I learned the hard way that my business was actually a technology business which just happened to sell music as its content. The fact that we were focused on music was insignificant because the challenges we faced were technological and similar to sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Skype and eBay. These problems arise from servers, scalability, code optimization, search engine results, conversion ratios, decreasing ad revenues, and have nothing to do with music. If I could start over, I would start by focusing on the technology itself, build a great technical team to support it and then work the music into the equation last.
Customers never see your brand the same way you do
I started Audimated.com because I was an independent musician who needed help promoting and marketing my music. I had picked up a lot of skills and tricks along the way and wanted to build a business which would help other artists be successful in the same way that I had. The problem I ran into was that each artist defined success differently. I figured that a website which helped artists make money with their music would be appealing to artists because that is what appealed to me, but after launching the site I quickly realised that making money was not how most artists defined their success as musicians. The majority of independent artists value exposure and reaching new listeners higher than making money from their music, which was not what I expected.
The lesson? Build your branding around what your customers value, not around what you assume they value. Your business may be your “baby”, but you need to be flexible enough to make adjustments to your logo, message and branding to reflect what your customers are interested in and need. Create focus groups, distribute surveys and get a feel from your potential customers what your next big idea means to them. Make sure that your vision for the business and your brand are aligned with theirs or you will likely miss the mark entirely. You need to match what your business intends to do for its customers with what those customers believe they need.
Less is almost always more
One of the most valuable and simplest lessons I have learned as an entrepreneur is to keep it simple. Audimated.com launched with far too many features and as a result confused users and left them wondering what the site was asking them to do. I wanted users to fill out data about their musical preferences and upload music, but that feature was lost among the other 10 features users were able to access. As a result, many of our initial users experienced “decision paralysis” when being presented with so many buttons to click and options to choose from. This lead to incomplete data and many users creating accounts which didn’t have music or photos.
All the extra features caused additional support problems as well. If you offer 10 different features, that’s 10 moving parts that need to servicing and maintenance. Users will have questions about these features and they will need help using them. We didn’t have the staff to address this growing problem and our users began to get frustrated by the time it took to get a response from support. Our developers became overworked fixing the small bugs that came from the use of these features. As we began to grow it became clear that having these extra features was more of a hassle then a benefit.
Since launching, we have reduced the number of features available on the site to address this problem. We dropped things that were auxiliary and focused on the core of what our service provides: the music. A much higher percentage of our users are completing their profiles and using the services, rather than being distracted by our extra features and being confused about to what to do. Our support staff is able to quickly address issues, our engineers have less bugs to worry about and have our existing features working better, and overall customer sanctification has increased. The lesson is to do less things at a higher level than a bunch of things at an average level. Your users, staff and bottom line will thank you.
Lucas Sommer started three successful music business companies which he continues to own and operate profitably. His newest venture is Audimated.com, a game-changing site that is revolutionizing the independent music scene.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) is an invite-only nonprofit organisation comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.
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