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Building A Strong Commercial Team for Your Digital Start-Up

by Ben Stinton - 1st April 2016

eCommerce Technology Hire Digital Talent

Building A Strong Commercial Team for Your Digital Start-Up

 All start-ups have the same fundamental commercial needs and issues to manage. They need to set and deliver on a commercial strategy that will define and sell their product, whilst looking after their growing customer base. Digital and technology will be the main driving forces behind any successful company – and for digital start-ups, they will actually be the service on offer e.g. apps, SaaS software or digital content.

This is the perfect time to create a digital start-up as factors such as the lower costs of technology and social media are facilitating entry for savvy, commercially-minded entrepreneurs. Embarking on the challenges of launching a successful digital start-up will require you to go through certain phases, each have different needs and issues that require different levels of resource/staffing within the business:

  • 'Creation' covers the main areas of ideation and conception; i.e. understanding your market, gathering ideas, evaluating those ideas and creating a business & operational strategy. At this point your team will probably be just the core founders, who will be covering all areas of product, marketing and strategy. The public face of the company will be limited to a simple and hopefully intriguing landing page where you can collect email addresses of interested potential users.
  • According to the Lean Start-up principles, the next phase is where you 'Build' your Minimum Viable Product. You’ll need developers and designers to do this, but the core team won’t grow much beyond this and it will be 'all hands to the pump' from the founders as you continue to develop your strategy and processes.
  • Once you have a Minimum Viable Product the company moves to a 'Validation' phase, where users are needed to see how the product is used and received in practice. At this point you may need to hire a dedicated sales person in order to get these initial users on board. Some kind of customer service function is needed as well, this can initially be handled by the existing team but may require another dedicated hire. The result of Validation is that either you have a good product that you can 'Iterate' (develop further) or you need to 'Pivot' (re-focus on a different product that has emerged).

Your initial team may only be the founders, developers, designers, sales or business development person and possibly one or two customer service staff. The latter is crucial if you offer IT or a digital service with ongoing and or after-sales support.

The team you build needs the skills to help you achieve your vision… and for a short while it might be a fast-paced working environment where everyone needs to be fully committed.


What to do as Your Digital Start-up Commercially matures…

The next phase is 'Scale Up' which is focussed on growing the company in all areas. This isn't just limited to product functionality and technical infrastructure. Your commercial team and processes need to grow to bring in all the new users, and look after them professionally. If you do a great job this also should super charge your growth through user referrals.

Typically, as your client base increases, your commercial resources will also become increasingly stretched. People resources and even the tools & technologies used within your company might no longer fulfil your requirements. These areas will all need to be continuously evaluated and changes made, such as:

  • Your Sales and Business Development team will need to increase to capitalise on all leads and opportunities.
  • You may also consider employing account manager/s to handle your larger clients on a more personal basis, ensure that they are getting the most out of your product and capture any opportunity to up-sell or collect more leads.
  • To provide a great service to your expanding client needs you’ll need to invest in more Customer Service team members, training and the right tools.
  • Finally, you might want to employ a Customer Success Manager or Team. This is a high level Account Management function that compliments a traditional Account Managers, by offering a level of abstraction and value. Customer Success is focussed on retention and growth of customers, by regularly engaging with customers to proactively ensure they are getting the most value out of your product.

Digital Entrepreneurs now have great opportunities to provide their customers (B2B and B2C) with high quality services, ongoing and after sales support. In order to do this they need to hire a strong commercial team, who can bring with them their invaluable experience of working for similar digital sales focussed companies.  Digital Start-up owners can build strongly identifiable commercial brands as well as increasing their customer base & loyalty very rapidly in today’s commercial economy.


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