Until only a few years ago, the idea of starting a business was out of reach for most people. Doing a startup was considered an exclusive move, and usually reserved for the privileged few who had the time and money to do so. The title “entrepreneur” was for those with an MBA, or at least the business experience to back it up.
But nowadays things are different. Technology, tools, and an endless supply of online resources have made building your own business on the cheap within the reach of just about everyone. With books like The $100 Startup and Rework showing the way, opportunities for breaking free from the 9-to-5 are more plentiful than ever. Platforms like Upwork also have made subject matter expertise both accessible and affordable for those with limited budgets (which is just about everyone).
Make no mistake about it, business building has many rewards. but it’s also extremely challenging. There are no easy paths to startup success. Everyone and their uncle is launching a business today, which makes the playing field even more competitive.
But there are powerful techniques that you can adopt today to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. These are not, of course, the only methods. But consider these as 7 tried and true “growth hacks” to take your business to the next level.
1. Get a Mentor
There’s nothing like a trusted mentor who can help you see the blind spots in your business model. Find a friend, colleague, or trusted business associate and buy them lunch in exchange for an honest perspective on your business. It’s really difficult to see yourself in the frame of your own picture. Getting another set of eyes on your business model is critical for your success.
If you’re not sure where to find a mentor, start attending a local Event Meetup in your community. It’s likely you’ll find someone who shares your passion but also has more experience.
2. Find Your Target Audience
There are so many moving parts involved in building a business that it’s easy to miss the forest from the trees. Make sure that you’re crystal clear about who your target market is.
Case in point revolves around Facebook Advertising. Facebook skews to an older demographic nowadays. This means that more people older than 35 are likely to engage with your Facebook Ad than people under 30.
So if you’re trying to reach millennials with your latest new social media app, then you probably want to be on Instagram and Snapchat instead.
3. Don’t Waste Excessive Amounts on Ads
When’s the last time you clicked a Banner Ad? Then why are you spending $100 a day on Facebook and Google AdWords? Before throwing money at ads, stop and think a minute about why you’re going to Facebook in the first place. Are you there to make a purchase? Likely not!
Most people go there to catchup with news and old friends. If you plan to run Ads on Facebook, start out with $5-10 a day. Split test a couple ads with these smaller amounts and determine from there which ones perform the best. After all, if your ads don’t convert at $5/day, what makes you think they will convert at $100/day? Facebook algorithms love money, so don’t blindly feed the machine.
4. Push Out High Quality Content
Content is still king and startups need to respect that by offering continuous, high quality information relevant to their niche. A great place to start is by reading Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi. It’s really been a catalyst for a modern renaissance of content marketing techniques and technologies.
The idea here is that instead of focusing on the product first, as most businesses do, you instead focus on your target audience and early adopters by providing them with rich content. After picking a primary delivery channel such as a blog, podcast, whitepaper, or video, you deliberately stream content to build a following of customers that you can eventually sell to.
5. Ask These Two Critical Questions
The key questions to ask yourself are “what are you selling?” and “who are you selling to?”
Answering these correctly will help you validate your business model and make sure that you’re executing on your core strategy. Once you’ve answered who your target audience is and what you’re selling them, then your website and call to action (CTA) should correspond to this information.
In other words, don’t sell your free “How to prepare for retirement” eBook to millennials; they won’t care. Market to the over 50 demographic on Facebook and you’ll be in business.
6. Get Busy on YouTube
Build your YouTube following one subscriber at a time. Video today is where blogs were in 2005 and YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. Setting yourself apart in your niche means posting regular vlogs based on keywords relevant to your niche. If you have a Software-as-a-Service company, then start posting video content relevant to your product. Tell a story about how you started the business, what lack you saw in the market, and how your product met the need. Start posting daily and watch people start to engage with your brand and service.
7. Just Do Something!
The biggest power play in business is execution. Doing something is better than nothing. The greatest cause of business failure is not poor ideation or lack of talent or bad management. The biggest cause of failure is NOT doing anything. People get so hung up on brainstorming, that they forget that putting sticky notes on walls is not execution.
Producing content is where you start. Writing blogs, posting videos on YouTube, Tweeting, uploading photos to Instagram, Snapchatting. This is where the execution happens. The more, the better!
Now that you’ve read this blog, the next step is up to you. Avoid the temptation of just storing the information away, but rather devise a plan now to do something, anything just to take a step towards your goal.
The key is to promise yourself that you’ll take the next step TODAY. Don’t let another week or month go by without activity. The biggest cause for failure in business is analysis paralysis. Look, there’s never been a more ideal time to launch that idea you’ve always been dreaming about. If you’re not doing anything, then your competition in India or Silicon Valley is. Remember, someone somewhere is always improving, always executing on their ideas, and the more you wait the further behind you will fall.
If you need a sounding board or help getting to the next step, feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation. I’ll be happy to talk through your business strategy and help identify any blindspots that may be holding you back.