Don’t blow your round of funding before reading this guide to take a step back and focus on long-term growth
Congratulations – You’ve secured a round of investment funding! But, now what? You have sold your idea, your product, your service, and people bought into it which means that more will, too. Before you jump the gun and go spending, we want to walk you through some basic steps to keep in mind while you grow your business-- your brand.
It can be tempting and easy to blow through funding early on. If you have a product roadmap which investors bought into, you now have the ability to grow a team that will fulfill that roadmap and vision. But, first take a step back. Your roadmap may have pitched well, but what next steps are going to get you the highest return on your investment right now? You must prioritize and budget immediate areas of execution based on highest return.
Step one. Make sure your product/service is on track to deliver on its promises. Your first focus should be your product. No matter how well you can tell a story, pitch an idea, your company will flop if your product does not deliver on your promises. You need to meet, or exceed, the expectations that others have for you. You might be feeling a lot of pressure right now, but don’t worry; it doesn’t need to be perfect. Even Apple still does software updates to fix bugs and as a startup, customers will have some expectation that quality control is an ongoing battle. To win over new customers and build loyalty in your brand, your product or service needs to do what you said it would at the most basic level.
Take another look at your roadmap. If you were able to successfully raise a round of funding for your company, it’s likely that you already have a comprehensive plan for the next 5 or even 10 years. However, despite any amount of effort you’ve poured into your plan, you work at a startup and anything that can go wrong, will inevitably go wrong. Instead of freaking out when something goes wrong, focus on the core value that your product provides. What is the main problem that you’re tackling and whose lives are you improving? There will be setbacks and disappointments, but as long as you keep your customer’s best interests as your north star, you’ll always be moving in the right direction.
Generally, companies will use their new fundraising round to hire task-based employees to achieve their product vision. But if you’re not strategically prioritizing new hires in the areas of highest impact and return, you’re wasting your well-earned investment. We know, you’re not like everyone else, your vision is special otherwise you wouldn’t have made it this far. You need the highest return on investment (ROI) that you can get right now. Hire due to specialization, to do time-consuming tasks, or the areas of highest potential growth. Not just because you can, because you will need to scale lean at first and that’s alright. Growth doesn’t happen overnight.
Having employees that truly buy-in to your company’s brand-- its vision, its purpose, its community-- is paramount to having a successful brand. Think about it: If you can’t even get buy-in from the people who work for you, why the hell would anyone else buy into your brand? They won’t. Make sure your employees share your brand vision and want to see the brand succeed.
If you’re at the point in your roadmap that requires ramping up sales, throwing money into advertising will not get you anywhere without a solid understanding of your market. What do your customers believe? What will they buy into? Where do you relate to them most? You need to identify the answers to these questions, isolate the core idea behind your brand, and refine it. People buy into ideas.
You are now at the point where you should be developing a longer-term marketing strategy. The story you are writing needs to communicate how your product builds a better future for your target audience. To do so, begin with your core value-add and focus on how it contributes to building a shared future that your customers don’t just want, but need.
Your brand might be built on a story, but it lives through every touchpoint and experience that customers have. People experience brands the same way they experience people which means that brands can and should be human. Humans aren’t perfect and your company doesn’t need to be either, but if you’re promising a future that depends on credibility and trust, everything public needs to echo your company’s ability to deliver in those key areas. Even one bad experience can shake up a customer’s perception and create brand dissonance. Take the time now to make sure that you’re so consistent, it hurts. The relationship between your brand and your customers relies on several core values that won’t just net you a one-off purchase, but keep them coming back for years to come. Identify those core values to get a better understanding of how to shape the experiences and stories you provide customers.
Focus on your product. You need to be able to make good on the promises you have made and turn your story-telling into reality.
Prioritize hiring in the areas of highest impact and potential for return on your investment. You need to hit milestones and show investors their money is working. Optimize it.
Strategize your long-term marketing and branding. Identify, isolate, and refine the core idea that defines your brand. The story your marketing tells should communicate the shared future that your customers will buy into. As with everything, strategize how you will use the money to your best advantage.