Starting a company is no easy task. Every start-up faces a lot of issues in finance, human resource, sales, marketing, etc. Some companies, who have a well thought-out strategy, make it to the big league. Others are unable to overcome the issues plaguing them from the start and end up on the losing side. All start-ups have the same fundamental commercial needs and issues to manage. They need to set and deliver on a commercial strategy that will define and sell their product, while looking after their growing customer base.
Digital and technology will be the main driving forces behind any successful company – and for digital start-ups, they will actually be the service on offer e.g. apps, SaaS software or digital content.
This is the perfect time to create a digital start-up as factors such as the lower costs of technology and social media are facilitating entry for savvy, commercially-minded entrepreneurs. Launching a successful digital start-up requires going through certain phases, each has different needs and issues that call for different levels of resource/staffing within the business:
The first phase is to ‘understand your market’. It involves gathering ideas, evaluating those ideas and creating a business & operational strategy. At this point your team will probably be just the core founders, who will be covering all areas of product, marketing and strategy.
The next phase is where you ‘build’ your Minimum Viable Product. You’ll need developers and designers to do this, but the core team won’t grow much beyond this and it will be ‘all hands to the pump’ from the founders as you continue to develop your strategy and processes.
Once you have a Minimum Viable Product, the company moves to a ‘validation’ phase where users are needed to see how the product is used and received in practice. At this point you may need to hire a dedicated sales person in order to get these initial users on board. The result of validation is that either you have a good product that you can iterate or you need to ‘pivot’ (re-focus on a different product that has emerged). Your initial team may only be the founders, developers, designers, sales or business development executives and possibly one or two customer service staff. The latter is crucial if you offer IT or a digital service with ongoing and or after-sales support.
The team you build needs the skills to help you achieve your vision, and for a short while it might be a fast-paced working environment where everyone needs to be fully committed.
The next phase is ‘scale up’ which is focused on growing the company in all areas. Your commercial team and processes need to grow to bring in all the new users, and look after them professionally. If you do a great job this also should super-charge your growth through user referrals.
Typically, as your client base increases, your commercial resources will also become increasingly stretched. People resources and even the tools & technologies used within your company might no longer fulfill your requirements. These areas will all need to be continuously evaluated and changes made; your sales and business development team may need to increase to capitalize on all leads and opportunities.
You may also consider employing account manager/s to handle your larger clients on a more personal basis, ensure that they are getting the most out of your product and capture any opportunity to up-sell or collect more leads.
To provide a great service to your expanding client needs you’ll need to invest in more customer service team members, training and the right tools.
Finally, you might want to employ a customer success manager or team. This is a high level account management function that complements traditional account managers, by offering a level of abstraction and value. Customer success is focused on retention and growth of customers, by regularly engaging with customers to proactively ensure they are getting the most value out of your product.
Digital entrepreneurs now have great opportunities to provide their customers (B2B and B2C) with high quality services, ongoing and after sales support. In order to do this they need to hire a strong commercial team that can bring with it invaluable experience of working for similar digital sales focused companies.