Startups: Don't Spend A DIME Until You Read This
If you’re about to start a new business or you’re currently operating as a startup, you know better than anybody that you need to start generating revenue…and fast.
There’s a lot of things that have to be considered when you’re starting up a business. There’s legal paperwork, administrative stuff, all of these key foundational pieces that you have to consider. But something you have to consider right from the beginning is, how do I actually grow this thing? How do I actually start generating significant revenue, and how do I do it quickly?
A lot of times as business owners, we tend to over-engineer. But I like to look at things from a much more practical perspective. Don’t give me the fancy talk; just tell me what I’m supposed to do. What do I actually need to accomplish to start seeing revenue coming in and grow my startup?
It’s so easy for startups to immediately start throwing money at marketing without a real plan. It’s just as easy for new business owners to play it safe and ignore marketing completely. Both scenarios end in the same place: FAILURE. I want you to be able to set yourself up in a way that you can start generating results as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Why do I care? I’ve been burned too (read below) and so now my mission has become to make marketing honest again. I want to make marketing honest so that marketing can be profitable again. And if marketing becomes profitable for your business, then finally marketing can make sense again.
So let’s dig in…
Here are the 7 Things You Absolutely Must Do To Grow Your Startup BEFORE Spending A Dollar On Marketing
The FIRST Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Set An Actionable And Achievable Goal
If you always look at your startup as something that lives in the future or is always dependent on that one thing (like a webpage, social media account etc), you’re never going to get anyway. It’s always going to be more of the same. It’s going to be three years down the line, and you’re still going to feel like you’re on Day One. In order for you to start getting traction, you need to have a specific milestone that you’re heading towards. Now, in order to make it achievable, don’t set a milestone that’s really far off in the distance. Set one that’s within reach. Maybe you milestone is to make $20,000 in the next 90 days. If that's an achievable goal, then you can work backwards from that goal to determine how to actually get there.
The SECOND Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Make A Clear And Realistic Budget To Achieve Those Goals
In order to reach your milestone, you have to consider the cost of getting there. What is it going to cost me to reach my $20,000 goal? If you already have a humming business, you can look at your average marketing spend compared to your revenue. If you're starting from scratch, a good rule of thumb I like to use is 25% for startup marketing costs. The goal is to reduce this substantially over time, but when you’re starting out there can be inefficiencies in marketing spend. So, 25% of $20,000 is $5,000. Do you have $5,000 in your bank account that you can invest into this pursuit of your first milestone? If the answer is no, then you may need to adjust your goal. Marketing is going to cost you money. There are bootstrapped ways of doing things, but you’re looking to generate revenue as quickly as possible. The point is, you need to set a specific budget for your goal. It’s extremely easy to throw marketing dollars down the toilet when you don’t have a budget. It’s also easy to be far too conservative and never let the train leave the station.
The THIRD Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Take Time To Understand Your Capabilities
A lot of small businesses look at growth as if it is happening in a vacuum. That’s to say, they don’t consider their operational burden growing with the revenue. It’s important to have a realistic view of what your capabilities as a business are, what resources you have, and just as important (perhaps more), what your limits are. For example, if you are a solopreneur that sells fresh baked cookies, how many cookies can you realistically bake on your own in your current kitchen? Is it 10 dozen a week? 20 dozen? 30? How much can you do before you need to start bringing in other resources, like commercial-grade kitchen hardware, or even labor? Understanding your capabilities and limitations are really going to help you build your business efficiently. If you grow too quickly and are unable to fulfill the business that’s coming in, it’s going to be a disaster. That’s a spike and drop game, and you want NO part of that. We want to make sure we’re looking at things as sustainable as possible. Once you’ve set your actionable and achievable goal, once you’ve made a clear and realistic budget, and once you’ve taken time to understand your capabilities, your next step is to create a brand identity.
The FOURTH Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Create a Brand Identity and Build Your Brand Story
This is a step that a lot of small business owners and startups mess up. They tend to focus far too much on it…but not in the right way. It’s natural to focus on making the most beautiful website with the most perfect logo, gorgeous flyers and business cards. However, your brand identity as a new business is much more than just the basic design elements. Yes, your logo is a really important piece. But just as important is your identity as a brand. Who are you in the marketplace? How are you different from your competition? What is the language your brand uses? Your brand story is a key component to this. A lot of small businesses skip this step, but it’s how you will grow as quickly as possible. Communicating your value through the story of why you’re doing what you’re doing will immediately help your customers connect with you brand. Determining who you are as a brand, and even more so, who you are not, is crucial. Many times, defining what your brand is not will help you understand on a deeper level what your brand is. It’s ultimately going to keep you focused and staying away from shiny objects so that you don’t get sidetracked and end up diluting the brand.
The FIFTH Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Provide Free Value To Generate Demand
At the end of the day, at the beginning, no matter how valuable what you have to offer is, you have to let your market try it out. Being able to provide free value up front is a great way to gather social capital and get your customers lining up for more. Now I’m not suggesting you give away your product for free. Depending on what it is, you want to give a piece of the product for free in a way that is complete, but still leaves them wanting more. Think of that cookie solopreneur. He is probably cutting up his best cookies into multiple pieces and sampling them out. He’s not giving away free cookies. He’s giving away a piece of a cookie, giving the prospect the feeling of relative satisfaction, but leaving them wanting in more.
This guide that you’re reading is a prime example of providing free value to generate demand. I’m giving you a very complete guide, but I’m not diluting the value of my actual product.
The SIXTH Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Identify Low-Hanging Fruit Opportunities
What are ways you can start making dollars tomorrow? I had a product that was sold on an e-commerce site. When the site went down, my team panicked. We had no idea what we were going to do. Then, someone suggested bringing the product to brick and mortar stores to sell small quantities for resale…and just like that, dollars started coming in.
What can you sell down the street? Is there a flea market? Is there a market for you on social media to start selling to a smaller audience just to sort of get the wheels turning and getting cash in?
Identifying those low hanging fruit opportunities could be the difference between getting off the ground and failure to launch. It keeps you from waiting around and allows you to start producing traction. You don’t have to hit a grand slam every time to be successful in business. Small ball works because it compounds.
The SEVENTH Thing You Absolutely Must Do...
Construct A Marketing Strategy
Let me be clear, I am not suggesting you go straight to a marketing agency, or a web developer, or a social media manager, etc. I don’t recommend any of that. Before you spend a cent of your clear and realistic budget on anything other than your brand identity, you need to craft a marketing strategy that is based on all of the key steps listed above. You can do this yourself, although there are firms that specialize in this. The important thing is to lay out a 3/6/12 month plan; how you intend to spend your marketing dollars and what are the key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to hit. The problem is, if you go straight to an agency like a social media company, they’re going to sell you social media services whether or not you need it (or can afford it). Agencies do not take your entire business into account. In order to be successful in your marketing, you have to have a wholistic view of the business. You need to see things from the big picture, otherwise, you’re just going to be signing expensive contracts that are only going to drain your pockets.
If you’re starting a business or just started one recently, this Actionable Step-by-Step Guide to Grow Your Startup Quickly is going to provide you with the results you need. If you implement these pieces in the order I have outlined, you will be successful.
My caveat: do not be swayed from this process.
There are tons of influencers and agencies out there that have their own ideas on how to do things. Some of those ideas may work, but what I can tell you is, picking and choosing between them based on what you think is best is not going to get you anywhere. This guide is foundational and complete in the sense that it only works if you follow it all the way. If you are swayed by conflicting information that is shiny and interesting, you are ultimately going to stall out where you are and keep your wheels spinning in the mud.
Follow these very simple, basic instructions. Do not deviate from them, and you will be successful. Good luck!