Starting a Business

Have You Ever Experienced "The Dip" In Your Small Business?

Have you ever experienced a “dip” in your business? In my work as a small business marketing consultant I see businesses in every stage of growth (and decline). Most come to me when they need to improve sales and get more clients in the door. Often they are going through what author Seth Godin calls “The Dip.” In his book of the same title Godin describes the decision of perseverance vs. strategic quitting. From my own experience it is one of the most difficult decisions that you and I as business leaders ever make.

It presents itself as an obstacle (or series of obstacles). You as the leader must decide if you can and should...

SBMS 07 | 8 Essential Steps for Startups

[audio:http://1000media.s3.amazonaws.com/sbms/07-SBMS-07-If-I-Had-To-Start-From-Scratch-8-Steps-To-Getting-Your-New-Business-Off-the-Ground.mp3]

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show I share with you the 8 things you should do when your starting a new business (or a new business within your business)...

Download the MP3

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show...

  • The #1 question you need to answer to effectively market your business.
  • What you must do before spending lots of money on a website.
  • Where to invest your time to get maximum returns.
  • What type of marketing to focus on in the beginning.
  • How to avoid pissing off your family and friends and turn them into your greatest asset.

Take Action

  • Write down a profile of your ideal prospect.
  • Answer the question "Why should they do business with you?"

What Do You Think?

  • What other advice do you have for surviving the startup phase?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Highly Successful Entrepreneurs Do That You Don't, And What to Do About It

I spend a lot of time studying and interacting with highly successful entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. If you were to come along with me and meet these "superstars" of business you'd have a hard time figuring out what they have in common. Sure they're all driven to succeed...that's a given. Some are educated. Others are not. They are a mix of men and women from every ethnic background. Most come from modest means, but a few come from money. Some look the part of the "dot-com" ultra-hip entrepreneur...most look like regular guys and gals.

But they all share one behavior that I know is the secret to their success...

They implement FAST!!!

The time between when they have an idea and when they act on it is very short and they're always trying to make it shorter. This is THE one success secret for a very simple reason. My entrepreneur friends make and IMPLEMENT more decisions then their less successful colleagues.

So in a year's time they have implemented 200 ideas, while "normal" business owners might analyze and agonize and only implement 20 ideas. Let's assume that in both groups the hit rate for ideas is the same...say 10%. So normal business owners might have 2 hits during the year, but the entrepreneur will have 20. The entrepreneur is more successful just by virtue of the numbers.

So let me give you a few examples of what I mean by fast implementation from my own recent experience.

• Driving back from South Florida earlier this week I was on the phone with a friend discussing his marketing. We had the idea to host a teleseminar to generate leads for this business. Within 5 minutes of birthing the idea, we chose a date (two weeks out) and a topic.

Today, we'll be reviewing his rough draft of the presentation and approving the postcard that will be mailed to promote it. It's been 34 hours since we decided to do the teleseminar. That's what I mean by speed.

• Last month I attended my CEO mastermind group (I meet with 12 other CEOs for one day a month to discuss opportunities and issues in our businesses...a very valuable exercise that I'll write about in a future article). I presented my opportunity and one of the members gave me the name of someone that could help me with our idea. On the next break (not when I got to the office, not the next day...the next potty break), I was on the phone with our local Economic Development official asking for an introduction to this person. Not only did I get the introduction, but I got a meeting set before the end of the day.

• Last month an entrepreneur friend got an email from the editor of his local business journal publication asking if he'd write an article for the upcoming issue. He responded with a phone call within 60 seconds...the editor said "I've never had anyone respond so quickly before." My friend turned that quick response into a monthly column in the journal which positions him as the expert in his field and is driving leads to him as a result.

Here's the real magic...successful entrepreneurs who implement fast have a HIGHER hit rate than slow implementing business owners. Why? Because opportunity is fleeting. By the time the slow business owner finally does something, he's often missed his chance.

Now for the good news. Fast implementation is a BEHAVIOR you can install in your life. Write down the following on a 3 x 5 index card and carry it with you for the next 21 days (it takes 21 days to create a new habit): "I will implement ideas FAST."

Read it in the morning when you wake up and several times during the day to remind yourself to speed up. When presented with a decision, idea or opportunity, do something about it immediately. Do anything...taking a first small step will start the ball rolling and you will gain momentum with each small step.

Going back to my teleseminar example. We had the idea and immediately said "let's set a date". We gave ourselves two weeks. If we had not set the date for the event right then it would have taken us a month or more to do the teleseminar. We took one very small step, picking a date, and it set the whole thing in motion.

What idea did you get while reading this article? Post a comment to tell us what first small step you're going to take...then go do it. Now!

I'm Appalled...And You Should be Too

I'm about to piss off my web designer friends, but I owe it to you, dear reader, to share this...

In the last month I've met with three entrepreneurs that all killed their budding businesses the same dumb way--they spent all of their money on websites.
All three are in bootstrap mode, trying to get their businesses off the ground with a very small amount of cash. And they all fell prey to the notion that they need a "big company" website to be able to do business online.
In the worst case of the three, the entrepreneur spent nearly $20,000 on two different web design firms and had a clunky and crash prone site to show for it. And now, no money left to promote the business.
If You Have a Website, But No One Visits Does it Really Exist?
Answer: It doesn't matter. Nobody Cares.
The gigantic mistake made by these entrepreneurs was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time in the startup process. A fancy, image filled website is not important at the beginning. Frankly, it may not ever be important. But it's certainly not the FIRST place to spend your precious capital.
The place to spend is on marketing and sales. You want to prove that a market actually exists for your product or service. Invest your capital on this first. If you have a strong offering, your market will overlook a less than perfect website.
But, if you're offering is weak or doesn't fit your target audience even the prettiest website won't deliver the critical CASH you need to reach launch velocity.
Your mantra should be "Good enough today, is better than perfect next week..."
We've worked with entrepreneurs to get websites launched in less than a week and for less than $1000 (often less than $500). That leaves most of their money to be spent on marketing to actually get people to the site (what a concept).
Once you have cash coming in from sales, you can improve the website, if you need to.
If you're a do it yourselfer...you'll want to want to check out our favorite tools for getting a good website up super-quick:
We use Wordpress to run every site we create. Every web hosting company worth using has a 1-click automatic installer for the Wordpress software so anyone can get it setup.
Then we use the Thesis theme for Wordpress. While the out-of-the-box design looks basic, it is easily and inexpensively customized. It handles all of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for you. And, when you're ready to juice up your site Wordpress and Thesis are the perfect foundation, so you won't have to scrap what you've done.
I'd love to hear your website creation story. What did you do...how did it work? Share you're experience with the Black Belt community...post a comment below.

In the last month I've met with three entrepreneurs that all killed their budding businesses the same dumb way--they spent all of their money on websites.

All three are in bootstrap mode, trying to get their businesses off the ground with a very small amount of cash. And they all fell prey to the notion that they need a "big company" website to be able to do business online.

In the worst case of the three, the entrepreneur spent nearly $20,000 on two different web design firms and had a clunky and crash prone site to show for it. And now, no money left to promote the business.

If You Have a Website, But No One Visits Does it Really Exist?

Answer: It doesn't matter. Nobody Cares.

The gigantic mistake made by these entrepreneurs was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time in the startup process. A fancy, image filled website is not important at the beginning. Frankly, it may not ever be important. But it's certainly not the FIRST place to spend your precious capital.

The place to spend is on marketing and sales. You want to prove that a market actually exists for your product or service. Invest your capital on this first. If you have a strong offering, your market will overlook a less than perfect website.

But, if you're offering is weak or doesn't fit your target audience even the prettiest website won't deliver the critical CASH you need to reach launch velocity.

Your mantra should be "Good enough today, is better than perfect next week..."

We've worked with entrepreneurs to get websites launched in less than a week and for less than $1000 (often less than $500). That leaves most of their money to be spent on marketing to actually get people to the site (what a concept).

Once you have cash coming in from sales, you can improve the website, if you need to.

If you're a do it yourselfer...you'll want to want to check out our favorite tools for getting a good website up super-quick:

We use Wordpress to run every site we create. Every web hosting company worth using has a 1-click automatic installer for the Wordpress software so anyone can get it setup.

Then we use the Thesis theme for Wordpress. While the out-of-the-box design looks basic, it is easily and inexpensively customized. It handles all of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for you. And, when you're ready to juice up your site Wordpress and Thesis are the perfect foundation, so you won't have to scrap what you've done.

I'd love to hear your website creation story. What did you do...how did it work? Share you're experience with the Black Belt community...post a comment below.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

Disclosure: The links to the Thesis theme are affiliate links, so if you click them and buy the theme, we'll make a small amount of money. I'm sharing this with you, because we want to be upfront with you. I also want you to know that we never recommend a product lightly. Frankly, our reputation and relationship with you is worth far more than any commission we might receive. We use Thesis to run this site, and know first hand how good it is AND how what great support you get from the creator Chris Pearson. And that's why we recommend it to you.

Why The 4-Hour Work Week Is A False God

It sounds oh so enticing. Find some simple way of making money to replace your salary, automate it and outsource all the work, then travel the world while the credit cards sales get deposited into your bank account nightly. Hey, sign me up...right? Tim Ferris shares some great ideas in his best-selling book The 4-Hour Work Week. But frankly, I'm growing tired of the cult of wannabe entrepreneurs that have taken up the cause. It's clear that many don't 'get it'.

In fact, it's very clear that many of the 4-Hour Work Week faithful, never made it past the title.

The goal is not to avoid work.

In fact, Ferris is clear about that. His aim is to build a business that serves him, not the other way around.

I couldn't agree more.

It's got nothing to do with how many hours you work and it's got everything to do with intentionally designing your business from the ground up.

In fact the travel, mini-retirements and extreme activities that Tim describes in the book are critical to the success of his business. It provides the story for his book. It's his brand persona. And, it certainly gives him the eclectic input required to be highly creative, a core requirement for his business.

In your business these things may or may not be important. There is no single answer. But the answer has little to do with hours worked and everything to do with what you put into those hours.

Here are the time tested principles that Tim uses to build his business. This is the message of the book, and they have nothing to do with avoiding work.

  1. Businesses should serve the wants, needs and desires of the entrepreneur (before you flame me...I didn't forget the customer, they're critical, but why create it if it doesn't fit you and your goals).
  2. Figure out what you and only you can do (hint...follow the money), and do that. Delegate everything else.
  3. Ruthlessly control access to your time. Don't allow time bandits like email, pointless meetings and staff interruptions keep you from doing what you must do to reach your goal.
  4. Create systems for everything. The counter argument is that systems kill creativity, but this misses the point. A lot of the work that happens in business should not be done creatively. It should be formulaic. Create the formula for this stuff and free your people to be creative where it counts.
  5. Marketing is still and will always be primary...you couldn't have picked a better title to sell boat loads of books. Tim hit the aspirational nerve in every cube jockey on the planet. As a marketer, you can't help but look on in awe.

Stop counting hours and go build a business that works for you and delivers some value to someone on the planet.