Ever wonder what unexpected business strategies have worked for other startup founders? The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, recently posed this question to 10 of their members. Here are the unexpected business techniques that helped each of these founders and their startups thrive:
1. Writing Individualized Emails
2. Renting Shared Office Space
I originally decided to rent an office for the professional look and feel—it was to be a place where I could commute everyday and focus on business. I also hoped it would be a collegial environment where I would not have to be isolated even though I was starting my business solo. While it certainly has had both those benefits, I was very happily surprised with the amount of business that has originated from my fellow officemates, either by addressing their needs directly or by creating networking opportunities. —Peter Minton, Minton Law Group, P.C.
3. Handing Out Our Personal Phone Numbers
We launched with a “decent” product in July 2010—our goal was to test and learn from customers in order to inform a major investment in our next product. Knowing that the product was not perfect, we started the company by including hand-written notes—and business cards with our cell phone numbers!—to every customer.
This was our way of saying, “Talk to us, we care about you and want to hear about your experience.” Customers were so appreciative of the personal touch and we have learned so much from the ongoing feedback, that we continue the practice to this day. —Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
4. Using Amazon SES
Tactful email marketing is pure gold, but many are doing it wrong. It’s not about getting people to read your newsletter; it’s about giving people the tools to make their lives better. Amazon Simple Email Service lets you get through with near 100% deliverability. —Michael Costigan, Michael Costigan, LLC
5. Creating Our Own Content
We started creating content at TalentEgg as a response to a tough economic climate, where, in the absence of having tons of jobs to post as content, we had to create the content ourselves. The content we created—about job hunting, recruiting Gen Y, and more—established us as thought leaders in our industry. It led not only to numerous speaking engagements and press opportunities, but also, eventually, to new business. —Lauren Friese, TalentEgg Inc.
As much as I’d like to think of myself as a digital marketer and advertiser, I decided to take a cue from the successful event promoters in my area. I piggybacked off of their existing flyering operations and joined the crowd to promote my business. It turns out there is a reason why people still distribute print flyers. It led to a positive return on my investment. —Logan Lenz, Endagon
7. Staying Lean and Mean
Staying lean and mean really helped my success early on. There were times in my business when a fancy office, fast cars, and other excessive things were appealing to me. I stuck to my mentor’s advice to not splurge on fancy things and focus on staying lean and outsourcing when possible. This kept my business alive. —Aaron Pitman, API Domain Investments
8. Doubling Down on Pinterest
We decided to focus and double down on Pinterest early on as it began to grow—and it’s ended up being a huge sparkplug for our growth in general. We took a chance on a new platform where we felt our audience was—and it paid off. —Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
9. Implementing Live Chat
When we implemented live chat on our website, the cost seemed outrageous (as a small, bootstrapped company). $49 per month?
Quickly, though, it paid for itself. Potential customers engaged and loved it. Current customers used our live chat feature to quickly ask us questions. We started to see patterns in the questions potential customers asked, and did a complete website revamp to address them. Our signups increased.
Live chat has paid for itself 10x over. One caveat: Make sure that when you leave the computer, you turn it off! We’ve lost some leads by leaving the chat on accidentally. —Erica Douglass, Whoosh Traffic
10. Meeting…With Everyone!
My friends think I’m crazy because I meet with at least two new people a week. I email, tweet and connect on Linkedin with people who I think can help me professionally, and most of the time they are open to meeting for coffee or a call. I am building a network of people I can introduce to others, hang out with or even do business with. —Trace Cohen, Launch.it
In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library, and email lessons. Be sure to check it out if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, or if you lead an organization that supports entrepreneurs.