Starting a company or an online business is pretty tough. When you compare the number of successful entrepreneurs with the number of entrepreneurs who have failed, things may appear rather dismal. But the stats don’t matter for you. Because the ones who have succeeded are the ones who have beaten the stats. And if they can, why can’t you?
All you need is to be prepared. Starting a company, an online business or even a blog/website means you have to be able to
- Get more things done in lesser time
- Stay ahead of the curve by knowing the trend and/or your consumers
- Do things more smartly
Here in this post, I will show you and analyse certain case studies as to how successful entrepreneurs used tech to manage, and more importantly, TO GROW their business.
And at the end of this article, there will be certain takeaways that are extremely actionable and you can use effortlessly to expand your business several folds.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in to –
Actionable ways to grow your Start-up using Technology
Say, you have started a small company. Obviously, you need talented and hardworking individuals to work for you. While hiring, you may find skilled workers to work for you under a small budget. However, what’s difficult is retaining them, as found out by Kritika, who leads the marketing efforts at Mettl (a company which provides talent assessments), when they lost 2 key developers just because they worked in a different coding environment.
And this was when they decided to bring in technology. They built a program called “coding and case study simulators” for which they themselves were the first customers. This Simulator based assessments helped in:
- Measuring performance of the coders in real-time work environment
- Checking how a person approaches a problem without the constraints of writing on a plain paper (simulated environments provide some predefined familiar constructs that make coding faster)
- Providing the right tools to the developers to reduce the gap in performance in the test vs performance on the job (avoid unnecessary surprises for your company).
And since introducing that simulator based assessments, Mettl succeeded in getting a very good number of customers that year!
However, Mettl isn’t the only startup that used simulator based assessments to hire and retain quality employees. Philadelphia based fast food chain start-up Honeygrow used similar simulator based “training” that uses Virtual Reality technology to elevate the recruitment, onboarding, and training for their employees and team members. Using VR, Honeygrow’s training differentiates itself from the traditional textbook teaching method used by other restaurants and retailers by allowing their content to be both immersive and inventive.
And how is Honeygrow doing now?
Well, the Philadelphia based startup has now expanded itself to New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Washington, DC, Boston, and Chicago.
The Take in from here: Actual performance can vary a lot from a test-performance. Simulator based training and assessments can therefore highly improve the chances of picking great employees from the pool of CVs that don’t count much in actual world performance.
Moving on to the next part, I will show you how imperative it is to stay ahead of the curve.
Kean Graham, the CEO of MonetizeMore which is a leading ad tech firm can be cited as a perfect example of a company that made huge profit by staying ahead of other competitors.
Doubleclick had built a piece of technology called DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) which was later bought by Google. DFP allowed publishers to compete many ad revenue sources like Google AdSense against each other within the same banner ad impression. This changed the face of the ad optimization industry which was virtually non-existent before. Kean realized this opportunity back in 2010 and created MonetizeMore around this technology which is now the most popular ad server for publishers in the world. Over the years Kean succeeded to brand MonetizeMore as authorities in ad optimization of DFP to increase the ad revenues for each banner ad impression. They have built technology around DFP to compliment it and make DFP easier to use and more powerful.
And if one example wasn’t enough we got more!
Sarim, who was the Product Manager at Caspy, a 3 person AI startup based in Waterloo, Canada realised that getting alpha users for their pre-launch app was proving to be an uphill battle. To get the required publicity, they realised that they needed the help of the press.
But how would they do that?
As I said before; by using tech to stay ahead of the curve.
They created an AI that tells you if you sound more like Hillary or Trump on Twitter, by using Hillary and Trump’s tweets, speeches and emails to train the AI. Needless to say, it generated thousands of hits; their targeted users signed up for their core apps and they even got featured in publications like Business Insider.
Barbara Criswell, owner of a Kansas City new age books and gifts store uses Womply, a software and data platform built for small businesses to analyze spending in her local market and geo-target promotions to zip codes with higher disposable income.
Kayla works with pet food start-up Ollie, which is making serious waves in its category with its all-natural, human-grade meals that are delivered right to dog owners’ doorsteps. Competing in a $25 billion and growing pet food market can prove seriously tough for any startup and can lead to failure. But not for Ollie.
Ollie founders – Alex Douzet, Gabby Some and Randy Jimenez realised that the pet food market is plagued with issues of massive recalls, poor ingredients and lack of transparency. This made them realise that they had a massive opportunity to grow. Using technology as well as consumer data to stay ahead of their competitors by constantly updating its formulas and ensuring that every member’s pet is always getting the exact right portion, ingredients and food for him/her paved the way for Ollie’s rise.
So what’s the take in from here: Technology can be easily harnessed to understand and increase your revenues/business by capitalising on the trends that are present. The above examples serve enough proof that whatever your business/startup may be based on, understanding the present trend is of utmost importance!
Coming up on the next part, we look at the importance of saving time and increasing productivity by doing things the smart way and not the hard way.
Doing things smart; increasing productivity and saving time
Technology—when it comes down to it—is either a tool or a distraction. And making that distinction is surprisingly hard. In a startup, seconds count, so the time you spend using the latest app or chat service has to mean something.
Xcel Brands, Inc. which is an NYC based retail company founded in 2011 may serve to be one of the best examples in this regard. Xcel Brands, Inc. which is an NYC based retail company founded in 2011 may serve to be one of the best examples in this regard. It is one of the few retailers that are thriving in a challenging environment, achieving $700M in sales and taking a data-driven, technology-minded approach to fashion and their business model.
Here is how Xcel Brands use technology to achieve high profits and reduce their production times:
- Taking an analytics-centric approach: Data science is a key part of Xcel’s success. It uses data analytics and social listening tools to identify trends and learn more about consumer preferences and deliver what consumers want, when they want it, instead of using traditional fashion buying methods. Xcel is able to see when certain items are trending up in searches (e.g. bomber jackets) and with its lean supply chain, can capitalize on that knowledge will searches are still high
- Using 3D renderings with manufacturers and suppliers overseas to speed up production times: Xcel uses 3D renderings to display fashion pieces and communicate design and construction details. This lets them make decisions more quickly and move products faster.
- Significantly reducing production times: Xcel produces goods in 4-6 weeks compared to the industry average of 6-9 months, and its use of real-time data and technology has helped improve speed
Kelly worked at an internet retail firm that kept 6 full-time designers and 3 marketing team members on staff, is especially fond of the technology that enables us to drastically reduce our staffing requirements, both full-time and freelance.
She used MailChimp, to easily integrate an email form that allows direct sign ups from their website saving them countless hours of developer time and enabling them to keep just a single individual to manage their email marketing efforts. Also using web based design solutions such as Canva, they were able to quickly create email designs and banners using nothing more than a few mouse clicks, thanks to their ingenious drag-and-drop software.
And here’s the result she achieves through all this in her own words-
All told, we are saving several hundred thousand dollars a year running our email marketing program thanks to the innovative small business technology that has emerged in recent years.
Another important way by which you can greatly increase the productivity of your employees is by moving to the Cloud.
- Cloud tools can create a streamlined process for collaboration among team members.
- In addition, you can retrieve your files from any location as long as you have an Internet connection.
- Another important thing to keep in mind is that the cloud will still be there in the event of a disaster, whereas your physical location might be destroyed. While data backup has always been around, the cloud makes it a lot simpler to actually execute your backup process.
- Also, when you move to the cloud, you no longer have to worry about IT issues. Responsibilities like system maintenance and security patching are passed on to the outside party who is managing the data center.
- Another point on security – most companies greatly improve their overall security by switching to the cloud because a lot of providers have infrastructure experts and security professionals on their team.
You can utilise the power of the cloud by apps like Dropbox, Google Drive and more. Marina Shumaieva, CTO & Co-founder at CruiseBe.com uses Dropbox among other apps to increase the productivity of her startup which is a unified travel platform for B2C and SaaS B2B solution that helps travellers to plan their cruise vacation in one place.
Using chatbots is another great way by which entrepreneurs can use technology to increase their productivity and get more done with a lesser staff and in less time.
A big topic today in mobile and digital marketing is conversational commerce, or the use of chatbots to engage with human users to generate sales through conversation. This use of chatbots is a huge step for both big companies and startups because it provides each with the ability to utilize contextualized data to interact with potential customers on a one-on-one basis while only dedicating a fraction of the time and capital that it would take to receive the same returns as human-to-human interaction. Mahi de Silva, CEO of Botworx reports that chatbots are an integral part of their company’s growth.
Use Apps to Increase Your Productivity
However, if you as an entrepreneur are looking to get more productive, these apps like Asana, Evernote, Productivity Challenge Timer and Focus@Will also serve as powerful helping hands to make you a productivity monster! But if you have a procrastination problem, then check out this infographic on Apps to Stop Procrastination.
Take in from here: It doesn’t matter what your niche is. Time is money. And there are several technologies available for you to make your startup more productive.
Make Social Media Your Friend
Social media can make or break your business. The more you actively use social media to brand your startup, the more you attract potential clients. It also lets you develop connections with the top dogs in your niche, which is a vital part of most businesses.
And for that part, that is developing connections I would recommend you heavily invest your time in LinkedIn and Twitter. These are the most important social medias for businesses and start-ups. According to Richard, who is the Managing Partner of LightRock Consulting, LinkedIn gives you all the necessary tools to convert cold connections into warm ones as it can unravel unknown linkages between you and that associate of yours.
As for twitter, it is one of the must use social medias for all start-ups. I would advise you use Crowdfire, which saves you a lot of time and enables you to increase your followers quite fast.
Take from here: Using Social Media can be extremely beneficial for your startup.
Wrapping it up, How can You use Tech to Grow your Startup?
- Use simulator based assessments and training for your employees.
- Research for technology related to your niche; finding and utilizing those stuff can make a huge difference between you and your competitors.
- Understand the trend and your consumers and then use tech related to your startup’s niche to get whopping growth!
- Use technology listed above for making your startup more productive.
- Use social media for your startup every day positively.
If you follow this article to the letter, you are sure to see a big bump in your sales and profits rather soon!
Now, it’s your turn. Share below, in the comments how you are going to use technology to grow your startup.