Tactics vs strategy

In startup land the tactics we employ are far more important than our total business strategy. They are more important for one simple reason:

Tactics are short term. Strategy is long term.

Our goal as entrepreneurs in the short term is to get to the long term. To think, to invent, to create to build and ultimately to survive. If we survive long enough our we’ll be able to test our strategy in market.

Strategy is the domain of large companies who have revenue and time. In the world of the startup we must be tactically superior to get a chance to play in market. Often the tactics are not as the strategy intends. But unless we progress and gain momentum. The ultimate strategy will never see it’s place in market.

The lesson for startups is simple. Our tactics give us a chance at being straetgic in the long run.

Know what to do

I was thinking about my business rentoid.com and why I believe we, the rentoid team can succeed making this business something incredibly valuable for all our people. (I’ll do my next blog entry on those two important words, valuable & people).

These are the 4 reasons:

  1. Our concept has been validated in market.
  2. We know what to do.
  3. We know how to do it.
  4. We are are actually doing it – right now.

If you have these 4 factors working in your favour, then success is inevitable. Of course all of these elements need some explaining.

1. Our concept has been validated in market.

Firstly let’s look at the last two words in this sentence – in market. This means we have launched, we are live, we have customers, and revenue. We have gone beyond the idea (the easy part), and launched something which makes the original business launch plan a historical & irrelevant document. Concept validation – this has occurred when people are buying what we sell as well as any positive coverage we have. Coverage includes  people and media talking about what we are doing for other people, the people who buy from us, not us. Basically – the business has potential and isn’t a stupid whim.

2. We know what to do.

We’ve been doing what we do, selling what we sell long enough to know the crappy parts of our business. We know what we must improve to make our semi-broken, yet still alive startup get better. We’ve been around long enough to have feedback from the market which gives us a good indication of how to improve our ‘thing’. Until this point innovation, location, good people and lots of saying sorry has kept us alive. But time has nearly run out, and we’ve learned what must be done to grow and eventually thrive.

3. We know how to do it.

Not only do we understand the above conceptually, but we actually know how to make this stuff happen. We’ve gone beyond ideas for improvement like – make the website more usable, reduce the price of the widget, create national brand awareness or increase distribution, and actually have an executable plan in place. A plan which isn’t a pipe dream, but an achievable reality. A reality in which we have the team, the skills, the financial resources and the time needed to bring our improved offer to market.

4. We are actually doing it – right now.

The plans have been put down as discussed in parts 2 and 3. In fact we won’t even look at them again. They are now ‘historical documents’. Instead we are fully engaged in implementing what we have agreed is the correct strategy. They are live projects the team is actively engaged in on a daily basis which will fundamentally change the marketing mix of our business. The projects have budgets and deadlines and we will not rest until they have been completed. Only then will we go back to part 2, 3 and 4 again.

When we do this – we are on the path to success.

(Which by the way we should define as follows: Success = the progressive realization of a worthwhile ideal. )


Zero Cost Advertising & Social Media

I’ve blogged before many times about how to generate brand awareness with limited or zero budget. The list of tools available is pretty long actually. No need to list them here – you know what they are. But to use them effectively takes two important ingredients:

Ingredient No 1: Frequency
If we think are are going to start a brand blog, a youtube channel, twitter account and all our communication problems will be solved over night, then we have really not understood what has happened with social media. If I was to summarize it it succinctly. I’d say – we’ve gone from a ‘produced’ world to an ‘organic’ world. The produced world took large capital investments. The organic world is free, but not everything grows, and those that do take time. It’s a lot like nature, free but time & frequency of events is the asset.

The more often we return to our crop and nurture it, the healthier the return we’ll get. Occasionally something will just click. We only have to do something ‘once’ and it will grow astoundingly with little input other than the raw ingredients. The market will take get hold of the communication and we’ll crack it – it’ll go viral. This is the anomaly – it happens so rarely, that we know about it every time. Best advice is to assume it wont happen to us.

Ingredient No 2: Patience
We don’t have to buy the communication asset. They’re here, we have been given them, but we have to work them. We need to allow time for our compound effort to accumulate. Be patient and trust that our continual effort and focus on frequency, will work in the long run.

Patience has something on its side that the old media world didn’t – digital foot prints. Our stuff stays on line forever. So when a passionate web surfer finds one of our things they like – they can do a back catalog on our stuff. This is when things can work, even months after launch date. A TV ad on the other hand has one shot at the eyeballs. If it’s missed by the target market, it’s all too late.

No doubt, we need to build great stuff for people to care, but in the new world of zero cost communications, Startups can can get it wrong and learn as we go.


In order of preference

Face to face chat with single perosn who can make decision
Live internet video chat (skype / ustream et al)
Phone call
Internet chat (IM style)
Direct tweet
Text message

(Pic by Christian Gates)

So is this for Customers, Suppliers, Investors or Media?

All of them – they are all people.


World of Venn

While we are bootstrapping our startups, it’s worth bootstrapping our lives simultaneously. We should be building projects with overlaps, to the extent that we end up living in a ‘World of Venn’. For the ‘un-nerds’ who can’t quite remember the Venn diagram, here’s a simple explanation:

Venn Diagram:
n.   A diagram using circles to represent sets, with the position and overlap of the circles indicating the relationships between the sets.

[After John Venn (1834-1923), British logician.]

The reason for doing this is simple. By living in a ‘World of Venn’, we are building intellectual assets which have synergy. Assets which are connected metaphysically. Constructs with similar ideals which can be shared, borrowed or stolen. The people in these worlds often overlap too. They’re often interested in learning about and helping in other areas of our Venn worlds. And importantly when one set dies or withers, it has an overlapping intersection on which we can refocus our efforts without having to start from the beginning.

Here’s a sample of parts of my world and the Venn relationships.


As you can see my worlds overlap and all build revenue streams.
–    Ideas and experiences from rentoid.com, give me great writing fodder and intellectual stimulation for this blog you are reading right now.
–    Startup blog has lead to more professional business writing I do for magazines and journals
–    My academic career at Melbourne University has lead to more Business writing and an upcoming book on marketing & investing.

The point is – they all feed each other, build on one another and leverage my personal areas of expertise.

Each success in one section adds credibility and strength to an overlapping area. The more overlaps we have, the larger our sweet spot becomes. When we have a great number of overlaps, life gets sweeter and the rewards are greater. This is why ‘work life balance’ is simply a hoax. Work is a large part of our life and should be joyous. To try and find time for things outside of work we actually ‘enjoy’, means we’ve got our life wrong. Once we live in a world of Venn our personal and financial growth is inevitable.

Venn is Zen. How Venn is your life?