Start-up to upstart: four moves to launching a marketing technology company

The last three to four years have been a period of extreme contrast for any entrepreneur. On one hand, we suffered the worst recession since the 1920s; on the other hand, the complete transformation of how consumers engage with brands has created an unprecedented series of business opportunities.

Social Media alone has created its own economy with a host of tools designed to understand and apply learning from a consumer’s social interaction with brands. Software-as-a-service is becoming the standard, replacing traditional server-side technologies.

There are four crucial moves that every innovator must make to succeed in this new economic and technological landscape.

You better have a vision (hopefully the right one) and never give up. Chances are you will be early to market with your technology and people less visionary than you will constantly challenge your ideas. If you don’t feel passionate about your vision, then your technology and team will crumble in the face of early opponents.

Don’t confuse vision with stubbornness. While you cannot let others convince you that you are wrong, you do still need to listen, especially to your customers, because they will help you leverage your key strength as a small company: nimbleness. Unlike the established and larger competitors you are trying to displace — you can adapt quickly. Don’t underestimate the power of this resolution, especially when selling to larger clients who deal with larger vendors. Your agility can make up for a large client’s inefficiencies and make you shine if your competition is creating bureaucratic red tape.

Build a good team and surround yourself with “believers” or at least folks who can be easily converted. The energy that you need from a common vision and cohesive team is critical. If someone isn’t on board then get them off the boat and fast. You must be strict about this, especially during the early stages, when your whole team will need to help preach your new religion.

Be a maniac about profitability and fiscal discipline.  Be tough or be gone!  While you clearly cannot ignore longer term strategic requirements, always remember that you will not be here long-term unless each day (including weekends) you ask yourself and the rest of your team two critical questions: What did I sell today? Did I spend less than the number above?

If you have been sitting on that great idea, but economy fears have held you back, maybe now is the time to get up and go for it. There’s no guarantee you will succeed, but unless you try, you are guaranteed to fail.

Philip Chischportich is the CEO of Conversen, a software-as-a-service marketing technology company.

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