Millions of startups are started every month across the world. According to the GEM national report, over 100 million startup ventures are created every year.
Those are staggering figures.
If so many startups are launched every year, why do so many of them fail? In a study conducted by Harvard’s Professor of Management Practice, Shikhar Ghosh, 75% of startups fail, never returning any profits to investors.
Having said that, 2018 sounds like a tough time to start a business or go on an entrepreneurship journey when so many statistics are stacked against you.
However, things don’t always have to be that sad. In fact, do not be swayed to move in the way of publicly accepted notions in the startup world that through failure is the only way you can succeed. You can avoid it. You really don’t have to fail first in order to succeed. Cement the notions of success, to learn from mistakes that have been committed before and pick gainful lessons from current successes.
Simon Sinek has spent a huge time speaking to small business founders, startups, corporations, and students around the world. He is the author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last. A renowned leadership expert, his TED talk has been watched over 39 million times.
There is a lot to learn for startups from Simon Sinek’s moving motivational speeches and books. He advises that the fundamental concept to determine a company’s success before launching it is to start with “Why”. This is described perfectly in what he derived as the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle
It is a circle of three questions: Why? How? What?
At the core of all these questions is Why?
This is because if any company finds the answer to this question, they create a foundation on which to propel their company to greater heights.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it – Simon Sinek
This is the core belief that guides your company’s structures, beliefs, culture, and everything else you do. When the reason why you are doing something is established, you are able to address the question of why you are in business.
The best examples, as illustrated by Sinek, is Apple. Steve Jobs built the company on the basis of why.
Why are we making the iPhone? Why are we making the iPod? Why are we making iTunes? Why are we making the Macbook?
The question of the iPhone was very simple. Already, companies were making pretty smart phones at the time. Nokia was on top of the game in this case. With all these existing in the market, Steve Jobs nightmare was to answer the question of why we needed the iPhone when there were already very many other phone models around.
Why the iPhone?
Because “We are going to reinvent the phone”
This, followed by several other answers to the why question, was Steve Jobs first statement when he unwrapped the first iPhone in a keynote in 2007. Everything that the iPhone was going to do, would be a reinvention. He wanted the world to know a different phone, a different way to use the phone, and different feel to the phone, a different camera to the phone. It was all this fundamental belief that the current phones at the time had not done enough to define the phone such that it would prevent Apple from going into the market.
Simon Sinek emphasizes that the story of why is the origin story. It answers the questions of what inspired the product and what real problem is being solved.
In answering this question, Steve Jobs built a loyal following. To be very honest, there are many things that the iPhone of 2007 couldn’t do. Other phone models at the time could do them. However, the loyalty that Apple built was because it spoke its reasoning and philosophy, and attracted people who shared in their fundamental belief that this handheld device could be much better.
Another favourite example is Coca-Cola.
In 1886, Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist, wanted to come up with something that would give people a moment of refreshment and uplift. The “why” in this case was to give the world a moment of happiness.
In our world today – just as I imagine it must have been in the 19th Century and before – human beings are too caught up in chasing money, success, love, and every other thing that people spend their lives looking for.
Dr. John Pemberton was seeking to make you pause and take a Coke, upon which you would feel some comfort, forget about your problems, sip the elixir and be happy.
It is a question of how you answer your core question of why.
How do you fulfil your fundamental beliefs as a business?
How do you address your problem?
Apple answered the how question by finding a better touch screen, designing their cameras differently, etc. They set out to illustrate the how by going to get materials and work on designs that would enable them answer their core beliefs.
If you believe a better phone needs a better touchscreen in terms of response, you design a Capacitative touchscreen. If you think the phone needs a better camera, you design a camera that is lightning fast.
In simple terms, Apple wanted to reinvent the phone, and they knew how they will do it.
This is what the company must do to fulfill their core beliefs.
It is very simple, and probably a very quick answer to give.
It is the end result of well answered why and how questions.
For instance, Apple wanted to reinvent the phone, so what did they do? They made an iPhone.
Coca-Cola wanted to give the world a moment of happiness, what did they do? They made Coke.
To summarise this what, how and why concept, this is how it would sound, and is most probably true for so many successful companies;
- Why – Very few people know why you do what your company does.
- How – You know how you do it.
- What – Everyone knows what you do. (You make the iPhone, or Software, or Coke)
Ideally, your initial customers, yearly keynote attendees, media outlets, etc. will continuously repeat your core values and speak of why you set out in your venture. Even so, it is only you that will probably understand how you solve the problem you set out to venture into. Nonetheless, the whole village, city, town, country, or world will know what you do.
“I don’t know where my business would be without Facebook man, you are literally the only one who isn’t on Facebook” they will say to their friends who have been left behind by time. This way you will know you nailed it. You got the why, how, and what just right.
Note: The Apple and Coca-Cola examples apply to Google, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and so many other successful companies in various industries today.
Having discussed the main principles guiding Simon Sinek’s philosophy, and essentially this article, it is time to look at:
Simon Sinek’s 9 PR and Marketing Strategies for Successful Founders and Entrepreneurs.
1) Start with Why
Before starting a company, ask yourself why you are starting it. As we have already discussed this concept above, the message around it is very fundamental to creating a building ground from which to successfully build your company.
This will define your purpose, preventing things from happening by accident in your company and your life. It will be your vision. Vision and purpose are integral in launching a business or going on any venture. Understand yours.
2) Incorporate “Why” in your marketing story
Aside from just knowing what your vision and purpose is, you have to bring it to the realization of everyone that reads anything to do with you or your startup. Founders have to understand the importance of messaging in PR and marketing. It is everything.
How people understand your message and the values behind it are the reasons why they will want to buy your product. Strategically position yourself to build on the message of why your company was founded every chance you get.
When you are speaking at an event, or addressing your team, or clients, ensure to drive the message in. The why is an origin story, it must never be forgotten. Correct use of it positions you just where your clients are.
3) Be authentic
Many are the times startups have been created based on fake symbols. Sinek emphasizes that as a founder, you must know who you are, who your company will be, the values you will stand for, and the culture you want way before you go into the business.
While it is okay to continue to improve these values and cultures, your personality must stay. It is the authenticity that builds trust. This level of authenticity goes a long way in getting you the clients who share in your foundational beliefs.
Be who you are. Let your company stand for what it stands for.
It is possible to underestimate the power of being an authentic entrepreneur but as founders in this generation, you should never make that mistake.
Elon Musk believes that green energy is the way forward. He believes that all cars in the world should be electric – never mind that the places where some of those cars have been recharged from have used electricity produced from burning coal. The foundational concept is that the more electric cars there are on our roads, the more we can reduce global warming by encouraging production of green energy, and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to enhance a cleaner environment.
Despite the fact that he would have made more money selling more cars on the other side of the bar, he continues to stick to the Tesla belief. He has found his clientele who share in the core beliefs. Tesla still sells thousands of cars every year, and are foreseen to be one of the most powerful companies in future.
It is companies like these that have made the US make a shift to producing and encouraging green energy production, and discouraging further exploits in coal burning.
4) Build a relationship
Companies, just like human beings, thrive on well anchored and brewed relationships. Long-lasting relationships take ages to build. However, as you build on the relationships your credibility sours.
Relationships are about trust. Nothing markets you better than a satisfied client. They will vouch for you for as long as you always keep your word.
Good communicator, amazing listener, extremely reliable and trustworthy.
These among others are core virtues of a good person which make relationships with other people possible. The compass doesn’t change from this to anything else in business. The rules are the same.
These too are the core virtues businesses and clients need to build each other.
When good relationships are created at work between various teams and managers the company is filled with joy and the feeling of safety. Happy employees mean happy customers. Happy customers most definitely lead to happy testimonials and reviews.
Founders need to foster good relationships within their teams at work, and out of work. For instance, how about encouraging people to leave their phones out of the conference room? Simon Sinek suggests that this will tremendously improve people communication because they are able to listen. It will consequently make the conference room a much more productive space.
5) Invoke emotion
Simon advises startups to begin aiming for the emotional side of clients. When you are trying to win a lead, it is important to invoke their emotions. If anything, most buying decisions are never because of logic, always, they follow a particular emotion.
You can invoke emotion in your PR pitches to get journalists to read and reply to your emails, or in your blog posts to get them read and shared widely. Invoking emotion is an important of storytelling.
It never stops, never ceases, and that way, the purchasing mill never stops. Emotions make the world to operate how it does. Companies inspire a following using their brand message and purpose.
Startups need to do more to influence human behavior.
About 6 years ago, if you wanted to go visit somewhere, you had to book and stay in a hotel, most of which were very expensive. Today, you do not have to worry about not being able to afford a decent hotel. Just Airbnb.
This was a real issue, and now all of a sudden before millions of people in the world organize their travel, they have to consider Airbnb. Some of them do not even check hotels anymore.
In the same breadth, about the same number of years ago, if you missed the public transport, didn’t have your car, or just needed to get somewhere without the hustle of driving, you had to go out there and fetch a taxi. Most of them charged very high rates as well. Enter Lyft, Uber, Taxify. Now millions of people just book a car at the comfort of their offices or homes, and get picked up when it arrives. The prices are pretty cheap as well.
According to Simon’s Leaders Eat Last, great leaders have to inspire action by influencing human behavior through emotion in order to transform the world.
6) Define your client
Who is the most likely person to buy your product. In tandem with the Start with Why mantra, founders and entrepreneurs have to understand why clients buy their products.
You have to know who your client is in order to understand the internal motivation that happens just before they buy your product or subscribe to what you are offering.
By defining your client, what they need, how they feel before and after the purchase, their pain points, budget constraints, among other definitions, you will understand why they take the decisions they take.
Understanding your client and being able to list their preferences, challenges and beliefs helps you to strategically position your marketing story at the point when they need to hear or see it.
As you refine the message, your branding takes shape and hits home to a big extent whether you’re publishing online, in the media or via emails because it is catered to meet the ideal client.
7) Be patient
At Pressfarm, we have worked with startups every day and understand what the lack of patience can cause to a marketing or PR campaign. Many are the times we have received impracticable timelines from clients when it comes to press releases, story angles for email pitches, and just getting the media to publish stories. And we understand that sometimes there is no time. Most of the time we are able to pull something off for our esteemed customers. However, sometimes that hurry doesn’t help.
The advice for startups from Sinek is that you have to understand the sense of fulfillment is not like a scavenger hunt. Great PR and marketing campaigns take time, but you must work hard every day to ensure all the little pieces of the puzzle fall into place at some point.
Success is a matter of patience just as it is a matter of hard work. Everything is a journey. It takes time to find your ideal customer, takes time to close the deal, takes time to get 10 more of the same deals or better.
Startups are continually burning through investor cash today in order to scale and become bigger in the hopes that they can make money when they are bigger, then maybe launch an IPO after a couple of years. While this has worked for a few companies today and sometimes there are logical reasons to it, the principle of patience is lost in the chase for fast gains. It is also not achievable for millions of startups.
8) Outdo yourself
As Simon describes this, it is a case of finite vs infinite marketing.
One of the things that made Apple so popular is how they defined and described their products.
“This phone has the best camera we have ever had on an iPhone”
“Our iMac Pro is the most powerful computer we have ever built”
“The speed and performance of this MacBook is 60% faster than our last one”
“The battery of our latest MacBook recharges faster than any other MacBook we have built”
“This is the thinnest iPhone; 25% thinner and lighter than the last one”
Notice anything familiar?
Apple’s goal has always been to outdo themselves. Their only competition is their previous achieved target.
They do not try to compare themselves to any other company making phones, laptops and desktop computers. They are in their own game, going at their own pace.
This has always resonated with their loyal following. To Apple, it is not a matter of whether yours is better than ours, or the vice versa, it is a matter of ours being better than our previous one.
Startups can borrow so much from this especially in a world where every field has fierce competition.
As founders, you have to accept that sometimes you will be ahead, sometimes you be behind. But as Simon puts it, “the goal is not to be the best every day or to out-do your competition; the goal is to be better than yourself.”
Comparing yourself to the competition is finite in the sense that it has limiting factors. You will never know if you could make a better software than your competition. If that competition is the benchmark of what you design and build, then your perspective will always be limited in their scope. You will always be behind. If the competition is a bigger company, you will definitely kill yourself trying to compete. If that reflects in your marketing copy, then your customers will think the competition is better, and will probably move to that other company you keep comparing yourself to.
How can we make our product better today than it was yesterday?
How can we improve our customer service and communication to be better than it was yesterday?
How can we make our platform faster to process 50% more queries than it does today?
Such are the kind of questions startups need to focus on. When it reflects in your PR and marketing strategy, the levels of confidence will be inviting for your prospective users.
When you are your own competition you will find joy in your own advancement.
9) Make the Right Decisions
If you understand your why, you will know when to apply a filter for all the distracting non-important decisions seeking your attention.
Additionally, knowing your why will steer your company towards the right direction allowing you to comfortably say No to some features, clients, or investors because it doesn’t match with your startup’s vision and purpose.
Simon Sinek’s lessons apply to so many companies today. From new ventures to large companies, the benefits from his lessons can be seen through their application of real life examples. Hopefully, your future venture or current startup can begin to utilize these strategies in their PR and marketing campaigns.