A ‘Start Up’ Tragedy

I recently discovered a new show that I’m really enjoying. Well, new to me–the show is in its third season. It’s called Start Up.  Host Gary Bredow travels the United States talking to the owners of various start up companies. It’s also a bit ‘meta’ because the show itself is one of the first products of Bredow’s own start up company. The businesses he visits all seem to be in the first couple of years of being open, having achieved at least a moderate level of attention and success, but not necessarily far enough in that they’re operating reliably at a profit.

The companies are in a wide range of industries as well. The episode I watched last week included an aerial dance/circus arts studio, and an the makers of a electronics-filled teddy bears that teach diabetic children how to manage their health. Bredow features two businesses per 30-minute episode, interviewing the owners about their challenges, their process in getting started, how they financed the start up, where their ideas came from, and more.

Having been a business couneslor for a program of the U.S. Small Business Administration for several years, I can say that their stories seem pretty typical, though very much weighted toward the success end of the spectrum. (It wouldn’t make very good TV to have a series in which 60-75% of the featured business owners talk about how their great idea sputtered and unceremoniously died because of poor preparation or lack of demand.) But the variety of where ideas come from, how money gets scraped together, and what kinds of unexpected pitfalls crop up along the way are all very familiar.

The show also drops in a few pieces where one business expert or another gives some tips or perspective related to the start up process.  And each profile ends with Bredow summarizing the interview in a pun-filled wrap up.

I have been enjoying it, but I knew I had to put up a brief piece about the show here on the blog when he asked Dori Ross, a maple-products maker in Vermont, “Social media–how has that impacted your business?” She tells him that she’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and that she has two blogs. That’s all fine (though it’s a lot to do well). But then she stabbed me through the heart. She said, “And I don’t know if it works.”

It’s tragic, but it’s common. People hear that social media, or a blog, is this powerful thing that you can do for your business. They jump in. They do a ton of work to try and figure out how to work these new tools. They post pictures. They comment, and share. They write articles. And they never look to see if it’s actually helping them. It’s just blind faith that this stuff works, and in many cases it doesn’t.

I would bet that Dori could probably drop half the social media or blogging work that she’s doing. I don’t know that for certain, or which things she could drop, because I’m not privy to her data. Heck, I don’t even know if she’s collecting data.

Digital strategy is, in large part, determining what doesn’t work and dropping it. It’s choosing to not do things that are less effective so that you have more time and effort to do well the things that do work.

I beg of you, talk to me if Dori’s story sounds familiar. It is absolutely possible to figure this kind of thing out. It’s possible to figure out which social media sites send you the most traffic. Or send you the most buyers. (It’s not uncommon for visitor volume and most likely buyers to come from different places.) Let me help you figure out a few things you can drop from your To Do list. Because I can almost guarantee you’re doing things that don’t contribute to your success.

Or if you’re not doing much of anything online, maybe it’s time to add one highly targeted thing to your list.  I could help you figure that out, too.

If you’d like to watch Start Up, they have a utility on their website to look up the TV schedule in your area.


Posted by Michael J. Coffey  |  0 Comment  |  in Analysis & Testing

About Michael J. Coffey

Michael started learning about online marketing as the web store manager for a scrappy little game retailer during the "dot com bubble" of the 1990s. Since then he's helped fitness companies, tea wholesalers and retailers, lawyers, clothing designers, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs in many other fields. In his spare time he drinks very high quality tea, writes letters with a fountain pen, and reads literature.

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