Must-have complex

In a startup, at times you'll feel more confident about your product, at times less confident. Don't let that create a must-have complex in you. What is this complex? It's when you receive advice from a VC, a colleague, someone in the industry or an employee on things your business is missing to conquer the world, a task list to success. There is generally the wishful thinking that a combination of this or that trick or tool will solve your problems.

I've heard plenty of this before, in a variety of arguments.

The "missed opportunities":

  • "you need to do more SEO: more pages, link building, full indexing. You'll get many more customers"
  • "we really need a loyalty scheme for our best customers, it makes them buy more"
  • "we received a proposal from company X, they are interested in cross-promoting. Why not do it?"

Not all  good things can be implemented. There's a cost in everything, time and opportunity. But when you're doing something new, you're not improving what you were already doing. Most of the so called "miss opportunities" are things you should explore when you have a big team and lots of money. You want proven, scalable, money-for-value channels of growth. Avoid distractions and things that hurt your product image or brand.

"Customer asked for it":

  • "customer X wants to pre-order/ more delivery options/ custom wrapping/ x. We should do it"
  • "we should provide bulk services for B2B, customers asked if we also have a corporate plan"
  • "customer X won't buy if we don't adjust pricing. They're big. Big customers will convert only if we give them a big discount. Let's do it"

Customers want everything. If you asked them, they'll want the world for a dime. But if your product is good, they'll pay fair value for a problem-solving tool. Separate nice to haves from things that affect every customer from a value perspective. Build and price your product for a customer segment, not 10.

The "deal maker"

  • "if only we can make the first order a magical experience! the first order should include a gift and a personal note, that will make a world of difference"
  • "when we launch the new website, customers will flock. This old thing is what's getting in the way of customers purchasing" 
  • "they didn't invest, but they will for sure once we launch another city/ release mobile apps/ get featured on TechCrunch"

Some big leaps are possible and necessary, but all that's shinny and new quickly falls out of style. Both customers and investors can see through it. A great service always treats customers well. Invest equally in old and new customers, and in an ongoing improvement of your product. Focus on user activity, satisfaction, purchase patterns.

The "magic software"

  • "can we install that latest analytics thing - GoogleAnalytics, KissMetrics, Adjust, MixPanel, Facebook Pixel, Facebook API? Without it, we won't be capable of measuring x! We'll be in the dark"
  • "we must have a chat for customers to talk with us, it's much more efficient than calls"
  • "software X is a bargain. It does all we need and even provides an API"

My general feeling is that ~80% of the software I tried and integrated in a startup, we ended up not using. Most likely a 3rd party tool will evolve to match the bulk of their customers needs, which are not always your needs, therefore diverging from your platform. Also, in general, tools don't solve problems, people and processes do. Before embarking on a new software integration, check if it matches your development plan, if it improves any of the major customer pains. Also ask your team if you really, really need it. Finally before you invest time in customizing the so called "easy tool", try to replicate the process manually and check if it's really worth it. 

"We can't do it in house"

  • "without hiring a PR agency, your business won't get off the ground"
  • "we need a professional photographer"
  • "we need someone with a hardcore CV to get investors in" 

If businesses became successful because of seasoned, experienced professionals, there would be no startups like we know them. Starting a business means you have enough passion to try and solve a problem, independently of the resources (technical, financial) you possess. Of course, having professional help is great and welcome. But it's not absolutely necessary to get your business off the ground!

Overall, advice that fits this must-haves criteria will invariably focus on doing something new, additionally, like installing a new tool or adding a new feature or doing some marketing thing. More, more, more. Generally, what improves your business is focusing on doing what you already do, but better.

Growth through complexity is not the best strategy. You don't need to do more tricks or have more tools to succeed, you need to do better of fewer things. Better, better, better.