By Martin Zwilling
The military has long recognized that machine guns are force multipliers for rifles, but businesses have been slow to capitalize on this concept. Sometimes all the planning in the world isn’t enough for business survival, when things change as fast as they do today. Every business, especially startups, needs all guns blazing quickly on every opportunity or insight into the market.
This point was highlighted well in the classic book, “Disrupting Digital Business,” by R “Ray” Wang, CEO and Principal Analyst of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research. I recommend that every entrepreneur and small business investigate and implement as many as possible of his seven new business force multipliers that I will paraphrase here:
Information sharing through social media networks. The speed, interactivity, and sharing we can do today through the social media networks of Twitter, Facebook, and many others is a major force multiplier. Communications that traditionally could only be broadcast to all can now be done on a customized person-to-person level, interactively.
Soliciting user-generated online feedback and reviews. User generated content that is immediately available to other users is another positive force multiplier. Of course, it can also be a negative force multiplier, if you are not paying attention as an entrepreneur, or choose to challenge your customer’s view of reality.
Crowdsourcing for funding and ideas. Crowdsourcing allows entrepreneurs to bypass the experts and professional investors, to get quick validation and help for efforts that meet the needs of today’s audience. New ways are being developed every day to reward and influence people who participate in crowdsourcing, for a very low cost.
Flash mob activities created for immediate impact. These can be utilized as force multipliers by creating “pop-up” stores or events at a moment’s notice in the middle of an opportunity to get interest, attention, and sales. Apple did it with a pop-up store in Austin to sell the new iPad to 20,000 technologists near the South-by-Southwest music festival.
Nurture dedicated customer advocates and fans. Consider advocates to be a step up from customer engagement. Advocates talk about you and become influencers to the many who are undecided. These dedicated fans and partners believe so much in your brand, your cause, and your product, that they do all the force multiplying work for free.
Improve situation awareness for real-time decisions. This means that your network has connectivity to the right people and groups to hear the right information at the right time and place to make speedy and informed decisions. It’s a force multiplier by allowing your business to react and jump into something important before everyone else does.
Do predictive hot-spotting to anticipate near-term changes. Effective prediction of the future is the ultimate force multiplier. It’s already in use by law enforcement to predict security hotspots, health-care to predict needs, but most businesses are far behind in the use of analytics and big data. It’s time to exploit your network for trends and direction.
If you want to grow your startup, and you are only reaching one customer at a time, one market or one partnership at a time, you’re not going to grow fast enough to be competitive, especially against the larger players that have a full infrastructure in the marketplace. These force multipliers allow you to scale up rapidly, and reach opportunities you could not support any other way.
But force multipliers used without focus are not enough to make a company great. Top entrepreneurs still have to decide what activities and tools are the most important for their domain and their environment. We all have limited resources and time, and need the right force multipliers to leverage every single element of both.
Of course, the concept of force multiplication goes far beyond your startup networks. Simple force multipliers, like product cost reductions and powerful new software tools, have been around for a long time. Every team member needs to constantly seek forces that can multiply their impact and productivity. What new force multipliers are you using in your startup today?