Cirque du Soleil and Startups



What the heck do Cirque de Soleil and startups have to do with each other? Cirque du Soleil and a badass startup have these characteristics:

  • The opportunity and startup concept are built around the team’s skills and strengths
  • Each team member performs a different function
  • The marketing and launch of products are in unison
  • The team utilizes reverse market positioning to get noticed
  • The product, team, and marketing are truly remarkable

So now you know what Cirque du Soleil and startups have in common let’s dive into the details.

The opportunity and startup concept are built around the team’s skills and strengths. This is the most important characteristic for a Cirque du Soleil and your startup. When Cirque is recruiting and evaluating talent it will create roles in their shows around the unique individual’s talents. If they don’t have a role they will create the roll in order to promote the rockstar’s skills. Your startup should do the same freaking thing. I have seen way too many skilled startups get blown out of the water by going after the wrong market or opportunity. If you have one average developer and one average marketer then focus on a smaller opportunity. Maybe this opp doesn’t require massive development resources and has some direct sales component so the weaknesses are less pronounced. If this is your first startup maybe go after a super small niche.

In summary can your team honestly execute the proposed venture? Does your skill set match the size and scope of the venture?

Each team member performs a different function. In Cirque’s shows everyone has a different specific role. Don’t be the startup with two business dudes and no developers. On the flip side don’t have two developers who both hate marketing. This seems obvious but I see idiots on a daily basis launching companies without a full time dev resource.

In summary get one dev and one marketing/sales dude.

(side note – the new hotness is one dev and one designer for the founding team. This is great IF one of them can sell and market.)

The marketing and launch of products are in unison. Cirque is straight human art. Everything moves in perfect coordination. The show flows from one act to the next seamlessly. From a startup standpoint this means being well organized and having in-depth tactical marketing plans.  Recently I got super into Frank Kern. If you have not scoped out his stuff you should. Frank has a ton of videos on YouTube about product launches. One of his concepts is money magnets. Basically distributing free content like video courses and ebooks when you are launching your new venture. What I really learned from Frank was that a launch is a 60-day process that has a different marketing activity occurring EVERYDAY. Day one you have a guest post going live, day two you have an interview on Mixergy, day 3 you give-away a money magnet to your email list, day 4 you do a webinar etc. The point here is to coordinate all your activities with one master launch calendar focused on marketing. This coordination magnifies the marketing activities and ideally you become the focus of your market.

In summary you need to be organized. You need a launch calendar that is marketing focused.

The team utilizes unique market positioning to get noticed. Ok I know this is MBA speak but hear me out. Our startup space has become crowded with me-too products and “x for y” startup pitches. Don’t get me wrong sometimes being super innovative is overrated and risky. But as startup dudes we need to position our products in different innovative ways in order to standout and allow the marketing to penetrate the user’s mind. Netflix positioned against Blockbuster and the service was everything Blockbuster wasn’t. Why do so many startups have shitty positioning statements? Tell me exactly what your product does in 7 words or less and your marketing better have a solid angle. In startup land tactics lead to strategy. Figure out where and how you are going to market to your target audience then test positioning statements on them to see what works.

In summary understand positioning. Clearly state what you do. Be unique with your marketing.

The product, team, and marketing are truly remarkable. Be honest is your product/service, marketing, and team truly awesome. I doubt it. The best startup dudes I know are never satisfied. They are always paranoid. (actually some of the most successful startup dudes are downers because they are always pissed about something) Cirque is a worldwide sensation that is truly remarkable. The Cirque team takes their craft very seriously. A lot of wanna-be startup dudes think the space is all about making money. The people who have been around realize the money is crap, usually. We do this to do cool stuff and change the world. How the heck can you change the world with a crappy product?

In summary be remarkable, be awesome, be an ass-kicker, never be satisfied, and always be paranoid.

Author bio: Matt Smith is a BizDev dude at Stacksocial.com and currently runs a small iPhone app company. His newest app is “Startup Videos.” This Free app is a collection of tech startup videos featuring lectures from Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and hundreds of other tech founders.