Photo: Roman Stanek
For startups, a big part of the battle is becoming visible. It’s difficult to grow when nobody knows who you are. Unfortunately, the things that can make you visible, big ideas, big promises, and being a part of a hyped trend can end up being your downfall. According to GoodData founder and CEO Roman Stanek, that’s an especially big problem for founders that move on to start a second company.
They start to focus on themselves, overrate their own experience, and spend too much time on what Stanek calls the “air wars,” on publicity and image rather than actually making something customers want. Here’s how Stanek puts it:
“The second company is harder. Most people fail at their second companies because they believe they have the magic formula. They think ‘I will only fix the problems of the first company and the second company will run like it’s on autopilot.’ But the problem is that the environment is always different.
One of the takeaways from my second company is that there’s a clear distinction between what I would call air wars and ground wars. The air wars are talking to analysts going on speaking trips and so on. The ground wars are selling stuff to your customers and solving a real problem. Every company has to do both. The air wars help to build the brand. The ground wars help you win customers. Most failed startups mix those two up. They are selling air wars to their customers, they are selling big hype and big promises and customers are not interested. From a customer’s perspective, you always look at what’s the value? What do I get today and how does it help me run my business?
We have to be strong in the air wars, we have to do PR, we have to have to seek coverage, but at the end of the day it’s a good product, it’s good salespeople, it’s the features and so on that actually win.
You have to go out there and sell your product. But its essential to remember that visibility isn’t a goal in itself. It’s a way to help customers find you. If you don’t have something that they actually need, they’re not going to stay.
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