Startups, web shops: Marketing remains a challenge where technology is now the easy part

By Dennis Clemente

“The challenge among startups these days is no longer the technology, it’s the distribution,” said Amit Klein, founder of Startup Giraffe, who was one of three other speakers at the General Assembly talk on the Do’s and Don’ts of Outsourcing last November 11. The other panelists were Duncan Shaw, managing director of Mojo Tech and Ben Schippers, co-founder of Happy Fun Corp.

Klein was talking about how distribution, as part of marketing, is the challenge and how technology, surprising as it may be for some, is the easy part to tackle. “It becomes a problem when a product is launched, but nobody uses it.”

He added, “Most startups that fail are those who can’t get people to use it. It is certainly important to have a plan then on how to get people to use your product.”

For that matter, how can customers even begin to make sense of what they want, especially when you’re looking to outsource work? Here are some tips and observations from these web and app development shops:

1. Know how to tell your startup idea as a story. Talk about the experience you want as if you’re going to be the end user.
2. Listen. Too often, shops experience customers who pay them but don’t listen.
3. Admit to limitations. A customer should know if he or she is not a developer, but still know how a site should work inside and out.
4. You don’t need a CTO as co-founder when you can hire and afford a development shop, especially if you’re outsourcing your project.
5. Know the fee structure you like. Happy Fun offers fixed rates; Mojotech charges per week/month; Startup Giraffe offers a 7-week turnaround on a fixed rate. Mojotech says its fee structure makes them conscious that “the meter is running.”
6. Provide something as basic as a sketch in a document or a wireframe.
7. The right development shop has to know its customers really well, because shops are going to hold your hand in the first 6 weeks, your “craziest” time.
8. The right customer knows what to look first in a shop first: the portfolio
9. Learn as you go along instead of having your product fully made (hint: it’s never really finished).
10. The shop should be flexible. Startup Giraffe does six iterations of wireframes
11. Bugs are a natural process in QA testing and it happens to the best web development shops.
12. Send sample sites for development shop to work on
13. Come up with a minimum value product because you can always customize later when you grow the business.

Klein has a five-man team in New York whereas Shippers admitted to having developers in both the United States and India.

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Dennis Clemente

Shuttling between New York and other US cities, Dennis writes about tech meetups when he's not too busy working as a Web Developer/Producer + UX Writer and Digital Marketer.

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