“Customers won’t care about any particular technology unless it solves a particular problem in a superior way. And if you can’t monopolize a unique solution for a small market, you’ll be stuck with vicious competition.”
― Peter Thiel, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
If you’re in a consumer-facing startup, you have the disadvantage of your business plan being difficult as hell to prove. B2B has its own challenges but at least they take solace in the fact that their competition isn’t the entire civilized world. Traditional sales and marketing tactics can usually take a proper B2B product to market just fine. So I’m talking to you, my fellow social media peddling, content marketing, hustlers of the consumer world. When you’re trying to close that first customer, that first 10, that first seed fund; how in the world do you say “It hasn’t scaled yet but it totally will. Trust me”?
The answer is to take trust out of the equation and show concrete case studies. I can rant for hours about how SewnR can disrupt market after market as it scales into world domination, but when someone asks “How will you go from $0 to your first revenue stream?” Instead of touting my unproven sales prowess, I turn to smaller, scalable success stories.
Last year, SewnR promoted the Thrival Innovation and Music Festival in order to prove our product model. We targeted key user demographics and made sure those would-be concert attendees knew where and when all of Thrival’s events were held. The app provided significant value to festival, increased visibility, and helped ticket sales. We also got a nice spike in app downloads that weekend as well. Laying out the exact time, money, and effort spent on that festival as well as the rewards made a concrete example of our business plan at work. We don’t need to pull projected revenue out of the sky and draw a chart that inevitably goes up and to the right. (Every chart in a pitch deck goes up and to the right. It’s as sure as gravity.) We have several success stories that can scale into realistic business and revenue streams. They fit on two Keynote slides and can be easily understood in 10 minutes.
What this tactic does is lets you think about almost every angle: tech, rollout, sales, support; but at a much smaller and more manageable scale. When you can make that work, you have a realistic segue into “…and with your investment we can take this into the next level.” Why? Because you had the forethought and entrepreneurial spirit to actually do it. That’s why! If it didn’t work as you expected (we’ve been there too), you just found a quick and cheap way to learn some very costly lessons that would hinder your progress down the road. This process is something customers and investors look for while they size you up as a founder.
So before you commit to a strategy that involves capturing the entire population of China as a user base, or convincing customers to enter all of their personal information for you to turn around and sell; try starting small and make a real world case for your product. It doesn’t matter how significant your first handful of successes are. $10 is worth infinitely more than $0, in any business sector.