I've been in the internet marketing field for some time now but I've been largely working for other people. It's suited me. I've avoided having to put in a lot of time, energy and money to pay the bills. I thought for a long time, that was where I would stay and work towards my own products in the long run. At some point you have to grab the bull by the horns and actually do something but how do you start your own business empire?
The basic steps of building a business are pretty straightforward. You need a product or a service to sell. You need to have complete clarity about the company you want to build, it's core beliefs and values and you need to find out who your target market is. With those things in hand, you need to take action in order to get your core beliefs and values (and by extension your product) in front of your audience so they can buy it. Finally, you deliver on your promises before automating the whole process, so you can step away from your business and have the life you want.
This last week, I started off in a program called The Quick Start Challenge, which aims to get you from zero to making money over a 5 week period. But, that's not the be all and end all of building a business. I'm well aware that there is much more work to do than that and I am considering what my path will be when those 5 weeks are up.
I'm no stranger to building businesses. I started off in web design but soon moved into marketing and finally consultation before joining the IM crowd. The thing is, the worst patient is a doctor and we all need all the help we can get.
When you first start thinking about putting a business together, you need to understand what makes you tick as much as what skills you have. I know this from experience. I'm a trained web designer with 10 years in the industry but at one point I just had to admit it... Putting websites together for other people just wasn't for me.
Think about your motivation for starting a business. What is it you want to get out of it? Is this going to be a long-term paid hobby or do you want this to replace your 9-5 job? Whatever you answer here will have an effect on how you approach your new business.
Make a list of the skills you have, the passions you have and where your expertise lie. How do these crossover? Can you make a living from your passion by using your current skill set?
You need to be brutally honest with yourself at this point.
The big take away here is, if you want to live a carefree lifestyle then you have to build something that will allow you to do that. Understand what you want to get out of life because, ultimately, that will inform the type of business you will thrive at.
It's probably important at this point to ask yourself if you're suited to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. It's not for everyone but it is worth noting that not every type of self-employment has to be at that level. This should be a fun process because it's where you really figure out what your dreams are and how you want to fulfil them.
So, when you know what industry you want to move in to (hint, it should be what you're most passionate about) you should have some idea about your best customer. You might have heard about your customer avatar or ideal client. It's the same idea. You need to understand your industry and the best way of doing that is to understand the people in it and the problems they have.
Finding your ideal client isn't difficult. There will already be people who use products and services in your field. Who are they, what do they like and what are their problems.
It's a good idea at this point to get a handle on the problems that these customers face on a regular basis. This is known as the customers 'pain points' and it is invaluable to understand this when writing sales copy or determining how you will pitch your product to your client.
Now you have some information on them, really narrow down your best customer until you know everything about them. Make them a single person. Give them a name, address, find out if they are single or married. It's also important to understand their cultural frame of reference.
Recently, some adverts were run that used the characters He-Man and Skeletor from the Masters Of The Universe franchise. This is a show that has been off the air since the late 80s and yet they are still fondly remembered. These adverts were specifically designed to target the 35-45 crowd who would have seen these as children. There is a lot of power in nostalgia, so get to know what your ideal client watched, read and enjoyed as a child. What's more, you should find out what they're into now as well.
It's not enough to understand your customer's pain points, you also have to understand how you can solve those issues. Issue focused product design is much more effective than someone who just follows the herd when it comes to products. In the IM industry we are constantly seeing the same types of products being released time and again. The really big sales, however, tend to be for the new and improved solutions that really solve a problem that causes everyone pain.
As a marketer, I am always looking for products that sell themselves. Creating your product based on problems you know your audience already have (and are not being solved) is the best way of doing this.
This is also the point at which you should consider what else is out there, who are your competitors and what you can do differently to help your prospective clients.
At this point, you want to come up with your product or service. If you're going to be selling this online, you might also want to build lead magnets and start thinking about paid advertising.
Something you shouldn't do here, however, is to try and focus on out competing your competitors. If you sell on features then you are risking a war with other companies to see who can match those features first. At this point, you really want to be thinking about what you bring to the table that your competitors can't.
Apple uses this approach a lot. They don't sell the features of the iPhone, they sell the experience of owning one. They've done this right from the beginning as well. Check this out:
Notice in the video above how the features of the computer are pushed aside in favour of the marketing message, that Macs are the "computer for the rest of us." They are not selling the features, they're selling the experience.
The great thing about this tactic is that customers buy into this form of advertising, taking away the simple message and ignoring the massive features list, at least until nearer the time they want to buy.
Getting to your ideal client should be fairly easy with modern technology. Gone are the days when you would have to advertise in newspapers or direct mail, everything is computer based. None the less, you still have to get in front of your ideal clients at a time when a lot of other things are trying to get their attention as well.
You have to make sales a priority but, luckily, this is where all of that soul-searching from earlier comes in to play.
Because you know your ideal client inside and out you can use this to talk directly to them and start to build up a following. Modern marketing (although much of it hasn't changed) works best when you cultivate an audience of fans. These fans will rabidly advocate for your products and services as long as you solve their problems.
Most people, when they first approach clients, have an inbuilt fear of actually talking to them. They don't want to be told no and they are worried about being too pushy. Don't forget, time is your most important resource. Don't let someone politely stand in front of you if you have a feeling they have no intention to buy. Move on. At the same time, don't be afraid of asking for the sale.
It's a balancing act that you get used to over time. My experience with local businesses in the UK is that many of them don't actually have a lot of money themselves. They don't always see the value in what you can do. You need to establish this quickly and, as much as possible, make sure you're talking the same language. I've seen people spend 30 minutes pitching to a client who has a budget of £20. That fee wouldn't even cover your time to pitch. Learn to recognise it.
Once you have people on board, you'll have to actually deliver a product. This is the point where you need to streamline what you're offering and make sure you can, for the most part, step away from the business without it falling apart (after all, what happens if you get taken ill).
Make sure that clients aren't going to be waiting for their products. Where possible, try and have everything ready to go the moment the client pays. The more you can do this, the more passive your business will become and the more you can have a big overview of the whole process.
So, ultimately these are the steps that any business will have to go through. Depending on what industry you're in will depend on how you do some of those things. In IM, getting in front of your customers will probably consist of Facebook ads, email marketing... writing a blog post about how to start a business empire. That kind of thing. It might look different to the family butcher who relies on word of mouth to get customers but the process is the same, just some of the steps look a bit different.
For now, I am returning to my Quick Start Challenge (our next session is tomorrow night as I'm writing this) and will probably keep you all informed on progress through this blog. Stay tuned. Perhaps you'll want to start your own business empire. I hope you do.