Kickstarter's an incredible launch platform. Every day hundreds if not thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs are using crowdfunding to bring their ideas and creations forward to the world.
But a business isn't built overnight, it's not even built on a single product but rather an idea, an ideal that the company stands for. And this is the key distinction that separates sustainable success with short term profit.
An Avenue, Not an End All
This is a slightly abstract concept to consider. What's the difference between a product and a business? Companies everywhere have their so-called flagship products--the parts of the business that drive the bulk of the success, sales and profit, it's the essence of the Pareto Principle right?
But companies that last and advance, they do so due to change and innovation. For an example let's take Apple, arguably one the most successful and profitable consumer companies of recent memory. Apple advanced from computers to iPods, iPhones to iPads and a vast array of iFocused sexy, sophisticated consumer tech. This cuts to the core of business--a brand, not a product sells and succeeds in the end.
And this almost always holds true, even in less advanced, lower competition spaces. Why though--well it comes back to profit and personal desire. Humans are hardwired(at least thanks to society and modern marketing) to want the latest and greatest, never settling for old and outdated. Businesses on the other hand are built to maximize profits, performance and sustain themselves over the long haul.
Together it smells like a symbiotic success formula.
Repeat Customers = Real Business
There is nothing sweeter than the idea of repeat, dedicated customers and fans. With acquisition costs already accounted for and trust built upon past transactions, it is infinitely easier and more profitable to sell to existing customers.
So what do businesses do, what do you NEED to do?
Businesses that last build more products. They milk the money machine as long as possible while striving to add value and quality to the metaphorical cow's life.
Creating a Cash Cow
Does this farmer's financial analogy sound ugly? What if we consider the cow's(customer's) perspective.
Have you heard of iPhone addicts lining streets to get their hands on the newest, sexiest Apple inventions...I sure have. Is this cash cow complaining or cutting lines and causing stampedes to trade mere money for a long anticipated product?
Apple's positioned themselves and their perceived value so effectively that fanboys fight for the right to early access. In such a situation it's win-win, both parties benefit and feel ecstatic about the exchange...so who's our cow again?
Where Kickstarter Companies Get It Wrong
Back to our initial examination--your business, your success? What dream are you working towards?
Most crowdfunders honestly cannot say. They had an awesome product idea and unlike the majority of society actually took action - the first and most important step.
But brand and vision are equally important. Great products go nowhere without sales and marketing while branding's the basis customer support and company longevity are built on.
But what if you haven't considered the brand you're building? What if you took a chance on a product and it takes off?
Well this is entirely okay and extremely common. A minimum viable product means getting out there and testing assumptions, trying to sell...who has time for planning right?
And that's exactly what I did when first preparing Shido Stand. From an idea for a portable, minimalist bamboo laptop case that quite literally doubled as a anywhere standing desk I was sold. I'd launch a Kickstarter, crush it and then build a business...
But what exactly is the business I'm building? What happens next? I didn't quite think it all through.
I passionately pitched my product idea to any who'd listen but ignored any and all who called into question the brand or business vision. I was silly, I was stupid...we all start there.
Company Goals and Objectives
To understand and explain your company it's important to consider your goals and objectives. Is this a passion project or purely about profit? Are you looking for a lifestyle business or seeking to build the next colossal consumer brand?
All of this weighs into the how and why behind your business and the message customers, backers and fans ultimately rally behind.
And I don't know what drives you, what your aspirations and dreams(better yet goals) amount to. Whatever you decide, do it as early on as possible to avoid trapping yourself in past decisions poorly made.
The Core Mission of Your Company
We've all heard it said," if you stand for nothing you'll fall for everything" and as enlightening and thought provoking as this statement may be, I believe it's pretty pointless for startup founders.
For entrepreneurs a much more relevant truth could be easily summarized as "stand for something or accomplish anything." And this is business branding in a nutshell and the thing that sets some companies on a path to success while others spin their wheels indefinitely.
What do you stand for?
For Shido, our company mission is simple: build the best products to help mobile, digital professionals while protecting the world for adventurers everywhere. For us that means creating products that help today's modern workforce travel and work where and when they please--to free them from the office and enable a better adventure we all call life.
To do this though, some things are incredibly important. The vast majority of digital professionals, be them entrepreneurs, remote employees, freelancers, creators or the constant traveler all have one thing in common--they absolutely depend on their laptop to earn a living. Even with travel tickling their inner explorer, work quality and availability plays a pivotal role in their success and livelihood. They want and need the best to be on top of the game--hence our unwillingness to compromise on quality.
And analyzes such as these can be applied to any all businesses. Patagonia stands behind uncompromising commitments to quality and creating gear that both protects the environment, Linux lives upon entirely open-source, Apple is the best user experience for tech and Amazon offers EVERYTHING.
Your mission matters. Products play a key role in embodying your brand and fueling the company but ultimately all products are but an individual experience in the story of your startup.
So is your story a one hit wonder or series of successes greater than the sum of its parts?