There are probably a dozen or so lessons in the months from July 2001 through the spring of 2002, but a couple of them really jump out.
Having sold off WirelessCentral.Net, shuttered all the other hideous ideas, and focused completely on creating a WLAN certification for the IT industry, we were on a mission. Devin left his job at Bellsouth and I left my cushy position at First Data.
Here’s a lesson: Take a risk! What’ve you got to lose? Oh, everything? Sounds about right. Look around you at the ranks of successful entrepreneurs and ask them what they risked, or even better, what they actually lost! It’s money and stuff. Yes, it causes pain and irretrievable loss of time to keep the rest of your life together when you do lose it, but you can always make more money, and stuff is outdated in a year anyway. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the first 5 people who might have been involved in what is now CWNP didn’t want to risk anything much less everything.
In July 2001, we launched the CWNA certification exam through Prometric. We had succeeded in our goal of being the first to market with a WLAN/Wireless certification exam. We had won! We were first! Yeah! Wait…how do we make money again? Right, someone has to TAKE the certification exam. NEWMAN!!!
Lesson #4: this one applies to almost any product launch – if you want someone to buy your product or use your service, you have to give them the tools to do so, or they will simply ignore the product or service.
To make matters worse, we had no money to advertise and no audience to tell! So we did 2 things that stuck with us for the duration. First, we started creating “courseware”, that nasty thick spiral bound bunch of power points slides printed over notes and notes lines for students to follow along with the instructor. And, second, we created an email list and begged people to subscribe.
Lesson #5: You have to have an audience before you can sell any product or service. Our audience was and still is networking nerds, most of whom have several email accounts. Email was our most successful customer acquisition tactic. You must have a reliable medium for consistently communicating with your audience to turn audience into prospect into customer into repeat customer.