5 Timeless Offline Principles for Online Startups
As technology continues to enable a more
virtual office experience, it’s important to remember that offline
principles still apply in modern business.
From not losing a professional tone in emails, to making sure that teams find time to get to know each other outside of Skype, here are 5 rules that shouldn't get lost in the tech revolution.
1) Your customers are people,
not profiles. Ultimately, how people present
themselves online does not necessarily reflect who they are, or how
they will purchase. When analyzing online behavior, treating
customers like data can be useful, especially in finding patterns
or trends. But it's also important to treat customers as
individuals, offering them opportunites to give honest and personal
Ask your fans questions about a new product through social media or make a space for customers to live chat or share opinions on your site, the way you might if they were actually walking into your store.
2) Fight telephone phobia. Many people in my generation have a legitimate fear of talking on the phone, and behind the safe walls of SMS and online messaging, young entrepreneurs could neglect to actually speak with their clients. But there's nothing like a personal conversation to make a sale.
Don’t fear the phone; call your clients and partners regularly to maintain a relationship and make sure they’re more than satisfied. Customers might be happy with less invasive online forms when it comes to feedback, but there's nothing like having a hotline to call when something goes wrong.
3) Loyal customers love swag. This is a simple one; give customers the opportunity to represent your brand. People like to be part of a new trend or to help local startups by showing some pride in a product they use regularly. Make your brand part of the local culture by printing bumper stickers, t-shirts, pens, key chains, and bags, and let customers be your billboard wherever they go.
4) Designate time for your team. Today, startups are able to manage team members across continents through virtual platforms and online tools. But it’s easy to lose a sense of company culture when team members are distant.
To retain talent, build strong team cohesion, and make employees feel like they have a stake in the company’s success. Be sure to communicate constantly, organize company meetings in your office, a coworking space, or even online. But also be sure to check in and provide time for team huddles to assess challenges, celebrate successes and find new ways to support each other.
5) Make an appearance. Tech startups and one-man operations can usually be managed from anywhere; at home, in a coffee shop, or in a university dorm. But if you’re targeting users in a specific country or region, it’s important to understand who you’re dealing with and the best way to do that is through proximity.
Having a local office is important for building a company culture, improving communication, having a place in the community, and meeting new clients (not to mention receiving mail). If you can’t afford office space, there are solutions. Coworking spaces offer a great environment for collaboration and the ability to regroup and refocus. Open an office in the heart of your target market, or at least make it a point to visit often, and invite your target audience to join you for events and local gatherings.
Photo Credit: old-picture.com.