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Joe Malcoun, focus on product first, promotion second

The team at Nutshell knew how it wanted to build its business. Product comes first. Generating revenue come later.

It's not always the best strategy for a startup. Too often good business ideas die because there aren’t enough people buying from them. Business veterans like to preach revenue generation as the one true way to build a successful business. Sell early and often.

Joe Malcoun, the CEO of Nutshell, maintains that Nutshell was built from the product up. Nutshell's platform helps businesses track sales leads and consolidate internal communications to streamline collaboration and better analyze how the business is performing.

"We built something that was easy to use," Malcoun says. "Intuitive and beautifully designed."

Nutshell spent its first years developing its software. Then is started growing organically. No real marketing. Just word of mouth. This year (the company's fifth) it crossed the $1 million sales mark.

"I attribute it to a really great product," Malcoun says. "The company was built from a technical perspective. The team assembled was focused on the product."

Nutshell's co-founders focused on their four Ps when starting out the company. Well most of them. The first is product. That has been the main focus since the firm’s founding. The second is people. Getting the right technical team together has proven to be instrumental in creating a first-class product.

Third is purpose. The company and the product has to have a strong purpose. Think of it as company culture. The better the culture the better the team and the better the product. The fourth is promotion. Nutshell hasn’t really engaged in that part yet as it has built up the company from product sales and the co-founders bootstraps.

"It was easier for this company because we were starting from an advantageous place," Malcoun says.

That's changing this year. Nutshell is working on creating and executing a marketing plan to ramp up the organic growth it already has enjoyed. That's a good place to be, but Malcoun is quick to say its the type of route that is easier for some businesses to follow than others.

"I'd acknowledge the fact that every scenario is unique," Malcoun says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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