Cliff Lerner is an accomplished business leader who gave up a lucrative Wall Street career to launch an online dating start-up. With his brother Darell Lerner, Cliff founded SNAP Interactive and served as SNAP’s CEO and Chairman from 2005 through 2015. Today, he serves on SNAP’s Board of Directors. Under Cliff’s leadership, the company has established itself as a top leader and innovator in the online-dating industry. As the first successful Facebook online-dating app, SNAP became the first social media company to become a publicly-traded company in 2006.
Lerner outlines 80 tips to follow in launching, building, and optimizing products, while also providing advice and strategies for developing and maintaining an online business.
- Cliff Lerner created an online dating platform that was not just marginally better than its competitors, but was 10-times better. While getting a date could once take days, Lerner’s platform could get you one in just minutes.
- SNAP Interactive combined real-life events with data relevant to the dating industry to attract visibility, mainly caused by the controversies they sparked — a process called “newsjacking.”
- Darell Lerner, Cliff’s brother and co-founder says, “Success in business doesn’t come from an idea or a formula; it comes from execution. No path is identical, and each key moment presents a decision point that will impact and shape the future of the business.”
- Both Lerners believe that no matter how great a product is, many of today’s billion-dollar companies succeeded by growing on top of other platforms: Leverage is everything!
Explosive Growth is a Business Book where Lerner uses a compelling and inspiring narrative to give a step-by-step guidebook to achieve success. He combines lively, and often hilarious, storytelling with genius growth tactics and a variety of case studies to help entrepreneurs and new startups. As Darell Lerner says, “Success in business doesn’t come from an idea or a formula; it comes from execution. No path is identical, and each key moment presents a decision point that will impact and shape the future of the business.”
- Benefits of your product: Focus on identifying and selling the benefits of your product, not the features. A feature is what something is; the benefit is how it improves lives. Make your product a “Purple Cow”—something different, exciting, and remarkable —that will be noticed by everyone.
- Timing: Timing, along with long-term vision, is everything,n. Don’t confuse “timing” with the notion of being first because, in some cases, being first can actually work against you.
- Preparation instead of panicking: Lerner advises entrepreneurs to make the unknown known by creating a worst-case scenario plan. Go through every potential problem scenario, and write down possible solutions. In doing this, you’ll u discover that the situation is rarely as bad as you initially thought.
- Hiring: Your first few hires will set the tone for your culture. Team is everything. Having a few extremely talented members on your team can make all the difference in the world.
Another tip on testing is the use of robust analytics. According to Lerner, building product and testing features without them is like driving blindfolded — it won’t end well.
- Optimization: There are projects you’re keeping alive by ignoring the sunk-cost principle (or for emotional,non-practical reasons). Shut them down now to free up more valuable time and focus.
- If possible, leverage existing platforms: Many of today’s billion-dollar companies succeeded by growing on top of other platforms. Are you testing integrations with emerging and established platforms? No matter how great your product is, you have to be able to guage how you’re going to grow faster. Having a unique product is great, but knowing how to leverage a highly visible marketing channel (like Facebook) to get it in front of a greater number of users is crucial.
- Read all your customer emails, there’s a pot of gold in them if you look closely enough.As companies grow, the decision makers and CEOs often become disconnected from their users, as layers of employees are hired to address issues. Make sure you remain connected to your users.
- Hold a monthly brainstorming session, ideally with a theme like “new features” or with a specific goal in mind, and encourage the entire company to participate. Your best ideas won’t always come from the people who are being paid a lot of money to come up with them.
Don’t charge for free stuff!
No matter your business strategy, never start charging for something that users are used to receiving for free. They will revolt and cause irrevocable damage with bad reviews.
Being an entrepreneur requires the capacity to make tough but fair decisions for the good of the company. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake, but it’s more important to keep moving forward. Being a Leader.
- Don’t be pressured into making any decisions or signing any documents you’re unsure about. Never sign a paper (contract, deal, etc.) under pressure. Do not close a deal if you don’t understand the terms of the contract. Beware of toxic terms!
Whenever you can take some money off the table (especially life-changing money), do it. Risks are necessary to achieve truly impactful success, but you still needto be smart. So, temper those risks with sound decision making. Don’t let all the money ride.
- Small goals lead to small ideas. Double or triple your goals and use a company-wide brainstorming session to solicit ideas. You need to train your mindset to become positive. Attending influential seminars, like the Tony Robbins seminar, helped Lernerto surmount something as big as his father's death, as well as to improve his mental clarity.
- Be the smartest in the world at something.
- Pay constant attention to the core product of your company.
- The best people always work on the best opportunities, not on the biggest problems. Focus on building solutions to problems, rather than building new products or features.
- Talented people are always looking for new challenges, and it’s the CEO’s job to keep them hungry.
- You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
- You might come up with the most brilliant idea, but it won’t help you become successful if you don’t try t it on real users. This implies building robust analytics and doing constant experimentation. The more tests you run, the more you learn, and the more you’ll succeed.