Avoid Start-Up False Starts

Launching a company is fraught with enough dangers, like finding customers, outsmarting competitors, and achieving profitability. It is easy to make public relations and marketing mistakes amid the pressure. Here are some of the myths that usually lead to those mistakes and other missed opportunities.

1. You have to be a “leader.”

We have to thank the dot-com era for this one. Every company called itself the leader in some narrowly defined market niche. We don’t ever remember buying something from somebody simply because they are the self-professed leader. It’s time that we move past the need to be the “leader.

Launching your company as the leader in any field is an immediate blow to your credibility. How can you be the leader right out of the gate? Leadership requires several criteria that new companies do not have, namely a proven track record of success with clients.

Our advice is to leave the leadership to others and focus on what you do very well for your customer. That will impress prospects more than a tagline featuring the “L” word.

2. You just need to get your name out there.

Atkinson Public Relations. Atkinson Public Relations. Atkinson Public Relations.

If just getting your name out there was the answer, you would be hiring us right now. It’s just not that easy.

We see some 5,000 advertising messages a day. Our minds cut through the clutter by focusing on what we need – a more fashionable dress, better sales results, crisis communications help, etc. Your success is not proportional to your name; it’s proportional to the needs that you help somebody fulfill.

3. You have to be unique and different.

It’s nice to be unique and different, but first you have to be relevant. You have to solve a need that somebody has.

This often manifests itself as a corporate myopia (a.k.a. “drinking the Kool Aid”) where people believe too strongly that their way is simply better than anyone else’s. This is not a healthy attitude for a new business. Unique and different are adjectives to describe a business or product. Focus instead on doing something excellent for your customers.

4. Your initial plan will work perfectly.

We saw a market opportunity. We wrote a business plan. We got financing. We implemented the plan. We got rich.

As military planners like to say, every plan is perfect until someone fires the first shot. The same is true for business. Business plans don’t account for angry customers, defecting employees, unethical competitors, and a host of other perils to a new business.

Accept that your plan will most likely change. More importantly, be ready to explain that change quickly and effectively to your employees. If you are not ready, the opportunity or crisis may get the best of you.

One last thought on this topic: People love underdogs. They love stories of companies that adapted in midstream because they had to in order to survive. There’s no shame in change. You don’t have to have a perfect plan to be successful in business.

5. Launching your company is a single event.

Most people think of a launch as a big bang – an explosion of marketing that introduces your company or product to the world. They do this to draw attention for a short period of time in a crowded marketplace.

In many cases, a rollout with teasers is more effective than the big bang. You provide key customers and prospects with glimpses of the product or service that whets their appetites for more. Of course, the new service or product must be equal to the level of teasing; otherwise your customers will be quite mad.

The rollout method is especially useful if you have very loyal existing customers. Easing them into something new and providing preview opportunities should limit criticism and the possibility of defection to a competitor.

The launch is just the first phase of your business. Whether you choose the big bang approach or a planned rollout, make sure you have a plan to continue the momentum you create with the launch. There is nothing worse than a massive lull in news or marketing after launching a company or product.

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