Every Good Start-up Starts With A Plan

Posted on Jan 17, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Start-ups are exciting things.  A brilliant new idea taking shape, moving from the drawing board to developing the product, creating a plan for execution and then watching customers find value in what you have created.  It takes a great deal of hard work and determination, but having the vision to create something new and the resolve to make it a reality is an amazing accomplishment.

My first experience with a start-up came in Paris, working for a new division of Peoplesoft and a consortium of 3 large French banks.  It was our challenge to create MarketPay, a settlement system for the banks’ new e-commerce marketplace.  We were given just under 6 months to complete the job.  What started with just a sheet of paper filled with a high-level vision of the product was built out to detail the business requirements and a product design. From there, we negotiated and won funding and then built the dream team that would deliver the product on time and under budget.

Like many start-ups, before we could execute any part of the product, we had to come up with a plan.  We started with questions like “What should it do, and how can we make it do that?”  “What skills do we need?”  Eventually, as the launch date grew closer, the realities of bringing a product to market entered our task list, and we had to plan for everything we would need to have in place before we delivered anything to our first customer.  Product documentation, a support plan and launch plan, provisioning and training; there was no step by step guide we could turn to.  We had to trust our instincts and plan for anything we could foresee happening after the launch.

Today, I am so lucky today to be able to work with emerging companies who are creating amazing new products.  When I have the opportunity to get involved with these companies before the product launch, we make it a priority to begin prepping for customer interaction as early as possible.  I generally recommend establishing customer engagement capabilities about 6-8 weeks prior to a launch to help the company prepare to delight and anticipate the needs of their customers with a plan that will be sustainable.

Developing this engagement plan includes:

  • Establishing a contact management system (like Zendesk or Desk.com) and working out a basic plan for support to know what will happen when customers need or want to contact them.
  • Building an initial set of knowledge articles based on the types of questions customers might have, and make the content available for self-help.
  • Setting up a customer portal, the section of the website where customers can find answers for themselves and learn best practices for quickly finding value from their purchases.
  • Deciding how you wish to be contacted – whether by phone, email, through a form on the website, live chat, Twitter, etc.
  • Deciding how to build a community from your customer base.  Through customer forums or social media, this can be an incredibly valuable asset to learn how customers use your products and allow the company to address issues in real time.

Finally, if time allows, we work on what can be done to optimize the customer experience from a product perspective.  The least expensive time to fix an issue is before the product is in a customer’s hands and costing them money.  The more needs you can anticipate and problems you can find and repair before the product launches, the better, so we test the product and then test it again.

Creating a plan for a start-up means you are taking into consideration everything your customer will need from you, and that will put you one giant leap ahead.  I hope these tips will be useful as you launch your own MarketPay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *