I'm starting to get a little overwhelmed with startup pitches.
I've heard three in the space of 20 minutes today at the South by Southwest conference and then I went to a pitch event and heard a few more. I wandered down the hall and bumped into someone else who had a pitch. It felt like I was at a Minnesota Twins game. I asked the entrepreneur if we could walk and talk as I headed to my next panel.
In about 20 seconds, he explained what his company does. It's a Bluetooth adapter for a stethoscope. Doctors are not always perfectly aware of what heartbeats mean in patients --if a slightly erratic rhythm is cause for alarm or worth scheduling another visit. The adapter connects to a phone or tablet and shows exactly what's going on.
Bingo. I understood exactly what the pain point was and I knew exactly what the product was all about. There was something in the way he described it and the way he explained the problem and the solution in such a short time frame. It made sense. It clicked.
You know what? That's the secret. If you are starting a company and you want to actually start growing, figure out the trigger points when your idea translates into understanding, when a confused look becomes a knowing nod, when a pitch becomes a sale.
Curiously, many companies forget about this basic concept. They add layers of abstraction. They belabor the point of what the company is trying to do because, frankly, that's what they think business is supposed to be about. They believe some sort of advanced mechanism of hierarchical structure will lead to sales conversions. Nope. It's the triggers. There's something in how people think and process information. The synapses switch from casual disinterest to something that could be life-changing. It's a human instinct.
Think of the last home you purchased. It's likely you walked into it and knew within a few seconds that this was the home you wanted. Realtors have been telling us this for years, but it's true. There's a trigger. It might be a combination of factors--the smell coming from the kitchen, the trees in the backyard, the hot-tub in the basement. Yet, there is usually a point when you realize this is a property you like and you want to purchase.
My advice is to sit down right now and take out a blank sheet of paper. Write down a few ideas. What is the trigger for your product? What pushes people from interest to decision? What makes people believe what you have to offer can solve a problem? Sometimes, the product or service you offer is inherently "trigger" friendly. Sometimes, you just need good marketing. Whatever the case, you have to know how to tap into that root trigger effect and make sure it takes precedence. If you forget the trigger, the company probably won't succeed. Companies that fail are those that don't tap into triggers.
Here's one example. The app Meerkat is the talk of the South by Southwest conference in Austin this week. (There are some issues with how the app uses your Twitter followers, which we won't get into right now--Twitter has blocked access for now.) When you use it, you share a live video with people, and their profile picts show up one by one as they join. The trigger is that you realize people can experience what you are experiencing at the same time. (Ustream does roughly the same thing, but not with the same Twitter-like fluidity.)
There's a moment when you realize you can share experiences as easily as you can post a status update. Meerkat is capitalizing on this trigger. Any great company knows the trigger points. They know the moment when people just "get it" and want to become a customer. They know how to do marketing that taps into this trigger. They know how to do customer service that finds the paint point. They know the trigger that employees have when they go from being somewhat loyal to being incredibly happy. They know the trigger that forms the basis for why the company even exists.
It's not an easy process. Triggers can be obscure or even buried under the rubble of "strategic marketing" or some other vague business process or way of thinking that someone created because he or she is paid to create complex answers and thinks everything has to be formulated in a spreadsheet. Fire that person. Not everything does. Triggers are fairly simple levers. You have to ruthlessly search for the trigger points in every area of your business. Get your pitch into an easy flow that leads to a trigger point. Move your organization into one that always keeps triggers at the forefront.
Let me know if it works. Let me know if you find the triggers. When you do, let me know if things start flowing easier and the cash starts to pile up. It will.