When Chris and I started this process in October of 2007, I was excited for every step along the way. I knew it would not be easy, but I also knew we would learn a lot about ourselves. Everything we did and anything we accomplished could be attributed directly to decisions we made together. As we had finally launched, (a few weeks late, but ill get to that later), I thought I would write up what I have learned thus far.
1. Little Things Take Forever
In order to market LacrosseRecruits.com at camps, in lacrosse stores, etc, we needed a brochure made up. We had an idea of what we wanted to put in the brochure, but figured this would be something we could bang out in a day. We thought to ourselves "we see these tri fold brochures everywhere...this can not be too hard." We were wrong. We first wrote up what we wanted on each panel and headed over to FedEx Kinkos. After 3 days, I got a call saying our proof was ready and it looked "fabulous." What FedEx Kinkos produced for us looked like a 3rd grader put it together. I seriously wanted to ask the lady if she was joking with this proof she gave me. It was FedEx Kinko's job to put together documents like this. We then gave www.VistaPrint.com a shot and they produced a little better product, but it still was pretty bad. We ended up getting a template and doing it ourselves. This brochure was perhaps the most important document Chris and I would produce all year. All in, the whole process took us about a month, but we realized that little things like this will inevitably be the difference between making it and not making it.
2. Ask For Help
Pretty much everything Chris and I have done up to this point has been new to us. Writing a business plan, having financial documents for the company prepared, writing a press release, etc are all new experiences for us. We have been very fortunate to have friends and family out there that have experience in all these fields that are new to us. It can be overwhelming to think about how many things we have to get done on a daily basis, but it has been great to have friends willing to read over our press release or test our website for us. Thank you friends.
For any company, effectively marketing our tool will be essential. Our product is great and everyone says our idea is wonderful, but a great product that nobody knows about does not make it. Everyday Chris, John and I come up with new ways to connect with high school lacrosse players and their parents. If that means we go to lacrosse games and put flyers on every car in the parking lot, then that's fine (and we have gone through about 5,000 postcards thus far). We may educate a high school coach about what LacrosseRecruits.com is all about, but we cannot bank on that coach telling his kids about the tool. This summer we will be rolling out some cool marketing techniques (please see our facebook group for these techniques in action. Thank you Mark Zuckerburg for Facebook).
When you think your website is done, there is always something you see that you want to change. We quickly realized that we would need to settle on a product that we were happy with and had to stop making changes at some point. The way the testing worked was our developers would push a website to "staging", we would test it and send back a 5-15 page document with things we needed / wanted changed. Our developers would then spend 2 or 3 days making these changes, push that product to staging and then we would produce another 5-15 page document with more changes. We did this 5 times. The way I saw the site looking in my head is very close to how it ended up The final product and could not be happier with what we our developers (Luna Webs is the name of the company) put together. We of course have enhancements in mind already, but that is only natural. It was great to recently read a story that the founder of Amazon wrote about how when Amazon launched you were able to order negative copies of books. So if I ordered -2 copies of "Kite Runner", my credit card was actually credited for those two copies. And look at Amazon now! (We tried to order negative memberships to LacrosseRecruits.com and it does not work...so don't bother trying!!).
5. Be Patient
We have some great things happening in the next month to market our product. Although it would be nice to say a week after launch that we have been a smashing success, this company will develop over the course of a year. We will have girls lacrosse launching in the next month, which is very exciting. Lucky for us, altering the current site to accommodate girls lacrosse is a reasonable process and will not take too long!
We will continue to be at every lacrosse camp / tournament possible to spread the word.