The Ultimate No BS Guide For Startups With Dozens of Free Resources. From Ideation, Validation, and Launch to Marketing, Growth, and Scaling (Updated: September 2022)

Ideation: How to come up with ideas.

Pre-Launch: Hypothesis

Pre-Launch: Validation

So you’ve done some customer interviews and now you’re ready to get more of a commitment from people? Great, no need to even build a product yet. First, launch with a website. Can you get 100 emails with little effort?

  • [ ] Check out this: My step-by-step guide to landing pages that convert. It is by far my favorite for its brevity and helpfulness
  • [ ] I also recommend Laws of UX. Another incredible evidence-based resource for design. We will reference this again later when building the product.
  • [ ] These UX audit checklist templates are incredible. I recommend you copy this to your own Notion and follow along. Like the one above, we want to use this when designing the product also.
  • [ ] You can make your website and landing page look extremely professional with some simple videos and images. I love the How We Sourced Assets For Our Brand.
  • [ ] Check out these 21 damn good copywriting tips. Just please avoid marketing jargon and make the product clear
  • [ ] Interview +12 people about the copy on our website. This is key! Just watch them use the website and ask them to read out loud + give a stream of consciousness on what they are reading.
  • [ ] I enjoyed some of the ideas that this AI copywriting tool gave me. Use it for inspiration.
  • [ ] Don’t have mockups? Hire freelancers to create Lottie animations for your website. Think of Lottie as a really nice gif maker that is friendly for websites.
  • [ ] Storyboard your animation and hire someone from upwork.com to make animations demonstrating how your app will work. I had 3 Lotties made for $150! Check them out on cicero.ly
  • [ ] Install something like hotjar.com and tag people who click on elements, scroll all the way down, stop and read sections, etc. Look at your numbers. Does this match industry standards? If not, interview people and figure out why they are not reading, scrolling, or clicking.
  • [ ] Go back to the resources for the “Pre-Launch: Hypothesis” section. Use those resources to find more people to signup and interview them
  • [ ] Need help? Check out the amazing GrowthMentor community where you can book free calls with some of the most incredible mentors you’ll meet anywhere. Note: I am biased as I am a mentor on here, but I truly believe it’s the best community for founders.
  • [ ] Get help from communities like IndieHackers, /r/Entreprenuer, r/marketing, r/EntrepreneurRideAlong/ and r/startups/
  • [ ] Signup on Frontier. It’s a great community of founders giving each other advice and holding each other accountable. Also, you can find early users here.
  • [ ] You need to continue validating assumptions. We discussed the mom test already, but here is a great Y Combinator talk on talking to users.
  • [ ] I also like this article on how to interview customers for priceless insights, which gives more practical advice.
  • [ ] I suggest you start using a tool like Notion to take notes and Shipright to start organizing the suggestions, feature requests, ideas, and more from your interviews. I’m sure other people have much more clever ways of doing this so I’m open to suggestions.

Launching: Building your Product and Website

Website Building

  • [ ] We discussed earlier ways to build landing pages. I recommend Webflow for beautifully responsive and more advanced web building
  • [ ] If you’re an eCommerce company then just stick with Shopify for now.
  • Or just stick with the site you created earlier.
  • [ ] I also recommend Laws of UX. Another incredible evidence-based resource for design. We will reference this again later when building the product.
  • [ ] These UX audit checklist templates are incredible. I recommend you copy this to your own Notion and follow along. Like this one above, we want to use this when designing the product also.
  • [ ] I’ll introduce you to some new, more advanced UX guides here as well. I can’t stress how important UX is, so check out this UX CORE GUIDE. Lots of behavioral-driven advice on designing the customer experience.
  • [ ] Check out this CTO Checklist. It covers all the basics you need in place for a successful software launch. My cofounder and CTO tells me some of these are unnecessary for launch. So up to you to decide.
  • [ ] Tracking is extremely important. Use Segment’s Startup Program and plug that stuff into Mixpanel, which also has a startup program. This is how you track usage.
  • [ ] Email is still king. I worked at SendGrid, but I think Customer.io is the best tool right now. Use it for newsletters, behavioral emails, and transactional emails. It’s vital you have emails ready!

Launching: Getting users

  • [ ] Check out this awesome QA-style guide on getting users, with quotes from leading thinkers.
  • [ ] 18 places to share your startup is also a good one.
  • [ ] Check out this guide on launching on Product Hunt.
  • [ ] Honestly, the best guide on all of this is the Growing a Startup guide. Covers everything from running ads and doing sales to web conversion optimization and onboarding.
  • [ ] Once again, I recommend you get help from the amazing community on GrowthMentor.
  • [ ] Use Postago to find places to write about your product, cross-post your blog, review your product, or even podcasts you can be on.
  • [ ] Use Sparktoro to instantly discover what your audience reads, watches, listens-to, and follows

Post Launch: Ensuring You’re Staying True to Customer Needs

So you’ve launched your product. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, are starting to use it. Time to scale sales and marketing, right? Wrong, this is exactly what Tom warns about in his book. It’s easy to fall for false starts, raise millions, and still fail. So how do you discover a false start and start pivoting right away?

  • [ ] Product market fit is not easy to achieve, but it’s something you should continually test. The lovely people at SuperHuman gave us an in-depth guide on how to ensure product-market fit is achieved.
  • [ ] Don’t stop the customer development. Keep practicing the ideas out of The Mom Test. As the CEO I aim to interview at least 1 customer a day.
  • [ ] Get a holistic view of customer experiences and feedback. Every day you’re getting tons of customer feedback from emails, calls, tickets, NPS, and more. Use tools like Caravel to turn these data into actionable insights you track over time.
  • [ ] Democratize user feedback. Tools like SleekPlan, Rapidr and Canny.io allow you to continually get feedback from users and know what is most important to them. Some companies, like Notion, have created active Reddit communities with lots of user feedback. I don’t have a favorite guide on this so feel free to share one if you do.
  • [ ] Don’t emphasize measuring vanity and feel-good metrics like NPS and user/revenue growth. Instead, measure churn correctly and set up customer performance indicators in place.

Post Launch: Finding Investors

Post Launch: Marketing strategy

  • [ ] I truly believe the most successful companies are the ones who excel at inbound marketing. And the most important part of inbound marketing is Content Marketing. This incredible tool takes you across all aspects of content marketing.
  • The fundamentals of content marketing
  • Content production, blogging, and writing content
  • Distribution, promotion and tools.
  • [ ] In addition, the Growth Marketing Handbook is another fantastic source I like to use and recommend.
  • [ ] Follow simulated, real-life examples on how to do advanced marketing using Vexpower
  • [ ] Hubspot has a lot of amazing courses on marketing. This one on Digital Marketing gives the best bang for you buck. After, dig into the other specific areas covered in the video based on your interests
  • [ ] Want to search out about SEO? Linkedin has a nice SEO fundamentals course that only 2h 38m long.

Scale: Hiring

  • [ ] Contrary to popular beliefs, over 100 years of scientific research shows that there is very little evidence that experience matters. This article breaks down the science and nuances of the issue quite well. I also like this article, which focuses on one of the groundbreaking meta-analyses on this subject. New research continues to validate this hypothesis, but keep in mind that as job complexity increases, so does the predictive power of performance.
  • [ ] So how should you hire? Adam Grant argues you should hire “Trailblazers, Nonconformists, and Originals” and gives practical advice here.
  • [ ] Looking to hire software engineers? Here is an in-depth, scientific, step by step guide on how to structure your hiring process for software engineers
  • [ ] Lastly, this Harvard Business Review article does a good job of debunking some commonly held assumptions and gives different ideas on hiring.

Scale: Not losing touch with customers

Your startup is growing. You’ve done a fantastic job knowing and being in touch with customers thus far. But all things come to an end. It’s now time you hire dozens of employees and focus on other things. So what do you do to make sure the company is still constantly listening to customers?

  • [ ] Develop a Voice of the Customer Program. VoC, as it’s called, is a program to systematically capture, analyze and report on all customer feedback — expectations, likes, and dislikes — associated with your company. Basically, set up the infrastructure and protocols in place to automate and embed customer obsessions into your company. There is a fantastic guide on this here.
  • [ ] Ensure your executives, directors, and managers are truly putting customer success first. This awesome article has 9 questions you can ask yourself and your team. It ranks good answers against bad answers.
  • [ ] Want to nerd out even more on 90 pages of tips, tools, questions, and playbooks on ensuring your company is aligned on customer success? Check out this guide.

Final words from Farzad, the author of this guide.

Your obsession with customers should never end (and never come at the cost of employee happiness). It is what will give you the fuel to build your inbound engine. It is the catalyst for morale. It is the inspiration for features and products no one thought possible. It is your greatest asset. So, I’ll leave you with this quote from the most customer-obsessed CEO on Earth. It perfectly exemplifies everything I’ve been saying.

I love this guide. How can I give back?

As I mentioned, I was sick and tired of BS guides. I created this to give back to the community. Please, just pay it forward. Help people. Spread love. Don’t ignore those who email you asking for help. The world would be a much better place if we just helped each other more.

Additional Resources

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Farzad Khosravi

Farzad Khosravi

12 Followers

Cofounder of Cicero.ly. Humanist. Against all forms of tyranny. Entrepreneur. Maverick. And lover of science.