No plan, no start-up?

Having a great idea is possibly only half the job done. What then is the other half? That is where startups like you are mired in challenges, confusions and vulnerabilities that may one-day empty your pockets faster than you imagined.

Let us look at them one at a time.


This is a euphemism for all the things that seem a bit difficult to handle.

Like what is your idea all about. What constitutes the idea or the solution? What is the messaging that you need to do to get across your proposition with relevance, charm and consistency? How do you hire the right kind of people who will form the critical mass? Funding of course will be an ongoing challenge. Do you boot strap or go the full flourish well heeled start up route? What should your tonality be- kind of tone of the communication that will best position your idea, yourself and more. If Tesla is all about nifty innovations and transformation of our fundamental way of life and Snapchat is all about a new media idea that capitalises on the today’s need for social presence, what is yours?
Ask, define, chisel and arrive at the proposition and tone.


These could be many. The top three in my opinion:

Confusion 1

From the simplest one such as what exactly is the idea — how do you convey it? Borrowing from film lexicon and the famous screenwriter Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat!

Forget all that. And concentrate on writing one sentence. One line. Because if you can learn how to tell me “What is it?” better, faster, and with more creativity, you’ll keep me interested. And incidentally, by doing so before you start writing your script, you’ll makethe story better, too.”

In Hollywood parlance it’s called a logline or a one-line. And the difference between a good one and a bad one is simple. When I pick up the trades and read the logline of a spec or a pitch that’s sold and my first reaction is “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Well… That’s a good one.”

So what is your one line? That is the fundamental confusion and the earlier you sort it out the better.

Confusion 2

Who does my startup idea talk to? Whose needs can I fulfill in a compelling and differentiated manner? Definition of target audience is crucial to understanding the relevance and the speed of acceptance of the idea. All those theories of diffusion of an idea and its acceptance and the early adopters and laggards ought to flash in front of your eyes. The confusion of target definition may actually lead to wooliness on constructing the appropriate mindset for the adopter of the idea.

Confusion 3

I need to advertise; brand or no brand. That calls for some real introspection. Without brand do not even venture to advertise. Brand-obviously you know is more than just the brand name and the logo’s lettering style or the strap line. It is a host of associations that are pulled together to your idea, you and the organization. All those iron filings that get attracted to the magnet in your idea. What are they? Know them or are you confused about what your brand is? Once you have the brand in place, only then advertise. The caveat though — define your advertising goals in specifics as well as the outcomes. Not end up merely creating salience without associations. Only eye balls no eyes into the brand?


In my experience the most vulnerable area is in the realm of advertising and the now ubiquitous social media. So many brands follow the treacherous path of discounting and advertising. Both money guzzlers of the highest order. In the anxiety to seek converts and early adopters, startups especially in the ecommerce space tend to give discounts and heavily advertise, most of the times without a plan?

Possibly there is no clear definition of what advertising will deliver. Outcomes. Ask for them from your advertising agency. Not merely aspects of memorability and recall, but actions that catalyze conversion. Thus leading to stickiness. Now that queers the pitch even more. Has any agency ever told you that you need to actually advertise to promote stickiness- loyalty, repeat purchases/uses. Many are the questions you can ask in this realm.

The other culprit is social media. Ubiquity is not the only need. Outcome is the guiding principle. With a word of caution though — do not get caught in the quagmire of an assortment of metrics. Ask yourself what is that outcome which will determine the brand engagement and the action you have conceived for the social media effort. It seems to be a universal phenomenon that social media rides on the wave of generalities falling short of transparency and delivery with earnestness.

So what do you do?

  1. Plan the brand
  2. Assign priorities
  3. Define outcomes of very effort
  4. Work towards creating stickiness
  5. Ask questions that discomfort your service partners and even yourselves.

Good luck and get famous…