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Why is my Startup growth stalling ?

I’ve been noticing a trend recently. There are a lot of Startup Founders popping up, who’ve come from other industries, rather than Technology. Fintech’s a good example. Often you get very senior professionals from Insurance or Private Equity or Banking.

The trend I’m noticing is that these guys are founding Startups without seasoned online Co-founders. Their mind set is, they can just hire in that expertise later.

So, they go into build, launch, do the obvious marketing (SEO, Paid , Natural, RTB). Then they build a App. It starts off OK but suddenly downloads stall. This is when you find the Founder, sat in his co-working space, scratching his head, trying to work out what the problem is.

I saw this last week with a Startup I went to meet & several things about their business jumped out at me.

  1. They didn’t need a native App. Why ? The Startup only offers 1 service, so there’s barely any front-end to the product. They could have got away with wrapping the HTML site & putting it in App Stores. It would have given them some learnings without hiring native developers.

  2. They’re holding something special. Their service champions a better and cheaper deal for the consumer. It’s something their competitors can’t offer. So it’s a mission Startup. But the homepage only mentions it in really small font. Instead of shouting this mission to consumers, their whispering it.

  3. The Founder missed this because he left that stuff to his developers. Developers see Product as Data Analytics & Performance Metrics. If they want to know something about the User, they look at the data. It’s not a retail mindset. An online retailer would never let their Key Selling Point get swallowed up on their landing page. That’s prime ‘sales conversion’ real estate.

  4. If they hadn’t built native they could have afforded to hire a growth hacker or a marketer, someone who would have known how special that USP was & who would have driven that message home, loud & clear, from day 1.

  5. There was an explainer video on the homepage. I almost passed out whilst operating heavy machinery, watching it. It said it was 90 seconds but it felt more like an hour. Whoever put it together didn’t know what they were doing because the voice over (meant to be a responsible, professional female) sounded like a vegan graduate who worked for a non profit while selling bags she’d knitted on Esty. Now, their product is a disruptive financial service, so you’d want to feel, listening to that video, that the voice communicated authority, trust, reliability.

  6. Their single service had 1 core sales driver – to get a quote but they’d split that over 2 pages. The quote process started on the homepage then finished on a another page. When I looked at the other page it was like an invoice. A blank boring white screen, with no branding, marketing, not even a price comparison next to the quotation. What alarmed me was they said most of their sales leads came straight to this page. Imagine, you’re a potential new customer & the first thing you see is that boring empty white page. My next comment would have been ”what’s your purchase conversion rate like on this page from those leads ?”.

  7. When I looked at their offering, I could see that if customers didn’t make a claim at the end of each year, they got 80% of their payments back. That’s cashback folks. One of the most popular marketing hooks ever but nowhere throughout their site or App did the word ‘cashback’ appear.

  8. When I searched for this incredible USP on Google, the Startup didn’t appear in the search results. So it seemed, this incredible USP wasn’t only being whispered on their website, it was officially a secret everywhere.

Finally, when I looked at the performance metrics on App Annie I noted one solitary review of the ios App. Then I noted the lack of social sharing tools on their site. Now get this, their whole Startup is about disrupting an area of financial services by harnessing your ‘social crowd’ but they have no social sharing on their site.

Now I can picture other Founders reading this & smiling sagely but in fairness to these guys, it’s easy to miss this stuff. When we work on top of something everyday we become product blind.

I will give you a good example. In 2015 I met with a Unicorn. Everyone was raving about these guys & their product. Before the meeting I did what I always do, I used the product.

In order to use the product (a remittance product) you had to pick a country you wanted to remit to. Trouble was, all the countries were listed as acronyms. So unless you worked for the United Nations, you wouldn’t have a clue what those abbreviations meant or which flag belonged to who.

Now this might not sound important but picking a country was 1 of 3 key steps to sending money & thus, these guys making money. They didn’t sell anything else, so they either got these 3 steps right or went hungry.

Now last time I checked, Tesco don’t label isles in their supermarket ‘CNC’ (i.e. Chocolate, Nuts, Crisps) because if they did, none of their customers would be able to find anything & that would result in fewer sales.

So the moral of this story is, even Unicorns get this stuff wrong.


Why not give Paul a shout on for a friendly informal chat about your business needs?