If you have not heard of the MouseDriver Chronicles you are in for a treat. It is a tale of two guys trying to start-up a business around a novelty golf product. I had the opportunity recently to here John Lusk, one of the founders, talk about his experiences and share his wisdom. There was some great advice for entrepreneurs, marketers, and product managers.
Here are some of their lessons learned they captured at the end of the experience:
On the product side:
Licensed the Product: When you have a single-product, especially one like MouseDriver, it’s all about volume sales. Where you will make your money is by selling extremely high volumes of your product in mass channels. Now, if you’re goal is to actually have a sustainable company that will be around for awhile, then it makes since to build out your own distribution channels and grow the sales and marketing side of the company.
Focused on Sales: Now this one seems obvious, but we’ll be the first to admit, our product strategy was somewhat flawed in that is wasn’t focused enough on sales. Not that we didn’t succeed in executing our strategy; we went high-end first, generated tons of awareness, tied a story around the product, dropped the price and went low-end and arguably, built a ‘brand’ around MouseDriver…just like we said we were going to do. But, what we failed to realize is that with a product that has a limited life cycle (think Pet Rock or any ‘fad’ product), TIME IS MONEY!
On the start-up:
Do Everything Yourself: Initially, especially if you are bootstrapping or are low on funds, you should be doing EVERYTHING yourself. That means that you’re in charge of accounting, operations, marketing, selling, answering the phones, taking out the trash, mailing things, etc. Essentially, you should use your own resources for as long as you can to create value and prove your idea. While many highly educated entrepreneurs might feel that answering the phones or taking out the trash is below them, our genuine advice is to get over it.
The best part of the mouse drivers is seeing their early use of online word of mouth marketing (and also their very Web 1.0 website from 1999). You can follow the time line of their newsletter updates here and find more words of wisdom.
It was through this newsletter that the company developed its primary story and eventually, its main marketing. A story that because popular enough to land the cover of Inc magazine and eventually end up in a book deal.
On a final note, one of funniest parts of John’s presentation was during the discussion of sales projections. I didn’t see John’s slide online so I did a loose rendering of what it looked like: