Startups are known for being fast-paced. But anyone who has worked for an early-stage venture knows that isn’t always the case.

When you lack infrastructure as a company, it’s tough to gain momentum and get things done.

It can be unclear who owns decisions in flat organizations.

You’re often doing things for the first time. There aren’t any past practices to rely on for guidance.

Furthermore, metrics-focused employees are aggressively recruited by startups, especially on the marketing side. However, what’s often not covered in the interviews is whether or not these people have the ability to act in the absence of data. After all, when you’re doing something for the first time, there is no prior track record to refer to.

All of these things result in a rampant case of indecisiveness that paralyzes teams.

With that in mind, here’s my advice on how to handle common debates and resolve some of that indecisiveness:

1. Should we have swag? What should we get? What should it look like?

Answer: Yes, you should get swag. Swag makes customers smile. Pictures of especially cute swag get Instagramed, and that drives awareness for your brand.

If you think awareness doesn’t matter, ask any sales person how tough it is to land a meeting about a product no one has heard of.

Coffee mugs, water bottles, pens, and stickers never go out of style.

If you do something trendier and riskier, you could end up with a box full of random junk that no one will want. Just pick something.

If this is for a conference, it’s more important that you have a creative strategy for networking and bringing back leads from the conference.

2. What should our t-shirt design be? Should we have t-shirts?

Answer: Just get the effing t-shirts. Do a bulk order. It’s cheaper in the end.

Get the nice cotton so people will actually wear them.

If you can’t come up with a snappy one-liner for the shirt design within a week, just stick to a simple design for the initial run and move on.

3. What should our business cards look like? Should the area code have a parenthesis around it or should there be a dash between the area code and…?

Answer: Just get the damn business cards. Pick something that matches the rest of your brand colors and MOVE ON.

It’s more about the gesture and less about the actual card.

4. Which task management tool should our team use? I like Trello, but so and so tried this other one…

Answer: Just pick one! Asana, Trello, and Basecamp all accomplish roughly the same thing.

5. Should we have a customer event?

Answer: Yes. Talk to your customers. Meet them in person. Love on the customers.

You can have an intimate meetup with beer, wine, and snacks at your office for under $300. You can have a slightly nicer breakfast or happy hour for about 20 people for under $1,500.

Ask for discounts if your customers are the social media types who will Tweet, Instagram, and promote the venue, since the venue will benefit from that. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no.

Pick a budget, choose the location accordingly, and do the damn meetup.

6. What should the hashtag for our webinar be?

Answer: Pick something universal, like Moz does for #Mozinars, and use it for every webinar you do.

7. What kind of coffee should we have in the kitchen?

Answer: Just take a vote and pick the most popular one.

8. But what about the beer?

Answer: Same thing.

9. Where should we go for team lunch?

Answer: Just order from somewhere with lots of universal options. Send the menu around in the morning so people can get their orders in efficiently.

Don’t make people feel weird about their dietary restrictions.

10. Should we have a blog?

Answer: Yes.

11. Should we have a Pinterest? Instagram? Snapchat? Jelly?

Answer: Not until you have a blog.

12. What should we blog about?

Answer: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would you want to learn about if you were them?

13. How often should we blog?

Answer: Produce quality stuff and invest time in hustling the content on social. Start with one post a week. The next month, do two posts a week. The next month…

14. Should we pay our interns?

Answer: Yes. It’s the right thing to do.

15. What metrics should we measure?

Answer: Revenue and the related metrics that drive revenue.

16. Should we do email marketing?

Answer: Yes. Just use Mailchimp and get started.  Keep your lists organized. Transfer the lists to a more sophisticated program for events-based nurturing later.

17. Should we speak at this event?

Answer: Do you have a product yet? Do you have any customers? If not, no.

18. Is this blog post in the correct brand voice?

Answer: Have you determined what that brand voice is yet and clearly communicated it to the team? If not, just publish the damn post and refine the voice as you go.

19. Should we do this co-marketing partnership?

Answer: Yes, but not as your first piece of content, first webinar, or first event.

Date before you marry. Start with something small – like a guest post exchange – and keep the expectations very clear on both sides. You want to find out if these people are a pain in the ass to work with before you sign up to do a big project with them.

20. Should we do ______? Our competitor just did it.

Answer: No. Come up with your own ideas and do something different. Be original. You’re a freaking startup. That’s what you’re supposed to be.

You’ll notice a theme here, and that’s to have a bias toward action. Don’t put crap out into the world, but do get comfortable with executing clean, simplified, first versions of your ideas. When in doubt, just try it, measure it, and go from there.

1 Comment on 20 Debates Your Startup Should Stop Having Today

  1. TechnoLab
    April 9, 2015 at 2:29 pm (2 years ago)

    Nice piece of content. 
    Very helpful tips on startups in this article, Janet.


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