Many of you may not think this way, but breaking into a target market with your startup is a lot like a military invasion.
I have learned over the years that it is necessary to start with specific objectives, a focused strategy and a motivated and prepared team to penetrate competitive defenses. Too many entrepreneurs I know go into battle with just their passion and hope for the best.
I recommend that you review the business startup experiences of some successful entrepreneurs with a strong military influence, such as R. Riveter, who got $ 100,000 from Mark Cuban on Shark tank, to enlist military spouses from all over the country to make fashionable bag components.
Here are some key elements of the strategy that I see highlighted by the military:
1. Gather your intelligence on where and when to strike first.
Too many entrepreneurs push their product out without proper scouting for high returns or pain points in the existing market. They assume their innovation will overwhelm any competition, anywhere. The old adage of “location, location, location” could mean your city or another country.
It has long been speculated that starting locally is a requirement if you need investors. However, VC’s feedback indicates that this bias has also decreased over time, possibly due to significant improvements in video conferencing and other communication technologies.
2. Focus on a key goal rather than a large global win.
We all start with limited resources, so don’t try to win everyone over with the initial charge. A large attack will likely confuse potential customers and spread your assets too subtle to satisfy any of them. There is always time to broaden or scale your focus to gather more segments.
For example, a few years ago experts told SkyBell that they needed to own the entire smart home platform. They resisted this urge and won by focusing primarily on providing an effective single-point solution that showed users who was at their doorstep.
3. Capitalize on the territory where the competition has not penetrated.
Use your new features or innovations to quickly gain a foothold in the market. Be realistic with your information gathering to find pockets of real interest, rather than assuming “everyone wants one” of what you have to offer. This always means targeted marketing and special programs.
4. Align your resources and training before launch.
Some entrepreneurs think they can do it on their own or can learn on the fly. It takes a team to run a business, with the tools and training to handle any skirmishes. I’m sure you’ve all heard of a very promising startup that went bankrupt due to lack of inventory or non-existent customer support.
5. Friendly forces of the Marshal within the territory for support.
Smart entrepreneurs use social media and influencer advocates within their target market to build momentum and provide direction and support, even before they’re ready to attack. In today’s communication age, customers seek friendly forces to find a new invader they trust.
6. Target competitive vulnerabilities and best opportunities.
Initial penetration and success is what you need to get traditional customers to switch or try your new solution. Don’t be afraid to rotate or tweak your attack when you see weaknesses in competitive offers or major customer opportunities that you didn’t anticipate.
7. Build collaborative partnerships with potential competitors.
Many business owners forget white labeling and strategic supplier relationships as paths to customers and long-term leadership. Don’t be afraid to communicate and negotiate with the enemy to find win-win opportunities and confirm your position as a major player in the market.
8. Keep your eyes open and be prepared to counter attacks on the hips.
Charging into battle with blinders, without expecting surprise or resistance, is reckless. Each smart entrepreneur reviews his strategy and progress with the team at least once a week and reserves some resources for changes and counterattacks. Be willing to take risks, but don’t be reckless.
In my experience, almost every startup has the challenge of facing larger and more established opponents or existing alternatives in the market that they choose to serve. So it makes sense to treat it as the life-or-death operation that it really is. Don’t let your passion and ego limit your ability to enjoy the legacy and long-term success you’ve always dreamed of.