Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Growing your startup is a challenge. According to 2022 statistics, only 10% of fledgling companies succeed.
Given the fierce competition, that’s hardly surprising. As a startup founder, you know that there are a million things to tick off on your to-do list, and a deluge of advice you’re supposed to follow.
So what should your priorities be? How can you stay ahead of the curve?
Here are five straightforward tools and no-nonsense strategies to actually help your startup thrive.
1. Hire the right team
First off, it’s crucial to assemble the right team. Having a dynamic, dedicated and inspiring group behind your vision is essential for any startup.
So, how do you recruit the best candidates?
First, you must adjust your hiring to the field’s unique challenges. Since many startups thrive in emerging industries and up-and-coming sectors, there’s often a lack of people who come with prior experience. Instead, look out for transferable skills that match your startup’s needs.
Another element to keep in mind is DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion. This can be challenging, especially if your candidate roster is already small. However, having a diverse team contribute different perspectives can provide invaluable inspiration and further your vision.
And talking about vision and inspiration — make this part of your employer brand. Make your mission central to who you are as a startup to draw in highly motivated talent.
2. Select the right productivity tools
As a next step, identify the business tools that best suit your startup’s needs and will help you supercharge your productivity.
Is your team remote? Hybrid? Or on-site? How many people are you coordinating? How many projects do you work on simultaneously? What’s your current and projected client base?
These are all questions that let you winnow down the numerous productivity tools on the market to those that fit your priorities.
In general, you will need a business communication suite for internal and external communication, a project management tool and a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Business communication suites help you centralize all your internal and external communications. Many modern providers offer UCaaS – Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) that combines voice and video calls, messaging, live chat, email and even fax. These platforms also come with handy tools, and AI features like automatic call transcripts and meeting summaries.
A solid project management tool allows you to keep track of your team, their tasks and deadlines — and of the progress of the overall work. These tools let you define goals, clarify timelines and dependencies, and measure efficiency and success.
CRMs, finally, let you store all possible snippets of information about a customer in their profile – from their interactions with your brand on social media to any support they needed with your products.
Heads up: When comparing tools, make sure to project ahead. Make easy scalability a key criterion during the selection process.
3. Focus on the customer
During the early stages of growing your startup, customer acquisition and retention ought to be at the center of your strategy.
Once you’ve assembled your core team and settled on the right tools to effectively harness for your workflows, focus on the customer. What are their priorities and pain points? How can you meet their needs and ensure maximum satisfaction? What are the most efficient ways to communicate with them?
At an early stage, implement metrics for customer satisfaction and avenues for them to provide feedback. At this point, every customer interaction is a crucial learning experience. If someone is happy, find out why. If they’re not, pinpoint the issues that cause dissatisfaction and address them. Then, integrate the lessons learned into your workflows to optimize your processes. Get testimonials wherever you can.
For instance, you can harness the survey capabilities of your CRM to create a feedback form to gather information from new customers or those who have stopped using your products or services.
4. Leverage Guerilla Marketing
In the early days of your startup, your marketing budget will likely be limited. Instead of wasting resources on broad marketing campaigns that deliver limited success, focus on highly targeted guerilla marketing.
Leverage bespoke, guerilla marketing tactics to reach your target audience directly. Channeling your outreach resources into this strategy will achieve more significant short-term results and will help you build a solid core audience for your brand.
Depending on your products and services, you can opt for offline campaigns (think murals, stickers, or old-school billboards with a twist), or online panache (let us remember Deadpool’s Tinder profile).
5. Nurture partnerships and investors
Finally, the key to growing a successful startup is nurturing relationships with partners and investors. Funding and collaborations will provide your startup with the support, resources and industry connections it needs to thrive.
Prepare the necessary pitch materials, and then make a concerted effort to pinpoint opportunities to network and meet the right people.
Depending on your niche, this could be virtual events, in-person industry conferences, or niche-specific online spaces. For example, if your startup is in the climate tech sector, you can check out events such as VivaTech in Paris, the London Climate Technology Show, or Verge 23 in San Jose.
Growing a successful startup remains challenging, there’s no doubt about that. By pursuing the strategies above — from putting an emphasis on hiring the right team to leveraging guerilla marketing — you’ll be able to build a strong basis for your business to help it thrive in the long run.