What’s your one liner?

I was talking to two young entrepreneurs last Monday at Startup Riot (thanks Sanjay) about their stealth company. After asking tons of questions, I was finally able to distill it down and come up with a simple one liner. Fortunately, I read as many technology and entrepreneur blogs as I can (via Google Reader, of course) and had lots of example companies to choose from when coming up with the one liner.

Why is it so difficult?

Well, often times it is technology based, and sophisticated at that, so it is difficult to explain in layman’s terms. I recommend coming up with two one liners: one for technologists and one for your grandmother. Here are the one liners for one of my products:

  • Technologists: B2B Ning.com with CMS
  • Grandmother: Tools to allow people to communicate on a website and update webpages

What are your one liners?

A New Product’s Brand

Working on the brand for a new product is an interesting and rewording part of the development cycle. I like to wait until after the product is in an alpha state to start the branding process as it takes a while to understand the feel and personality of the application. The first and most important part of the brand is the logo. Nowadays, it is easy and cheap to get a logo done. I’d recommend looking at one of the following:

Adapting > Predicting

Adapting is a more important skill than predicting when it comes to building companies. Too often entrepreneurs and leaders think they have to decide every little detail in advance and follow the plan. Wrong. It is much more important to adapt and be perceptive of the market around you than it is to stay the course.
In a similar vein, you have to make decisions with imperfect information. Markets, products, and conditions change too quickly to spend months coming up with a plan. Getting something down on paper and communicating that things are going to change as the plan is executed is the best path to take. There’s a famous quote that summarizes it well:

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.
— George S. Patton

Rapid Improvement with SaaS = Reference Customers

Another SaaS benefit that isn’t readily apparent before going live is the relationship between quick product enhancements and reference customers. Because you can update and enhance the product so fast, customers that make small requests can see the changes within a matter of days or weeks (assuming you accept the tweak and it fits in your opinionated vision!). This goes a long way towards having them become a reference account that you can use for future prospects. With installed software, it is difficult and time consuming to keep making little patches so customers often have to wait several months for the release cycle to happen before they can actually appreciate that your team has been working hard on their request.

Near instant gratification with product change requests is something many clients have never experienced. Please make sure and temper expectations that it won’t always happen but that you’ll always be there to hear them out and be understanding.

New Product Pricing

Pricing for a new product is really just a shot in the dark. What features go into what editions? What are the up-sell hooks? In my experience it is much easier to lower prices than to raise them. I’d recommend starting out with a price that is twice what you feel is right. Why? It is very easy to give “preferred customer discounts” and come down on the pricing, making the new client feel special. Throw in membership to your “product advisory council” and you’re golden.

Another huge consideration: credit card price range or CFO price range. This is a big deal. Having a buyer be able to put the product or monthly fee on their credit card is a much easier sale than one that requires a purchase order and needs sign-off from the CFO. Wait, aren’t there plenty of deals between the $1,000 (credit card) and $50,000 (CFO sign-off) range? Yes, those are available but you don’t want to play in that space. The amount of time to complete a $20,000 deal is the same effort as a $50,000 deal. If you have to do a full-service, long sales cycle process, make sure your package is at least $50,000.

My final thoughts: don’t spend much time on pricing, go to market quickly, and listen to your prospects.