Starting up your own entrepreneurial endeavor may be the most intimidating experience of your life — especially if you are funding your lean startup with your own money.
A lot of successful entrepreneurs liken starting a business to riding a bike. Once you get the hang of things, it’s a breeze (for the most part). But it also takes plenty of training, guidance, and support to get there.
Nowadays, too many startups fail because of a lack of product experimentation, customer feedback, and over-expenditure on the incorrect tools. Do people actually want your idea? How do you make it happen? And what tools should you be using? Learn more in this blog.
What Is a Lean Startup?
So you may be wondering what the difference is between a lean and regular startup. In short, a lean startup is a method of founding a new company or product, on behalf of an existing company.
The overall premise of a lean startup is to develop a business based on products/services that consumers already have an interest in. Essentially, the market desire is already there by the time you launch your startup.
This business methodology contrasts that of the original startup idea where you develop a product, launch it, and hope that consumer demand will emerge. Understandably, this is the riskier version.
But a lean startup doesn’t mean you are taking someone else’s business idea and copying it. It’s based on employing lean startup principles that focus on gauging consumer interest first, then developing and refining the product before it’s launched.
This process is known as ”validated learning” in the startup world. Its key objective is to remove the use of unnecessary resources and tools that could cost more in the entire process. Let’s put it this way — if your lean startup fails, at least it fails quickly and cheaply and you won’t find yourself in a financial bind that you can’t get out of.
Crucial Business Tools For Your Lean Startup
When it comes to the establishment of any successful startup, there are key areas to focus on at the start. As mentioned, the first is validated learning and product development.
You also need to focus on prototyping, and after that, invest in customer development, data protection, data storage, and more. Let’s dive into greater detail on the top tools you need:
1. Hardware and Web Hosting
Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to achieve anything without the right hardware for your startup and a reliable web hosting service. It’s a no-brainer that your business needs an internet presence before it sees the light of day, too.
You want to invest in high-quality, business laptops or computers with a good performance rating — check out lenovo.com for more. You’ll then need to do some homework on the best web hosting services in your area in order to establish your online presence.
Web hosting services also provide accessory services such as website development, app development, email functionality, and more. Always review more than one web hosting service and don’t settle on your first choice.
You want to opt for a company with a solid reputation that’s also affordable. As a startup, you might need to start with a basic hosting package at first, then scale up as your business grows.
2. Consumer Research-Based Tools
Your lean startup success hinges on the idea you have and how receptive consumers are to it. For this reason, you need to invest in research-based tools such as Experiment Board, developed by Javelin. In short, this tool helps you gauge whether your startup idea is worthwhile.
Experiment Board helps you to figure out if people actually want your idea, if there’s a real need for it, who your ideal target consumer is, and how to execute your idea. It’s a brilliant all-in-one platform developed specifically for validated learning.
This tool allows you to save time and money on developing a product that may not be successful. Instead, it helps you to think like your customers and build a product that they’ll receive well. The best part is that Experiment Board will cost you nothing to use!
This is another tool that’s worth investing in (it costs $29.99 per month) to help answer two crucial questions about your product:
- How much demand is there, i.e. what is the market size?
- What are my customers willing to pay, i.e. the ideal price point?
This tool allows you to create a landing page for your mock-up product and advertise it with Google Ad creator. You can then gauge how popular the product is via the number of clicks and customer sign-ups you receive.
3. Prototyping Software
If your startup is reliant on an app (like many are, today), then prototyping software is another wise investment. One of the best on the market today is Proto.io. This software allows you to test your product and its user experience without spending a huge amount of money on development.
Essentially, you develop a prototype of the product first. Then, you hand it over to developers who can get a visual idea of the app and product you want to market.
After that, the app is developed into a demo app that you can use on your devices to get a feel for how it looks, operates, and the overall user experience. Proto.io is super simple to learn and develop your own prototype.
You can develop your prototype with as little or as much detail and functionality as you want, without having to know any form of code.
4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your startup is not well-established enough to have a CRM system. This is one of the greatest assets to your business and your relationship with your customers once you launch your business.
Ideally, you want to invest in a CRM system that is scalable. It should be able to grow with your business. Some of the best CRM systems include artificial intelligence, analytics, and other tools that will help guide your business in the right direction.
Most CRM systems are also cloud-based, with popular options such as Apptivo, or HubSpot for smaller businesses, and Salesforce.com for larger operations.
This technology allows your business to connect with your customers, easily communicate with them, integrate information, and learn about new leads and opportunities.
5. Anti-Virus Software
Yes, even small startups are a target in today’s world of online hacking. That’s why you don’t want to take a chance when you’re just starting out. To add to this, most businesses, no matter the size, operate on some type of network connection.
It’s critical that you protect this connection. Anti-virus software adds a level of defense against a myriad of threats such as hacking, viruses, spyware, malware, and more.
Without anti-virus software, you put your business and all you’ve worked for at risk due to the threat of stolen data, server downtime, lost productivity, and unhappy customers.
6. Online Data Storage
Speaking of data protection, you also want to invest in adequate storage for all of your startup’s most important information. Your best bet is to opt for cloud-based storage which offers some of the safest and most reliable online data storage today.
The last thing you want to face is the loss of customer contact information, important analytics, hard drive failure, or theft of information. Online data storage also allows for ease-of-access when you need your information — all you need is an internet connection.
There is generally no limit on how much data you can store in the cloud, too, which gives you ample room to grow as a business.
7. Project Management Software
This is a major necessity for any new startup owner and their team. When you’re working on establishing your business there is a mountain of tasks to overcome. Project management software can help you to keep track of it all, stay on top of your tasks, and delegate them where necessary.
You can also manage and allocate all the resources you need in order to complete projects on time. You have direct access to team members, external resources, documents, physical assets, and more.
Project management software also allows your team to effectively communicate with one another so that everyone is up-to-speed on each project or task. All-in-all, this type of software is central to the operation of any business and as well as project trouble-shooting, issue tracking, and task scheduling.
8. Digital Marketing Tools
Any entrepreneur today knows that digital marketing plays a big role in the success and recognition that a new startup garners in its first few months.
Luckily, there is a myriad of tools at your fingertips to help you with all areas of digital marketing. This list ranges from social media management, email marketing, and automation, web analytics, SEO and PPC management — and much more.
You’ll need to assess where you are in the digital marketing stage of your startup and choose your tools accordingly. A good place to start is with Postsked for social media management. Then there’s also ActiveCampaign for email marketing management, Google Analytics, and SEMRush for SEO and PPC campaign management.
Direct Access To the Ultimate Startup Resource
Bringing your lean startup up idea to fruition takes determination, resourcefulness, and plenty of research. Not-to-mention, constant learning as an entrepreneur. There is no easy road to take, but if you truly believe in your product, this can take you places!
On the topic of learning, be sure to explore the rest of this site as an in-depth resource for all your startup needs.