How Startups Can Triple Their Customer Base in a Year or Less

August 3, 2013

10:00 am

If you ask CEOs and business partners what their company goals are for the next year, you’ll likely hear one recurring answer: growth.

But growth doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without lots of effort on your company’s part. So, just how can startups triple their customer base in a year or less?

It may seem impossible, but my startup, Kaltura did this just last year. Kaltura is an open source video platform, and in 2012, we grew from 120,000 websites, enterprises, educational institutions, media companies, and tech platforms using our software and services to more than 300,000 by the end of the year. Not only have we grown our customer base, but even more importantly, we’ve grown our average deal sizes by attracting larger companies, and grew our open source community as well.

How We Fueled Our Growth

How did we do it? Our momentum has been fueled by several factors:

1. Industry growth. Fifty-six percent of consumer Web traffic is now video. Additionally, 78 percent of Web users between the ages of 15 and 64 watch videos online every single week, and 46 percent watch brand-related videos every week. These same trends are growing within enterprise and in the educational space as well, with video becoming a prominent ed-tech component and productivity tool for enterprises. Are there any areas in your industry seeing growth? How can you utilize them?

2. Marketing campaigns. Kaltura has focused a lot on thought leadership efforts and lead generation activities such as webinars, white papers, blogging and speaking opportunities. If your business doesn’t currently put time into these efforts, it’s never too late to start.

3. Open source community. This contributes to our ladder of engagement. Many of our current customers started off as Kaltura community members. How engaged are your customers with your company overall? Are you investing in developing a community?

4. Flexibility. Kaltura offers a number of options to attract many types of customers. For example, we offer both a platform and flexible APIs as well as out of the box applications. How accommodating is your business? Is there room for improvement?

5. Working across three verticals. Education, media, and enterprise software are all areas where video is becoming a critical technology. Are there new markets your company can tap into?

Challenges of Large-Scale Growth

Scaling a business means facing challenges no matter what, and it impacts every department in your company. When a customer base triples, businesses have to scale up operations such as customer on-boarding, support, maintenance, and monitoring. Maintaining the same level of customer service and personal touch points with customers is one of the most critical aspects of success during fast growth. Focus on driving value for your customers and understanding what drives value for them, and you’ll be able to foster a mutually beneficial relationship.

Another big challenge of growth? Customer size. How do you not only grow the number of customers, but actually make sure to close larger deals as well? Start by identifying the organizations you want to target, as well as the specific decision makers you’ll need to target in those organizations. Ask yourself: what’s the impact your solution has on its users? What is its value proposition? The better job you do of positioning your technology as “must-have” and involving senior decision makers in the process, the greater likelihood that you’ll land big deals with big organizations.

Your Growth Checklist

So what are some steps businesses everywhere, of any size, can take to increase their customer base? Here is a quick checklist for businesses to follow:

1. Start with developing products that create real value. Remember, if you’re going to have a quality product, make sure it is a product that will be meeting a real need.

2. Identify who the buyer is for the product. What are their demographics? What are they reading, watching, and talking about? This will help you to focus your messaging and growth efforts.

3. Position yourself as a leader in your market. Do this by continuously innovating and creating a community of actively engaged users and developers.

4. Hire a great PR firm. Hiring professionals that can message your company effectively and understand your industry can be crucial to gaining a positive reputation and wide visibility.

5. Employ a wide range of marketing strategies. Online content, speaking events, and webinars can go a long way.  Customer success stories are also a critical component to your story. Talk to analysts, go to the right conferences. Most importantly use video for better messaging (and because video is a critical component of successful marketing now days, our business is growing fast…).

6. Develop an amazing sales team. Focus on employee recruitment, engagement, and retention to make this happen.

7. High touch versus transactional business. If you have a high touch sales process, consider supplementing it with a transactional business as well, that is strategic and synergic to your core business.

Remember, when you experience hyper growth, everyone in the organization must participate in that challenge. Your IT team will help in scaling up operations, your marketing team will help to launch sufficient campaigns, services will help with onboarding new customers, sales will close deals, and legal will ink deals fast. When positioning your company for growth, focus on an overall strategy, and watch your customer base climb.

Guest author Dr. Michal Tsur is the president and co-founder of Kaltura, the leading online video platform.

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