5 Dangerous Startup Lores (And How to Rise Above Them)

Do you know what a folklore is?

Webster’s Dictionary provides this definition: an unsupported notion, story, or saying that is widely circulated. In America, examples of folklores include Paul Bunyan, Santa Claus and Sasquatch.

Now, do you know what a lore is?

A lore is a story, fact, or piece of wisdom that is passed between generations; but along the way, people stopped questioning whether it was true or not. You’ve probably heard lore’s such as the Great Wall of China can be seen from space, that caffeine dehydrates you, or we only use 10% of our brain.

In reality, lores exist in all spheres and spaces, especially in startups. I harvested 30 of the most popular startup lores from online research, podcasts, and conversations with founders and successful marketers.

I saw some incredibly valuable patterns and included the 5 most dangerous lores to avoid, along with solutions to prevent you from falling for them as you dive in to your entrepreneurial journey.

#1: The Entrepreneur’s Lore

“If I find value in this product, others will as well.”

The Truth: Scratching your own itch might be where your product idea originated, but this does not mean you’ll have millions of others who feel the same as you.

The Solution: First, define yourself on several demographic and psychographic dimensions: what’s your age? Are you male or female? Do you live in an urban, suburban, or rural setting? What industry do you work in? What turns you on? Turns you off? Defining the audience you fit into will help you determine who your audience might be.

Second, test your idea! Even before building your product, take time to validate your business idea by building a landing page (do this easily through Weebly). Include some copy and provide a compelling promotional offer for subscribing (ex. A free hoodie from your fashion line). Run 1-5 paid search or social ad campaigns which will drive traffic to the page. Monitor the results to see how many visitors turn into actual sign-ups. A good rule of thumb is a 10% conversion rate (i.e. # of sign ups/# of site visitors).

#2: The New Founder’s Lore

“I have to build a new perfect product before launching.”

The Truth: You have no idea how customers will react to your product; the sooner you launch, the better.

The Solution: Launch when it is “good enough” and immediately harvest feedback from your target audience (this probably is not your friends and family). Record feedback and put suggested revisions into action! This could mean improving your app’s user experience, stripping features that don’t matter, or completely revamping the branding. Listen to your audience, update, get more feedback and repeat.

#3: The Feedback Lore

“Everyone’s feedback is important, so I’ll start with my friends and family.”

The Truth: As much as your friends and family love you, it’s important to note whether they are your target audience. Your mom probably won’t find much value in your men’s fitness clothing line so her feedback won’t be very valuable.

Or even worse, friends and family might be overly protective or slightly envious (maybe they’ve always wanted to start a company but haven’t). In turn, their feedback could lead you astray.

The Solution: Define your audience, conduct surveys and in-person interviews with people who fit the bill. How do you find these people? Look within your network, browse open social networks like Founder’s Live, LinkedIn, and Twitter to find the right demographic and psychographic qualities (ex. males who live in tech hubs like Raleigh, NC and Columbus, OH who love fitness tech).

#4: The Developer’s Lore

“It doesn’t matter how it looks as long as the app works and has all the right features.”

The Truth: First impressions matter, especially in a startup environment where it consistently gets easier to build a sharp website, interface (ex. Squarespace or Shopify) and still have a decent product.

Potential customers make a lot of subconscious judgments about your site based on the design, logo and fonts. If done poorly, your site can portray that it is not credible, reliable, safe, or valuable. If done well, it can have the polar opposite effect. Perception matters.

The Solution: Build a lean, core product that will deliver an “aha moment” to the potential customer. This happens when they understand the core value and utility of the product plus it really connects with them. Exclude unnecessary features that won’t lead to an “aha moment” or if most customers won’t find it valuable.

#5: The Marketer’s Lore

“Everything is within my control. I can always make this product/campaign be a success.”

The Truth: Like in life, there is more out of your control than within. You’ll inevitably fail more than you succeed. You’ll be testing many ideas to figure out what resonates most with the audience.

The Solution: Level check yourself from the very beginning. Before every project, make a list of what is within your control and outside of it.

A Case Example: I’m testing a paid Facebook campaign where I’ll run promoted posts over a 2-week period for my fitted fashion line (remember that free fitted hoodie?)

Within My Control

  • Quality of the creative brief
  • The final creative
  • Quality research and reviewing past campaigns (What worked? What didn’t?)
  • Targeting
  • Executing A/B testing
  • An excellent landing page
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Pacing & optimizing the campaign
  • Learning from mistakes

Out of My Control

  • How the audience responds to the ads
  • Unforeseen technical issues
  • Your competitor’s actions (i.e. new products, press releases, their own ad campaigns)
  • The political or regulatory landscape (ex. GDPR)

Don’t fall victim to your own marketing lores or unfounded myths. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to your product; after all it’s your baby.

Perhaps you’re a founder and have already fallen for “building the perfect product.” Have you found yourself falling into any of the above lores? Reply below and let us know!

~JK

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