever? Many of their initiatives that may have started off being clever are often diluted and diminished by their bureaucratic decision making process. Small companies need to take advantage of and embrace this situation.

Watch your cash-flow like a hawk
Every start-up is under budget constraints. Cash-flow is different from a budget and has to be monitored carefully. There are many start-ups that have not watched their cash-flow and have been forced to make decisions prematurely or implement tactics that deviates from or dilutes their business plan. Deal flow means little if you don’t have the cash to service it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Domains, What's in a Name?

Mike Davidson wrote a very informative blog post "How to Snatch an Expiring Domain". Although this post is two years old, many people have left recent comments and have chronicled their experiences in this increasingly complex process.

Securing right domain name is strategic on many levels (SEO, Ad traffic, branding, etc.) and trying to understand the unofficial rules is important for every company. Finding a domain name that is available can be a trying experience and can lead to unsatisfying results. One of the alternatives is to find domain names that have or will expire (60,000 daily!), and try to secure that name. There are many websites out there that list soon-to-be-expired and expired domain names.

But "expired" does not really mean expired. ICANN has published a life cycle chart for domain name ownership and it can be found here [^]. You can see from this chart that there is a 75 day period from when the domain goes from "expired" status to where it can be purchased (if the original owner does not renew). As Mike and others point out, individuals have virtually no chance of securing a domain name when it first becomes available. You have to use a service to "snatch" the domain name (and often enter into an auction to bid on it).

Some of the larger services mentioned are snapnames.com, enom.com and pool.com.

My suggestion is that you try to find out as much up-to-date information as you can before selecting one or all of these services when pursuing a specific domain name. Many people have been burned by the process and often your service providers are not always looking out for your best interests.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Matt Cutts Whitehat SEO tips for Bloggers

Matt Cutts is one of Google’s key SEO guys and he gave an excellent presentation at WordCamp 2007 in San Francisco. He outlined strategies, tools and tips for bloggers to use to increase the performance of their blog pages (traffic, monetization, revenue, etc.). He discusses the tools that he uses daily and those that he is considering. Matt tells you how to avoid mistakes and what tactics will get you into trouble with Google (buying / selling links – but he did give tips on link baiting). Some of the best comments came from his responses to questions from the audience.

All start-up companies should include blogs as a part of their website. As Matt pointed out, blog traffic brings organic traffic to not only the blog, but to the site too.

Download the presentation slide stack here:


The video of the presentation can be viewed here:


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Leveraging the Big Guys

One of the best strategies I tell my start-up clients to consider is to leverage the marketing and sales resources of strategic partners. This allows a start-up company to reduce or eliminate the need to invest in their own sales force. The right strategic alliance partner could allow you to cover the global market and potentially tap into 1,000’s of their existing customers. Armed with the right marketing information, your partner has the opportunity to derive new revenue from stale customers. As their partner, you might also get to participate in their user conferences, trade show booths and website assets.


  1. Find strategic partners that compliments your products and services, and gives you the market coverage you desire. Think vertically or horizontally.
  2. Learn to sell to their sales people who will in turn convey your value position to their clients (if you can convince a sales person then they are more willing to push your solution to an existing client). Be sure you convey what’s in it for them as sales people.
  3. Dedicate time to nurturing the relationship with your partner’s sales people so that your solution is always remains on top of the stack and on their mental radar screen.
  4. Make sure your marketing materials clearly connects all the dots for their prospective customers as their sales people will not be subject matter experts on your solutions. Giving them all the ammo they need will make the difference between them pushing your solution or only giving it “lip service”.

For my B2B clients, I recommend Target Market Analysis (TMA). The process is very successful in identifying and developing the right marketing messages that address all the stakeholders’ needs in the buying process (and not just the technology people). TMA helps you to spell out everything your partner’s sales person needs to sell to your solution.

I will write more about the target marketing process and the other advantages of forming strategic alliances in future posts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Secrets of Serial Success

In this Wall Street Journal Report [^], they describe the characteristics and motivations of the serial entrepreneur. A Clemson University study they found that these people had a higher propensity for risk, innovation and achievement.

They found that most serial entrepreneurs view money as just a "tool" instead of the ultimate goal. Their "juice" is derived from the process of creating something new from scratch; and without it, their lives are empty.

My experience has been that successful founders look back at the company building process as their most favorite part. Stability is just a vacation from the chaos and innovation that is typical of the serial start-up experience.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Art of Execution

Guy Kawasaki offers some excellent and concise points in the September issue of Entrepreneur Magazine entitled "The Art of Execution."

Execution and focus are often lost in the mad rush to start a business. Ideas are the cornerstone of any new business, but execution is more important. Guy suggests setting realistic goals, assign someone to be accountable for them and follow-up weekly.

My experience has been that achieving smaller, bite-sized goals is the fuel needed to achieve more.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Fast Track Internet Model Strategy

Finding a niche, wrapping a website around it, and extracting revenue has been a time honored approach for web-based businesses.

I would like to offer an alternative strategy to get results much faster than the traditional method. This method primarily focuses on improving the mechanics of monetization – getting money from your site faster.

What a lot of people don’t realize is having a good looking website with compelling content that addresses a niche in the marketplace is not enough to be successful. Google and advertisers have a big say in whether you will be successful or not. They couldn't care less what products and services you offer. Their interests are focused instead, on things like traffic, PageRank, keyword-relevant and fresh content, and website age (the older, the better). The mechanics of aligning your interests with theirs is a key aspect of this strategy.

Issue: new websites are penalized in these areas and it requires time until you can crawl out of the Google “sandbox”.

Fast Track Strategy No.1 – buy an old domain/site with a decent PageRank and use that for your new web business (instead of registering a new domain name). Most people don’t realize that there is a thriving eBay-like marketplace for buying/selling domain names and websites (content and all). These sites are out of the sandbox and immediately yield higher search engine page results on Google. They are also more attractive to advertisers (giving you higher click-thru rates). Sites can be bought very cheaply. Toss out or modify the old site content.

Resource: http://www.sitepoint.com/marketplace/


Issue: your content must be frequently “refreshed” and must match the keywords people use to find you on the web.

Fast Track Strategy No.2 – on the web “content is king”. Content compels your visitors to take action and it one of the most important factors in getting people to find you on search engines. Search engines like frequently updated websites. Find a cheap freelance copywriter on one of the freelance marketplace websites and pay that person to write content that compels visitors and search engines.

Resource: http://www.getafreelancer.com/


Issue: improving the PageRank of the site you just purchased.

Fast Track Strategy No. 3 – get higher PageRanked sites to link to your site. Google loves it when you do this and the more the better. Get friends, customers, affiliates, professional organizations, etc. to link their sites to your site. Also, post comments on influential blogs and include a link to your site in your signature. You should add a blog to your website and keep the content fresh, compelling and relevant. This will attract inbound links to your blog (and site). You can also buy links from sites (be careful here) using the resource sites mentioned in 1 and 2.


Issue: increasing the revenue coming in from advertisers.

Fast Track Strategy No. 4 – get rid of Google AdSense ads and recruit advertisers directly (cutting out the middle man). Recruit companies that compliment your niche. You’ll need to show them your traffic stats, age and PageRank.


Issue: increasing the sales conversion rates on your site.

Fast Track Strategy No. 5 – get users to register or subscribe to your site. Get a valid email address during the registration process. Track their log-in activity and reward the “frequent flyers” with discounts, give-a-ways, tips, eBooks, tutorial videos, etc. through periodic concise and compelling emails.


Issue: capitalizing on your success or niche

Fast Track Strategy No. 6 – consider “flipping” your website once you have built up the valuation of your web asset (via strategies 1- 5). Every business needs an exit strategy, and this option is growing in popularity.

Resource: http://www.sitepoint.com/marketplace/


That’s it! There are additional strategies out there that can also help, but these should get you started.