Thursday August 9, 2012
The importance of momentum
STARTING OUT By JEANISHA WAN
A VERY successful woman entrepreneur shared with me this valuable nugget of advice the other day.
“If you have just started your business and enjoyed some reasonable success, you will find that keeping it going is not that easy. If you have enjoyed substantial success, then you will find staying on top even harder,” she said. True?
About a decade ago, when dot-com companies were sprouting like mushrooms, I quit my “iron rice bowl” banking job and jumped to a better paying job in a dot-com start-up company.
It was a paradigm shift for me — as though I had just switched from a routine, process-based job to work in a fast-growing company like Google or Facebook.
But alas, that dot-com company, and another one I joined subsequently, did not last.
They had great products to offer, a good plan (and also good funding from the many angel investors at that time) and spirits were high.
So what went wrong?
Firstly, there was the bursting of the dot com bubble, which was a global phenomena.
Secondly, I personally think there was also the issue of momentum within the companies.
The pioneering stage for start-ups is always exciting and fast-paced, but then gradually, things will start to slow down, funds start to run low and processes become routine as the early stage passes.
I mean how long can one survive on just adrenaline alone?
Now, as a marketing consultant, I see this happening to other companies too.
Some of these companies have great products they want to introduce to the world. So they plan a big launch of the product.
They place advertisements, they run telemarketing campaigns, and invite some VIPs for the launch.
All these take several months of planning with all hands on deck and you can literally smell their enthusiasm a mile way.
It is as though they are producing a blockbuster movie and the launch will be the be all and end all. They have this perception that after a big launch of their product, sales will come pouring in automatically like the opening of a floodgate.
So what do they do in the subsequent months after the launch event and all the campaigns?
They wait. And do nothing else. The clock ticks.
One business owner who sells software to companies came lamenting to me one day, “Jeanisha, we have done so many publicity activities and spent so much. Why is it that our sales have not increased?”
I sat down with him to do an analysis of the situation.
Was your launch event well-attended and by all the right people? Yes.
Did you manage to get leads from your launch event, telemarketing campaigns and advertisements? Yes, bucket loads of them. But the problem is that these leads are not sales.
Did your sales people follow up on these leads promptly?
Hmm… not sure. No one is keeping track.
How many sales people do you have currently? Err… one. We will add more headcount when the sales come in.
How long is the sales cycle for your product typically?
Minimum three months as the price range for our software is around RM150,000 and above.
The answer was clear.
I explained to him that a marketing campaign or an awareness programme is not an “instant-sales” vending machine.
He needed to ensure that there was follow-up action and other on-going activities to continually engage the new leads and prospects.
Plus, while the momentum was started by the marketing department, it was not being continued by the sales department, which was why the leads remained leads and not sales.
I have also encountered some companies that just want to do marketing activities in the first year of their business because they think that is enough!
Maybe they do not realise that in the very dynamic and fast-paced world that we live in, being well-known today does not mean you will always stay that way.
Even on social-media networks, getting one million “likes” today does not mean you will always be the most liked brand.
Some other brand may topple you from that position one day.
So it is really about whether we can have consistent momentum to keep up and stay on top.
> Jeanisha believes running a business is like running a marathon and not performing a 100-metre sprint.