Category Archive marketing strategy

What Matters In Business For Successful Start-Ups

What makes a successful company in a market? Is probably the single biggest question a new start-up team must be able to answer. What factors make a successful business has always been a difficult question to answer.

The answer has always depended upon who is asking the question.

Dreamers look for unicorns with unique protectable offerings, such as Intellectual Protectable rights, a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Traditional funders, such as banks want high returns with low risks and owners who will take all the risk either directly or being prepared to 100% underwrite the banks so called investment. This logical shift has its own problems. Risk reduction by definition reduces opportunity, in essence if you remove all the risk you also remove all the opportunity.


Entrepreneurs genuinely look at solving an emerging problem, the old adage is:-

“The secret of success is to find a need and fill it, to find a hurt and heal it, to find somebody with a problem and offer to help solve it.” – Robert H. Schuller

While the logical approach of bankers is to ride an existing market wave, true entrepreneurs look to create the wave. They are looking at a problem and identifying the ideal innovative solution for that problem’s resolution.

Researching Successful Businesses

So what makes a successful business model includes a whole variety of factors including the core idea, the experienced team, the market opportunity, market access, competition, scalability (the list goes on and on, depending upon who you are talking with) and what resonates with key stakeholders and target audiences.

Recently Bill Gross, CEO of Idealab decided to research this using his extensive range of business start-ups; 100 of his own, and matched by another 100, across a whole range of sectors.  His assessment started by analysing what makes successful businesses. He came across 5 key common factors and he cross-referenced those compared to businesses which have succeeded.

Bill Cross’s 5 key areas a successful business has to have include:-

  1. The Idea: defined and coherent.
  2. The Team:  skills, experience, energy and how well connected.
  3. The Business Model:  comprehensive worked through covering the business need.
  4. The Funding – access to the right amount of money to achieve its core goals.
  5. The Timing – identifying the market timing to meet target audience needs.

The research results contradicted what many thought would be the results across the 200 companies he and his team analysed, which include global names such as Airbnb, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Success in Business Relies Upon…

Timing is THE common factor in a successful business at 42%. It is the most common trait of successful company start-ups.

Team came in 2nd, with 32% and the idea only came 3rd in importance with 28%.  The business model, upon which so many advisors focus their attention was 4th at 24% and the funding came in 5th at 14%.

Ideas wrongly are not as important as timing. Timing, the driving strategic factors identified through PESTEL analysis are actually the bottomline in driving the success factor for a business.  PESTEL factors set the macro landscape a business operates and defines the timing of its launch. If the landscape is favourable then a business can succeed. I not, then even if everything else looks great then your chances are far lower, than if you get your timing right.

This shift from build and they will come, the old motto of every good idea, qualifies that statement by saying if the time is right then if you build it they will come.

Impact for Start-Up Leadership Team

Leadership teams need to focus on answering the question their target customers ask, now. Timing is offering the solution the their customers will pay for today, not waiting for it or putting with second best. If you can answer their needs when they need it. Then you are on the first rung to find success. Without good timing you are creating products and services no-one (or not enough people want). Timing is equally important for leadership teams to assess if your product / service can be accessed by the target audience.

See Bill Gross, CEO of Idealab Ted talk here:-

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Strategy the leader's role book by Richard Gourlay

Do you have a vision or are you just a dreamer?

No matter how big or small your business is without a clear vision of where you are going owners and directors often fall into the classic trap of just managing from day-to-day. A business needs great leadership, and for that they need to create a clear business vision, which will make and deliver longterm leadership success.

Envisioning the Future

Leadership is about investing time, envisioning the future and effort to see into the future and imagine how things could be, is as important for success as having real passion for the business and the determination to create something new. These three personal qualities of leaders are vital for successful companies and a vision statement, sometimes called “a picture of your company in the future”, but it’s so much more than that.

Vision Statement

Your vision statement is your inspiration, the framework for all your strategic planning. A vision statement may apply to an entire company or to a single division within that company.

The vision statement answers the question, “Where do we want to go?” What you are doing when creating a vision statement is articulating your dreams and hopes for your business. It reminds you of what you are trying to build. A vision statement is for you and the other members of your company, not just for your customers or clients.

Visionary goals should be longer term and more challenging than strategic goals. Collins and Porras describe these lofty objectives as “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals.” These goals should be challenging enough so that people nearly gasp when they learn of them and realize the effort that will be required to reach them.

Most visionary goals fall into one of the following five categories:

  1. Targeted – quantitative or qualitative goals such as Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
  2. Common enemy – focused on overtaking a specific firm, becoming the number one in that sector, such as Amazon: “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
  3. Role model – to become like another in a different industry or market, the mirror role, Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) “Right from the beginning, I said I wanted to be more famous than Persil Automatic”.
  4. Internal transformation – creating internal vision, GE set the goal of “Becoming number one or number two in every market it serves”

While visionary goals may require significant stretching to achieve, many visionary companies have succeeded in reaching them. Once such a goal is achieved, it needs to be replaced; otherwise, it is unlikely that the organization will continue to be successful. The second most dangerous place for a company is to have achieved its only goal, the most dangerous place is never to have had one.

Creating Your Business Vision

Simple steps to creating your vision, ask some simple questions:

  • What will our business look like in 3 to 5 years from now?
  • What new things do we intend to pursue and how?
  • What future customer needs do we want to satisfy?

Write the answers down and focus on developing them into a coherent, motivational and purposeful message which can connect with everyone.

Then Question:

  • Does our vision statement provide a powerful picture of what our business will look like in 3 to 5 years from now?
  • Is your vision statement a picture of your company’s future, which everyone can interpret into their role?
  • Does it clarify the business activities to pursue, the desired market position and capabilities you will need

If your statement answers these questions then you have a vision worth owning and sharing. A vision must be motivational to everyone inside an organisation.

The classic apocryphal story to demonstrate the effectiveness of great visions is about the time President Kennedy visited NASA. During one trip he came across a cleaner sweeping the warehouse floor, and asked him what his job at NASA was. The cleaner replied “My Job is to put a man on the moon, Sir.”

Now I don’t know if the story is true, but it’s inspiring. In a facility full of high-powered individuals and great minds, even the cleaner was completely on board with the strategy. While you may not be planning to put a person on the moon, we can learn a lot from the story. It may sound ridiculous, but every business needs to be a little like NASA.

Great visions can create an unstoppable company

Every organisation needs to have a clear vision, owned by everyone inside and outside it. An owned and shared vision creates and sustains great morale and internal strength for companies, which can become a powerful and unstoppable force in any market no matter how competitive.

At Cowden Consulting we focus on ensuring companies can successfully compete in their chosen or desired market.

Like to learn more then get in touch with at Cowden Consulting.


Strategy the leader's role book by Richard Gourlay

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Marketing strategy is all about content, article by Richard Gourlay, #sheffield #chesterfield,

Content Strategy: The future of marketing

The future of marketing is all about inbound marketing: Content strategy

If you can see a trend you have missed it!

In a world of continual change seeing what is happening is often difficult to understand until the paradigm shift has occurred. Many companies are struggling to stay ahead or even in the game of online marketing. Many companies are moving towards online marketing content strategy or as marketing people call it inbound marketing. This major shift in culture and one needs to be fully understood.
I have just had an old-fashioned marketing communication from a well-known brand, asking me to make an immediate purchase offering me a FREE upgrade for a new phone, my automatic response is not to be interested, at all because they have not demonstrated that they understand my specific needs. That made me thinks and write this article to explain why in today’s online world that old marketing technique is now as un-effective as a double glazing salesman offering me 50% off!

It’s a complete shift not just an add-on

In a world where everyone is online all the time, the amount of information is drowning people, from Linkedin to Facebook and Twitter the rise of smart phone connectivity has promised much change to marketing but until recently only early adopters, high value and niche players could see what it meant to the marketing process.
Like many changes, it is not until the change becomes tangible does its impact become visual to many marketing departments that enables them to successfully influence a company’s marketing policy. This is considerably harder to convey when there is no tangible evidence of marketing results attributable to hard to track invisible marketing shift. Unlike the shift to direct marketing where direct connectivity between outcome and result can be seen through a transparent return on investment, online inbound marketing is struggling to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Pace of change is outstripping understanding

Currently content marketing relies heavily upon invisible and poorly understood online activities. Simply put, the rate of change is outstripping the knowledge base of the marketing industry, creating a gap between the understandings of marketing by decision makers. The routes causes of this is that not only are customers sourcing information in newer ways but the platform they are using, the Internet indexing is also changing ever faster, Goggle will make over 600 changes to way it scores content. Rapidly changing customer preferences, coupled with changing technologies and an ever changing platform results in the lack of certainty of what is working and why. By the time you’ve worked out what works it has already changed.
Content Strategy also creates confusion.   
Content strategy marketing process, one that now focuses on creating online and open platform engagement, online PULL; rather than internally controlled PUSH marketing methods, traditional marketers often struggle to understand the process let alone feel uncomfortable with the concept. This is not unreasonable, given the history of marketing in the last 50 years has always focused on the traditional pipeline of generating and then controlling customer decision-making, content marketing turns that on its head. People investing in inbound marketing are asked to spend money on losing control of the potential customer by letting them make an open decision about how and when they engage with your brand.
In the mid 1990’s I remember designing a website to support a brand. No one was interested until it was live and people could see something online. A director then said, “That’s great let’s print it off and send it to all our customers”    
Dialogue NOT monologue
The inbound marketing process is about generating an open dialogue, rather than a structured marketing process. It lets potentials, prospects and suspects move in and out of your control while they select you, rather than being controlled by you.
The Content Strategy Process
  1. Listening – Online is now the first port of call for 78% of web users.
  2. Creating – Great content that answers need and demonstrates expertise.
  3. Engaging – Is about being talked about and developing a dialogue with audiences
  4. Transforming – Is about continual engagement, moving them from suspects to purchasers
  5. Growing – Requires creating perpetual momentum developing new and developing loyalty
Traditional marketing models of developing engagement such as AIDA are still highly valid but instead of just focusing on a immediate winning proposition through a grabbing hook, attach a liner and sink them in a simple linear model for winning customers. Content strategy marketing demands  multiple engagement tools which include cross referencing other parties creating competitive collaborative working to generate awareness, giving away FREE content in white papers coupled with fast and slow acquisition tools in decision making.
The strategy needs to be explained better
Moving to a content strategy is about moving from PUSH to PULL, not about the Internet platform, it is about understanding the importance of open unrestricted dialogue rather than material generation and in reality it is not just about the Internet although this is where its impact is being seen today, but equally will encompass every marketing platform and process. The growth of mobile technology will further the pace and realisation of content strategy.

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