Spend Less Time Worrying About Your Company’s Runway — And More Time Rethinking Your Strategy. Here’s How.


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Too often, founders cite their shortened runway as a reason for not fully implementing the best strategic spending for their startups. This is becoming too common, especially as markets continue on a soft landing trajectory and interest rates remain high. The dilemma is simple — founders do not want to overspend, view their runway as too short, and feel they cannot build traction with VCs, crowdfunding campaigns or other capital raises. Founders know they must spend to gain the required traction, but it’s a volatile risk with unclear returns. As countless founders face this current dilemma, what are the best decisions to make next?

Related: 10 Growth Strategies Every Business Owner Should Know

Stop looking at the perceived length of the runway — start looking at strategy

The perceived runway is only what is currently in the bank and a projection, at best, of what financials will look like in the next few quarters. It does not factor in future growth, breakthroughs in funding, and, yes, even disruptions or setbacks.

With so many founders in angst about their perceived short runway, a step back is in order. First, review the MVP (minimum viable product). In its essential elements, is it genuinely viable? Is your startup a copy of others, or is it truly unique? Are the solutions or products offered going to solve problems, disrupt an industry or substantially help in ways not currently offered in the marketplace? If you’re not confident, stop and compass-check with outside resources.

What does the correct compass check look like for your startup? Start with a brand evaluation with a reputable brand strategist or innovator with noted industry experience. Why? Your problems with a short runway may simply be key messaging, a revised funnel strategy, or better personas of realistic investors or a customer base.

What are the best options for utilizing the right strategy?

Any startup that seeks investors, venture capital, crowdfunding or customers develops some business plans and strategies. When the runway is too short for any funding campaign, the natural tendency is to halt all marketing spending, go lean and create a dilemma of can’t spend to earn but can’t earn without spending. This is a false premise, yet it is too familiar.

How does a founder fix this with strategy, and what right spends are necessary on a perceived limited runway? First, start with the most critical elements in your ramp-up strategy:

  • Plan out paths to become the best known — not just the best — at what you do.
  • Ensure the funnel strategy works and correctly captures incoming inquiries quickly and efficiently.
  • Ensure the customer journey process builds on itself to turn customers into advocates for your brand.

First, become the best known. This does not necessarily mean becoming the best. While it does not mean putting out an inferior product or service, too many get stuck trying to improve, not continuously promote, or promote correctly. With this, look internally. As the founder and your team, are you doing everything to utilize key messaging strategy? Does that strategy resonate with the right audience? This is so critical and so often missed. Too many spend too much and get this wrong or are too close to current messaging to see blinders.

Start here to fix the perceived short runway. If the key messaging will not reach the right audience, stop everything else, including current spending, and fix it immediately. Get outside help from the right strategist who can give expert and objective counsel to course-correct key messaging. Following this, use it to your advantage and lead with it. A better call-to-action strategy beats a new product almost every time.

Second, ensure the funnel strategy works. When you launch your new product or service as part of your startup, demonstrate to investors, VCs or your crowdfunding campaign how well the funnel works. If key messaging is right, but funnel strategy is what is causing angst with the perceived short runway, pause and evaluate. It is not enough to drive interest through messaging alone; the funnel must be as close to airtight as possible.

If a funnel strategy is already in place and key messaging is working, continuously analyze results. For product or service sales, implement surveys, get feedback, and respond to and act on reviews. Identify the rate of and reasons for customer churn and continuously improve. Ask customers for product or service feature requests and use this data to gauge and optimize feature affinity. Additionally, ensure that any changes to public-facing marketing assets, especially websites, social media, PR and email, align with the funnel strategy and do not pull your brand off course.

Third, ensure the customer journey process finds ways to build on itself, and finds ways to propel new and existing customers into advocates for your brand. This starts by making an almost seamless journey for customers coming through the funnel. From the basics of making the journey, value proposition, and process simplistic and straightforward, any brand needs to advocate for their customers before a customer advocates for the brand. It only takes one bad experience, or perceived lousy experience with no response, to push a customer and parts of an audience away.

Related: 5 Ways to Create Sustainable Funding and Get Your Business Out of the Hole

You took a risk with your startup; why give up on that risk now?

If the strategy is sound, trust it. Build on strategy. A perceived short runway partly represents disbelief in the strategy, execution, team, or product or service offered. With the proper steps of ensuring key messaging is correct and action-provoking, a funnel strategy that captures the right audience and moves that audience into decision-making, and the most straightforward customer journey, wins will build on themselves.


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