Boosting Your College Startup

Startup Idea

My friends and I have built an app that is supposed to be used by landlords to help with sublets. Basically, think a combination of Airbnb and Zillow: short-term contract rentals without too much hassle. The only problem is, we want to expand beyond our college town, but there’s only three of us and we can’t go into every rental office in America. How can we increase our business presence, without overreaching ourselves?

It is not easy to run a start-up, especially while you are in college. As much as our culture loves to tell stories of people who began illustrious careers in their dorm room, the truth is that it takes lots of hard work. If you are hoping to get into something as hands-on as real-estate, it can be even more difficult. After all, you can’t be everywhere at once. In this case, what is the path to success? We have three pieces of advice below that can supercharge your startup’s growth so that you can move far beyond those dorm room walls.

First, you have to understand that your platform is a little different than many. Your biggest customers are going to be businesses, not necessarily renters. As you mentioned, your platform is going to be used by landlords. This makes you a business-to-business platform (or B2B, in the lingo). B2B just grows differently than business to customer (B2C) platforms, but that does not mean you should discount the type of customer-facing strategies that you would pay attention to in a B2C scenario. Marketing tactics like video testimonials, games, and puzzles to draw customers to your website. After all, all businesses are made up of people, and people want to be intrigued, feel invited, and have fun.

On that note, you will want to personalize your site as much as possible. Once again, businesses are made of people, and increasing your business profile is all about your connections. This article from the Harvard Business Review mentions “personalization at scale.” Every business these days has a Facebook page, and Facebook’s tracking tools allow you to see “intent signals,” which help you realize when it is time to reach out to a new customer. Then, tools like MailChimp and CRM software can help you close the deal, by making that customer feel remembered and looked after, even if they are only one point on your map.

Beyond that, you need to harness the power of big data. As a startup, you have the advantage of baking data-forward best practices into your business model. InsideBigData, a publication that specializes in covering the latest developments in the field of machine learning, argues that “big analytics is one of the strongest methods available to help manage a growing market share.” As you noted, your site will always be compared to Airbnb and Zillow, two huge websites with massive presences and armies of engineers. Unless your plan is to eventually sell to one of these behemoths, you need a plan to grow and a way to get there.

As a small business, it can be difficult to compete with the big fish, so you have to leverage your advantages where you have them: you are more nimble. You can target and select your growth areas more precisely, but to do that you need information. Fortunately, in our connected age, you can have all of the information of an Airbnb or Zillow, with none of the prerequisite years of hard-won growth. Salesgenie is a leading industry provider of business and consumer data. You can use them to find prospects or simply organizing the contact information for a high-value sales lead for your business.

Combine these tips with the personalization practices we mentioned above and you will be well on your way to startup glory.

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