Week 4 Recap: Defining and Testing Your MVP
Last week, we provided practical resources to help you develop, build, and test your MVP. We talked about different ways to think about competitive advantage, and ways to define and run lean experiments to test your MVP.
To get it all done you need to have very good project management skills. It starts with using the RACI framework to define roles and responsibilities, then depending on the type of solution you are building, you might build Gantt Charts and lay out cross dependencies (for hardware projects), or design an Agile process to manage work through ticket management (for software and web development projects).
Last but not least: Processes exist to help you get work done, not make extra work for you. Make sure to right-size your process for your stage of company. For instance: Most early stage software teams don’t need a full-on scrum process; they might start with Kanban instead.
Week 5 Focus: Go to Market Strategy
Go to market (GTM) is an umbrella term that includes all the activities you will take to bring your product or service to market.
As with almost any concept in business, GTM starts with identifying the people we need to work with. Who are the stakeholders or decision making unit (DMU) in the buying process? Review the full list of stakeholders from our Week 3 update. Then think about who you might need to interview to answer the following questions.
- How does your economic buyer come aware of their unmet need?
- When and how do they look for options?
- Who are your competitors in the minds of your economic buyers? (Remember, “doing nothing” is always an option for the customer.)
- What are the selection criteria that they use for assessing options?
- Who influences their thought process?
Designing a sales process
With that, you are ready to design a sales process that meets the customer where they are, and generates opportunities for the potential customer to come aware of your product or service at a time when they are looking for options.
Building awareness and generating a sales pipeline
Use the knowledge you built to design and implement a lead generation strategy that feeds leads into your sales pipeline.
For B2C, and increasingly, B2B sales processes, digital marketing is a key piece of the puzzle. Spend some time understanding the different ways you can generate and nurture leads via digital marketing techniques which will yield valuable data that can help you hack your sales funnel to maximize growth and speed up your customer acquisition process.
Choose sales channels
The last step in designing your GTM strategy is to choose one or more sales channels to distribute your solution. Sales channels can be direct (meaning that your customers contact your company to buy your solution – for example, you may sell product directly on your company’s website) and indirect (meaning that your customers contact a third party reseller / distribution partner to buy your solution – for example, you may sell product on Amazon who serves as your online e-tailer).
Generally, as a startup, direct sales gives you more data to work with in the early days of selling to customers and as non-scalable as it is, it is worth doing for data collection. Over time, however, you will need to consider the suitability of the channel according to your venture type, business model and price point – all topics that we will cover in the next post.
Building Your Brand
Week 5 is also a good time to take a first pass at developing (or reviewing) your venture’s brand.
Basic marketing presence
Your marketing presence is one way your venture gets to showcase your brand. For new ventures, we recommend you create the following.
- A well defined “why” for your venture. Why are you in business? What do you stand for? Start here and do not proceed until you can explain your “why” in one sentence.
- A logo. You should have a logo that is legible and iconic at a variety of resolutions, from the favicon (the icon in a browser tab) to a horizontal or vertical treatment of the logo, to a square logo for social media (and also swag: T-shirts, hats, and coffee mugs).
- A style guide. What thoughts and feelings should your brand evoke – and therefore, what is the look and feel you should strive for? The style guide executes this look and feel by defining the design language, font, color palette, logo usage guidelines and more.
- A website. You should have a website hosted on your own domain. When you are starting out, a landing page is enough. Many ventures start on WYSIWYG platforms like Wix, then graduate to more powerful Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Drupal or WordPress.
- Social Media presence. Depending on the type of venture you are building, you will need to build your presence on different social media platforms. Generally, a LinkedIn Company Page is good for enterprise-level credibility, Instagram / TikTok are good for B2C consumer-facing solutions targeting young people, and Youtube is applicable to all kinds of ventures.
- Professional headshots. Professional headshots and clean and crisp team pictures help people relate to your venture. Highly recommended.
Right-sizing your brand-building effort
Building your brand can be an exciting and exhilarating activity. That said, know that most new ventures will change their name at least once (necessitating a rebranding exercise).
Our recommendation is to do one quick pass to get to a B+ level of marketing presence – then get back to the basics and build out your business fundamentals – then circle back and make it an A+ presence. You will save time and money, because you will have much better data to work with the second time around.
Also: Depending on the type of venture you are building, company-level brand building may not have an immediate effect on the much more mission-critical task of generating leads and building a sales pipeline that generates revenue. Make sure you focus on your business fundamentals at the same time you build your brand awareness.
Midpoint Check-In and Retrospective
Congratulations! You are at the halfway point for the accelerator!
Midpoint check-in with coaches and mentors
At this point, you should have generated the following for your venture. Share this with your coaches and mentors to get feedback.
- A one-page Executive Summary that you can send to potential advisors and mentors for discussion
- A 5-minute pitch in the style of the Techstars Boston Demo Day
- The #1 strategic issue that your venture faces
We encourage you to ask yourselves the following questions.
- What went well regarding your progress compared with your expectations?
- What could have gone better – and what did you learn from the process?
- What might you do differently in the next 5 weeks to accelerate your progress?
The overarching question is this: Are you on track to achieve your summer goals? Reflect on that – and reflect on whether your original goals are the right ones. Then take what you have learned and course adjust as needed.
You might find that the halfway point is a tough time for you. The novelty has worn off, you may not have achieved as much as you had hoped to achieve, and you may be feeling a little tired. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, think about all that you have accomplished thus far. Give yourselves a pat on the back, and apply the learnings to accelerate your progress in the second half of the summer.
You might also find yourself dealing with team conflict, since this may be the first time you all have worked together at a high level of intensity. This is a good time to read “50 Questions to Ask Your Cofounder” by Gloria Lin, Cofounder of SitelineHQ, and “Founder’s Dilemmas” by Noam Wasserman.
All this is normal. Take the time and space to think strategically about how you, your team and your venture are doing. Reflect on the knowledge you have built. Then make decisions about whether to persevere, pivot or otherwise shake up your approach to not only achieve your goals, but to exceed them beyond your own expectations.
To learn more, watch this 2021 workshop video by Professor Gavin Finn of Tufts University on everything you need to know about go-to-market strategy. Check out Module 4 of our learning center on this topic. Also check out the Knowledgebase section on Marketing and Sales.