When it comes to successful startups, it would be hard to beat Uber. The startup took two problems that are virtually universal--the need for quick cash, and the need to get a ride when you need one--and solved both of them in one fell swoop.

So how do you take your business idea and turn it into the next Uber?

Know the problem you’re solving

All successful marketing proceeds from the idea that the customer has a problem, and your product will solve it.

It follows that, in order to successfully market your product, you need to be able to clearly articulate what the problem is that you’re solving. For Uber, that problem was two fold: there is an established base of people who need to make some extra money, and there are a lot of people who get frustrated with how long it can take to hail a cab, assuming they live somewhere where there’s even a reliable cab company.

Because it so clearly knows its problems, Uber’s front line marketing is very simple. For riders? “Your ride, on demand.” For drivers? “Your car, your schedule, your move.”

Save the long story about how the idea came to you for dinner parties and award acceptance speeches. Your marketing is about your customer.

Build an "on demand" technology for your own business idea

The success of Uber lies in the fact that the company brought 'on demand' technology to an industry where it was so much needed. At my own startup QuotaDeck, we have created an ‘on demand’ platform that brings inbound leads through warm introductions to business-to-business companies.

Like Uber, we leverage another underutilized asset. We chose one that we all have, a personal network. It is one of our most valuable resources and we’ve built algorithms and logic to find matches between our customer’s introduction requests and our users networks. Only double opt-in introductions are allowed, so only if both parties are interested in talking, can they be introduced through the platform. But what everyone loves, is how ‘on demand’ this is. They simply create a profile, submit a request regarding the demographics of companies and people they want to be introduced to, and put in a credit card. Then interested and qualified inbound leads (warm intros) start to flow.

This ‘on demand’ model can be replicated to every single local business idea, be it landscaping, car servicing, cleaning or moving.

Rohan Gilkes, the founder and CEO of Launch 27, an online booking platform that provides the technology for on-demand local business, points out that the success of Uber is in its technology. "There is nothing innovative in running a taxi business. But making it on-demand for customers is innovation. This is a disruptive model that will become mainstream across multiple industries like maid service and lawn care over the next few years as millennials demand more simple online booking and instant scheduling", he says.

Build loyalty

One of the small details that experts such as James Monsees mention when they talk about Uber is the way the company created a loyal customer base. With small, almost insignificant amenities like offering water and candies during a customer’s ride, Uber’s customers suddenly wondered why taxi companies were able to get away with offering so little when they charged so much.

When you look to build customer loyalty, you need to consider:

What makes your customer feel appreciated

What is their preferred reward method

Is there room for offering choice in how the customer is rewarded

What behaviors do you want to reward

Some companies only seem to reward customers that get angry, shout, abuse the staff, and make a nuisance of themselves. Those companies will eventually find that these are the only people with whom they are doing business.

Just like with children, businesses need to reward the behaviors that they want to see in their customers. This may mean that each visit ends with a small discount on their next purchase, or that they receive special benefits for signing up for a newsletter or following the company on social media.

With Uber, the company wanted to position itself as a luxury brand for less. Small details such as bottles of water were an inexpensive way to convey to customers that their experience mattered to the company. Especially when compared to the stereotypical experience in the back of a cab, these tiny offerings meant quite a lot to customers.

Ultimately, trying to be the next Uber is impossible; modeling your company piece by piece after another company will never bring you the same success. What is incredibly valuable, however, is studying other businesses to see what they have done right, and considering what lessons those businesses can bring to your own.

Uber shows the current market that customers want things on their terms, at a price they feel is affordable, and with a presentation that makes the customer feel important. If your business can harness these trends, you’ll be well on your way to success.

What do you see as the greatest success of Uber?

Published on: Sep 23, 2015