But 7 days is not long enough! Yes it is. It’s amazing what you can achieve in 7 days. You can’t deliver on your whole grand vision, but you can launch something. When you do, you can start talking to people who are paying you money. This is when you start making sensible business decisions and prepare for the challenges that you see are up ahead.
The 7 Day Startup mindset is that you will launch it in 7 Days. You won’t waste any time building something that you don’t know people want.
- Day One – You have an idea.
- Day Two – You develop a prototype.
- Day Three – You pick a business name.
- Day Four – You create a landing page or some sort of online presence.
- Day Five – You do some marketing to get your business out in front of people.
- Day Six – You measure what success means to you.
- Day Seven – You launch.
Day 1 – Brainstorm an Idea
Your idea matters. At the same time, you don’t want to stress over it for weeks on end. In fact, you should spend just one day on it.
Here are the nine elements of a great idea:
- Enjoyable daily tasks
- Product/founder fit
- Scalable business model
- Operates profitably without the founder
- An asset you can sell
- Large market potential
- Tap into pain or pleasure differentiators
- Unique lead generation advantage
- Ability to launch quickly
Day 1 Task – Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and evaluate them against the checklist. Choose the idea that stands out as being the best option for you.
Day 2 – Develop a Prototype
In Eric Ries’s words, the concept of a MVP is: “The first step is to enter the Build phase as quickly as possible with a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP is that version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn loop with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time.”
What this means is rather than spending six months creating a product or service, do only the smallest amount of work required to truly test it. Dan wrote:
Everyone knows two-sided marketplaces are one of the hardest business models to pull off, right? Well Stacey Jacobs didn’t get the memo. After deciding to start a home cleaning marketplace, she built the site, engaged the cleaners, started marketing and had her first customers in seven days.
What I love about Stacey’s story is she only did what was 100% necessary at each stage. For example, to get the supply side of the marketplace sorted (the cleaners), she didn’t start a huge drive for signups. She simply put an ad on a classifieds site, narrowed the 60 replies down to 10 people to interview, and chose three. Three cleaners was enough for her to be able to offer the service in one region in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
To get customers, she ran enough online ads to sign up a few paying customers. She then focused on making them happy and getting them referring before moving on.
Stacy is operating in a space where similar companies, like HomeJoy, are landing multiple eight-figure investment rounds and deals with the likes of AirBnb. That doesn’t mean she can’t take a lean approach, launch quickly, and with minimal risk.
Day 2 Task – Write down exactly what you will launch on Day 7. What will your customers get, what is included, and what is excluded? If necessary, write down what is automated and what will be done manually in the short term
Day 3 – Pick a Business Name
There are a number of reasons why you don’t need to spend more than a day on your business name:
- It will distract you from what is really important, which is creating something great. That is ultimately what matters and will be what makes or breaks your brand.
- Your business will probably change significantly by the time you get established. Nintendo started out making playing cards. Tiffany’s started out making stationery.
- You will grow into whatever name you come up with. Most names mean very little when they are first conceived. Steve Jobs impulsively named Apple after the farm he dropped acid on. If that method works, then anything goes!
- You can change your business name down the track—often quite easily. Even big brands have managed to do so successfully. For small, agile startups, it can often be done for virtually zero cost in a matter of hours or days. You are not stuck with your name for life. Google started out as “BackRub.” Creepy.
- Your customers don’t care.
With that in mind, let’s look at a useful framework for choosing an “acceptable” business name:
- Is it taken?
- Is it simple?
- Is it easy to say out loud?
- Do you like it?
- Does it make sense for your idea?
- Broader is better (Twitter started as a text message platform, but the name works perfectly well for the web and mobile app it is today)
Day 3 Task – Come up with a bunch of potential business names and evaluate them against the criteria above. Choose whichever one makes the most sense to you and run with it. Grab the best domain you can for that name
Day 4 – Build a Website
You don’t want to spend weeks or months on the landing page. One day is a reasonable amount of time to get a page ready. There are a few general approaches you can take with setting up your site.
- Create a site designed to capture email addresses before you ultimately launch in four days’ time.
- Create a site that “pre-sells” your product before you launch it.
- Create the actual sales page that you’ll use on launch day.
If the idea of launching a website scares you, remember that the complexity has gone down (a lot) over the years. Here are four simple steps you can take right now:
- Register a Domain ($4 – 5 minutes)
- Set up Hosting ($4 / month – 10 minutes)
- Install WordPress ($0 – 15 minutes)
- Choose a Theme or Landing Page ($69 – 1 hour)
The power of WordPress is that you have the ability to customize and expand your site.
The site you build on Day 4 is a good place to start, but the important thing is that you’ve built it on a platform with virtually no limits. You are using the same platform as CNN, The New York Times, and Forbes. On top of that, there are easy ways to improve your site and get access to support if you need it. You have the world’s best content marketing platform at your fingertips.
Day 4 Task – Build yourself a website!
Day 5 – Market Your Business
The main purpose of marketing is to get your product in front of qualified buyers. This means getting people to your landing page or your sales page. A lot of these suggestions are online strategies for generating traffic to your site
- Create Content on Your Site
- Start Sending Emails
- Forums and Online Groups
- Guest Blogging
- Listing Sites
- Doing Free Work
- Media Coverage
The list could have been 50 ways to market your business. Yes, there are that many ways to get your voice heard. What matters is that you do it in the way that utilizes your unique strengths and gets you customers. For some people, that’s face to face networking; for others, it’s creating content. Test out a bunch of options and double down on what is working well. Look for sources of momentum and do more of what is working.
Day 5 Task – Build a list of what marketing methods you are going to choose. Put together a rough plan for the first week or two of your launch.
Day 6 – Set Targets
People have a tendency to set really aggressive targets in business, doing so can be potentially de-motivating. Most businesses will naturally grow over time if the fundamentals are right. When you are starting out, you have a big hurdle to get over. Most people want a few runs on the board before they put their trust in a business. Shoot for a few customers early on and set a realistic monthly growth rate from there.
Here are some general principles around setting your One Metric That Matters (OMTM) target:
- Make it a financial metric, not a vanity metric like website visits or Facebook likes.
- Pay particular attention to who is signing up. If it’s just your friends, then that’s very different from the general public.
- Set a goal for the first month and re-visit it each month after that.
- Don’t measure something that no longer represents an important metric for your business. The OMTM will change over time.
Day 6 Task – Create a spreadsheet that covers the first few months in business, the number of signups, revenue, estimated costs, and monthly growth.
Day 7 – Launch
Launch day is like every other day. It is an important day, because you enter into the period of real data collection and running a real business with paying customers. But it’s just a day.
Here is a short list of ideas to get you started:
- Put up your live website with the payment button. Include
- Email anyone who is on your pre-launch list
- Post an update to social networks and any forums or groups that allow you to do so.
- Tell your friends and press contacts and ask them to share the news
- Thank people who have helped you get to launch day.
- Continue with your influencer outreach.
- Publish a post on your blog about the launch
- Ask your entrepreneurial friends to share the news.
- Go back over your marketing plan and start executing each of the items you wrote down. Podcast
The most important thing is… don’t stress! A launch will very rarely make or break a successful sustainable business, which is what you are trying to build.
Dan Andrews of Tropical MBA has said that it takes 1,000 days to build a business. Launch day is just 1 out of 1,000.
Day 7 Task – Launch and start executing your marketing plan.