Planning for right business strategy is better than failing to plan. 

A NASSCOM report states that the Indian Startup ecosystem is likely to grow 4-fold by 2020; total number of startups is likely to grow to 11,500+ by 2020, from about 3000+ as of last year.  Though as an entrepreneur, you have the flexibility in terms of work schedules, more important is to keep your commitment levels up to ensure higher probability of success. Every one of us likes to win, but does your initiative have an effective strategy?

Goal setting is something most often startups do not do.  Few of them do set goals, but those are just unrealistic.  Choose your markets, your customers, profiles, based on the limited resources that you have.  Pick what you want to achieve.  What you crave to do, have to get captured in your goals. 

Realistic goal setting is the first step, before looking at moving forward.  Anything that does not get measured does not get done.  Simple! If you and your team do not know what to do and by when complete, then how do you plan to achieve?

Create a differentiator.  How well you are able to differentiate against your competition, matters a lot to your customer.  You don’t need to be miles ahead to win a race, but just nose ahead!  You will have to analyze, brainstorm, to figure out unique strength that your initiative possesses, and whether that strength can bring tangible benefits to your customers.

Usually for product companies it could be speed, user friendliness, features, functionality, etc. 

For services/solution companies it could be your domain knowledge, expertise, customer relationship, post services delivery support, etc. 

If there are none to start with, the same need to be created through some expert consultants/mentors/advisors, as it forms the pillar to your business build-up.

Pitch through multiple offers. If you are running a product company, showcase to your prospects/customers about good, better and best products as they can see value that you have crafted in segmenting those offerings.  Likewise in services, you can provide multiple levels of services (where applicable).  These are best practices that you usually see in airline, hotel, banking industries, etc. 

Building a team is easier said than done.  As a startup you will have less time to deliver results; you have limited resources and so attracting talent through higher compensation may not be feasible.  Decide who you want to bring to the table, and as Jim Collins rightly puts it ‘have the right person in the right seat’!  Pick people who are passionate in building your venture and compensation strategy can include a mix of salary and stocks (you need to showcase your company value and what it could deliver in a few years time if folks are to be attracted to stocks in today’s world).  You can also plan to have a long term incentives (retention bonus) for early stage employees, as that will help in retaining good talent for a longer period; it also helps employees plan their career with you with a long term in perspective.

It is equally important to ensure that your team is in sync with your vision. Having the bigger picture in their mind, will help them relate to your organizational goals, vision and aspirations.  This is one of the core ingredients, but not practiced with most organizations. Have clear actionable items identified, tasks assigned and every individual accountable for their actions.

Have a well thought on Digital Marketing Strategy for startup.  In today’s world, the boundaries established by traditional/large corporate is getting thinner with the digital entrants.  Digital strategy can be powerful if you know how to use it right, and that will help your venture create value; else you may end up losing value as well. A good Social Media Strategy will help you position your entity better in the eyes of your customers.  It’s all about customer/prospect’s mind share. 

SEO and SEM can provide strong ammunition in your battle against competition, but the Digital Marketing Strategy has to fit well to your budgets and aspirations. You might not have to be an expert in building your business digitally.  In which case you will need to decide if it is right to delegate your ‘digital agenda’ to digital marketing evangelists, or to a digital marketing specialist company? Digital marketing is very cost effective and impactful as well.

Under digital marketing strategy, you can look at doing Email marketing for your products/services.  Email marketing is very powerful and advantages, numerous.  Refer: for more interesting insights.

Define your partnership strategy.  Seek and build alliances who can sell your products or services.  Having committed alliances is multiplying your sales force that many times.  It’s a very powerful strategy and as a product company you can derive significant mileage that can build up big time, over time.

De-risking Strategy should be in place.  Strategy is not about taking big risks, but rather how well you are de-risking yourself from large opportunities, does matter.  This is very critical in valuation, especially when the investors look at how well you have de-risked your business against financial, legal and business risk factors.

Yet other key factor is your ability to change.  As a startup with limited resources, the margin of error is thin.  More importantly mistakes do happen when you are building an enterprise.  Boardroom planning is good but you will find things different especially when the rubber hits the road.  It is the ability to quickly react, being agile, have systems that will take care of those issues in future, decides whether your startup is built to last.

One common mistake most startups do is their inability to wait to see results.  You do not keep checking root of a plant by plucking it on a daily basis to check their growth.  It will not only kill the plant, but all your efforts in vain in growing that.   You need to have check points and monitor progress, but not impatient enough in not seeing through to completion.  I know of some companies who just shuts their effective business development team especially when the close is very near, just because it did not meet their anticipated timelines (many a times, unrealistic).  Awful, as a month or two could have made hell of a difference to their business outlook and opportunities!

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