So you want to run your own business. Now what?
If you feel lost, you're not alone. Running a business can be confusing. We've all been there. But successful business owners are not confused for long. They soon find themselves making the right moves to take their business to the next level.
What helps them do that?
In an interview with Oprah, writer J. J. McCorvey credited her success to "radical focus". And Steve Jobs defined focus as not only saying YES to the most important thing(s), but saying NO to the hundred other good ideas that there are.
These are short yet powerful lessons from two of the most successful and inspiring people we know.
"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are."
- Steve Jobs
You don't need to do everything all at once
Many new online business owners quickly become overwhelmed and confused about all the things they have to do, buy and master.
Websites, blogging, social media, Facebook ads, webinars, Instagram Stories, branding, analytics, SEO, etc etc. No wonder so many give up on their business dreams after not getting results.
The truth is, trying to do all these things all at once is a recipe for failure, not to mention it'll be a waste of your time and money.
For example, I see many people trying to figure out how to run webinars, before they have a compelling offer to put in front of their audience, and even before they know exactly who their target audience is!
Mind you, you can be the best at your craft but unless you market your business effectively and with focus, it will not succeed. Goals become easier to achieve once you have a marketing strategy in place. Knowing what to do, and when, is the key.
Many budding entrepreneurs resent the business end of things. They would rather focus on their core competence, on their craft they are so proud of. But practical entrepreneurs embrace it.
They either partner up with a marketing person, or if they prefer solo flight, "go to school" on digital marketing. They learn about marketing planning and how to pull in business consistently.
A marketing roadmap gives you focus & clarity
Despite being great at what you do, marketing may be a new skill for you. And that's okay. It is the same for many business owners. This is why having a marketing roadmap is invaluable. It will help you focus on activities that are most relevant and effective for a particular stage of your business, and will yield much better results.
Having focus helps you eliminate overwhelm from the equation. This gives you clarity. And for entrepreneurs, focus and clarity are the superpowers you need to propel yourself forward. They will help you understand what stage your business is in, and what you should focus on to get to the next stage.
Different people may refer to the stages by different names. In this blog post, I've broken them down to the following four stages. And I'll define each stage in terms of:
- What you have already accomplished ("Your Status")
- The marketing activities you should focus on ("Your Focus")
- What you should say no to until a later stage ("Your Distractions")
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1. The Seed Stage
- You don't have an idea, but you know you want to start a business.
- You have a business idea but that's it.
- You haven't spent time validating your business idea.
- You don't have a website or you have a website but have no or little traffic.
It all starts with an idea. "Starts" being the operating word here. Many aspiring entrepreneurs get excited about an idea and dive right into creating a product or service.
Smart business owners are not haphazard. They first validate their business idea and figure out a suitable business model.
You need to make sure a successful business can be built on your idea. You should also see whether such a business would enable you to live your dream lifestyle. Maybe you need to tweak your idea or take a different angle to make it profitable.
At any rate, you want to find that out before, and not after, you've launched your service or product. Otherwise you'll be launching to the sound of crickets.
- Validating your business idea
- Researching your target market
- Pinpointing your ideal customers
- Getting feedback from potential customers
- Deciding on a business model that works for you
- Naming your business
- Creating products or services
- Designing your website or logo
- Creating graphics / obsessing over fonts and colours
- Setting up your social media profiles
2. The Build Stage
- You have a validated idea for your business
- You don't have or have little online presence (website, social media channels, etc.)
- You don't have a following (followers and email subscribers)
- You don't have any paying clients/customers
So, your business idea is good to go. And you know how you'll conduct your business. But you have yet to build that business. This is where the power of distraction hits you with full force.
There's just so much to learn and do. It's natural to want to try everything and "give your all" to your business. But the bevy of strategies and tactics can actually muddle things up. This stage is where focus is perhaps most important.
- Choosing a business name
- Creating a minimum viable service or product
- Creating a crystal-clear marketing message
- Designing your brand identity
- Creating your website
- Creating your social network profiles
- Drafting your content calendar
- Creating lead magnets
- Guest posting
- Appearing on interviews / podcasts / webinars
- Joint ventures
- Hosting live events
- Spending money on advertising
- Marketing automation
3. The Hustle Stage
- You're publishing regular original content
- You have a deep understanding of your ideal clients' pain points
- You're starting to build an audience
- You're consistently making some money but not enough to replace a full-time income
Patience is a virtue, especially during this stage. Don't expect your business to replace your income in a couple of weeks. Sure, online businesses become profitable faster than traditional ones thanks to lower expenses. But don't hand in your resignation yet.
Ideally, you have started something that will eventually, hopefully not too much into the future, be profitable. And lead the path to financial independence -- to the land of good money and no bosses.
But if you're not careful, you may realize you just swapped a boss you can't stand for clients/customers you can't stand.
For now, keep creating content, growing your email list and maximising your business exposure. If you do it right, you will attract the right people to your business. Otherwise a good conversion rate (of the wrong people) will only add to your headaches! This is especially true for consultancy businesses where you have a lot of face time with clients.
- Consistently publishing new and original content
- Creating lead magnets to grow your email list
- Growing your social media following
- Generating organic traffic
- Continuing to build brand awareness
- Exploring and utilising the best exposure avenues
- Have a service/product that converts consistently
- Doing Facebook ads
- Paid traffic
- Doing webinars
- Creating online courses
- Creating sales funnels
4. The Growth Stage
- You're generating enough income to consider running your business full time
- Your business is gaining momentum
- You have a steady flow of new email subscribers
- You are getting a constant supply of leads and converting enough of them into paying clients
- People are beginning to reach out to you instead of just the other way round
- You're getting known as a leader in your niche
Congratulations, you are the proud owner of a business that can actually pay the bills. And more. You are that much closer to having your dream business. As you head towards aggressive expansion, you must resist the temptation to adopt every strategy or tactic you come across.
Streamlining your operations and processes as your business grows is key. The less overwhelmed you are, the faster your business will grow.
This is also the stage where you start to delegate and lead, instead of getting involved in every single task.
- Building sales funnels for every offering
- Improving your conversion rates
- Using webinars, advertising and other means to feed your sales funnels
- Exploring joint ventures
- Leveraging marketing automation
- Closing more repeat clients
- Improving your email marketing
- Growing your team and delegating
- Personally handling customer support
- Spending time on day-to-day operational and admin tasks
- Maintaining your website
- Personally writing all your sales copy
What lies beyond?
Beyond this stage is where you may want to think about putting your business on autopilot. That entails building a bigger team, enhancing their efficiency and delegating more.
Your focus should only be on tasks you are really great at and really interested in. Everything else should be handled by your team. The idea is to limit yourself to a maximum of 10% of the day-to-day activities of your business.
To make that happen, you should focus on:
- Expanding your team to match demand
- Getting more media exposure
- Building better relationships with industry leaders
- Laying the foundations for lasting scalability
Focus, focus, focus
I can't stress it enough, to succeed with your business you need FOCUS!
Focus on the activities that are going to help you grow at the stage your business is at. And ignore the rest. Keep doing that long enough and you will be leading a profitable business without trading hours for dollars.
Because at the end of the day, you don't just want to build a profitable business. That's simply a means to and end. You want to build a fulfilling lifestyle. With the right marketing, your business will not only enrich your clients' lives but your life as well.
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This marketing roadmap will give you a much better sense of how to take your business, and your life, to the next stage of success. For your convenience, you can download a copy of this roadmap as a handy PDF that you can refer to regularly as you plan your marketing. Just enter your email address below. It takes 10 seconds!
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Find out how to focus your marketing on the most relevant and effective activities for your stage in business to get better & faster results.