The space for startups is more crowded than ever. First of all, it's now international, so you have startups from every country in the world competing for your customer's attention and their business. Then there is the Internet, delivered through every media, including your smart phone, where the volume of data spewing out is like a new Library of Congress every 15 minutes.
According to a recent study done by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, there were 565,000 new businesses created per month in 2010 in the U.S. alone, which is a 15-year high. The days when you could launch your business with a new website, and the phone would begin to ring, are long gone. Even the Google search engine crawlers may take up to two weeks to find you.
So what's an entrepreneur to do to get his new business noticed these days? According to many experts, including Michael Hyatt, in his new book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, you need to build the highest platform you can, to stand out and be heard above all the rest.
Today's platform is built of people, including yourself, contacts, connections and followers, who can amplify your message through social media and spread it to your target customers. Most entrepreneurs I know are too busy creating a compelling product to give proper focus to the four phases of building a people and media platform that are equally critical for long-term success:
- Platform creation prior to launch. Make sure you have the five basic platform tools in place well before the launch -- social media profiles with a great headshot (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube), website (with blog), business cards, email signature block and an email address on your domain name. If these are not complete and consistent, your platform will always be splintered and lost in the noise.
- Building your home base with personal and product traction. Start your campaign and blog early, to get the message and vision out there (no selling), establish your value and expertise, show your commitment, and start building your home base of contacts and followers. Build a media kit, publicize endorsements from friends and beta customers, get dialogs going on Twitter, and optimize your website landing pages.
- Using the platform to expand your reach. For startups, you as the founder are the brand and the most important part of your platform. Be visible online and to traditional media, volunteer to lead, write guest posts for others, be responsive, give stuff away and provide many ways to communicate. Nurture those links into other sites, and network to the max in relevant business organizations and trade shows.
- Make your customers your platform. Engage your customers through blog comments, product reviews, and personal customer service. Soon you will find that they are re-tweeting your messages, referring their friends to your products, and becoming your biggest evangelists. Your platform is now many times taller and stronger. Your customers will now be helping you to monitor, defend, and amplify your brand.
Success today is more than ever about who you are and who you know, and the platform is all about both of these. Your product or service is the "what," and of course, that needs to have a "wow factor" to get above the noise, as well. Make sure you create products that exceed customer expectations, that you would personally use and solve real problems.
The message here is that it's necessary, but just not sufficient today to build a wow product. People are more distracted than ever, and competition has never been greater. You have to get your customer's attention. Getting noticed is not about ego or being the center of attention. It's about having something of value to others and finding the most powerful way of getting that message to those who can benefit from it.
The best entrepreneurs are stubborn, committed, and driven by their vision to produce a product with a wow factor, and to build a platform that rises above the noise. Their startups will get noticed. How about yours?