No matter how you look at it, starting a business is hard. One of the hardest things you may ever have to do. There’s the business plan to think over, a name, government policies to consider, how it will affect your family, finances and the list rolls on from there. Some hardened entrepreneurs suggest spending a long time thinking about if that’s really the path you want to take. If so, there is plenty of advice floating around to help you with the grueling journey. Entrepreneurs are always willing to lend their words to the younger generation of business seekers and give them assistance when the time comes. Below we have asked entrepreneurs for their best business advice.
#1- Market your business CONSISTENTLY
I personally built my business mailing postcards. The main reason this strategy worked for me (I grew PostcardMania from nothing using NO capital investments) is because I consistently mailed WAY more postcards than I even thought I needed. This idea of marketing in the “correct” magnitude is where I see small business owners struggle the most: they’re just not marketing in enough quantities, consistently enough! Even though the internet has opened up a ton of exciting new digital strategies, traditional methods remain as effective as ever when it comes to lead generation today. That’s why I recommend business owners utilize more than one marketing channel for their promotion, and to integrate strategies that are both on- and off-line. If you put your marketing message in front of qualified prospects in their homes, on their web browsers and in their Facebook feeds, you're much more likely to make a legitimate and lasting impression rather than relying on just online methods. This creates a sense of “being everywhere” and keeps your business top of mind with prospects as you continue to market.
Thanks to Joy Gendusa, PostcardMania!
#2- Get your business online immediately
What is the first thing that you do when someone tells you about something, whether it be a new product/service, a new restaurant, a place to visit, etc.? You GOOGLE IT! You look for their website. If you are not online, you will not stay in business very long. I always tell start-ups and new business owners to make it their top priority to launch an informative website, with valuable information about their product/service, their contact information, and a webform for inbound leads. The keywords here are: informative, valuable information, contact information and a web form! Be sure your website has everything a prospect needs to make a decision to talk to you and a way for them to easily get in touch with you. And, if you want to be a small business superhero, get your business on all of the major social media networks (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube).
Thanks to Zachary Lezberg, Small Business Expo!
#3- Become a specialist at developing relationships
My best business tip for entrepreneurs, business owners, and those looking to grow their business is to become a specialist at developing relationships and following up. Learn the ability to build strong relationships and to follow up on opportunities and with those in business. Sometimes it is not all about the current sale or opportunity. Sometimes it can just be checking in from time to time and seeing if a person needs something. You may be able to help. It builds the relationship and when they need you or your services, you will get a callback.
Thanks to Ray McKenzie, Red Beach Advisors!
#4- Reverse engineer what is already working
Too many times we entrepreneurs try to get all fancy, when it's much easier, especially when starting out, to copy what is already working. Here's what we've done recently for our new business Dinner Table MBA and I highly recommend doing the same for your niche. Find the top influencers who are truly doing business (not just those talking business online). Find 5-10 of those individuals and subscribe to their options on their website. Once you get an email, create a folder of responses (1 folder for each of the 5-10 influencers). Now set a rule to have their emails skip your inbox and go immediately into their folder. Wait 10 days but while your waiting, see if they have a Facebook Pixel on their website for retargeting you. If they do, pay attention to the ads they show you either on Instagram, Facebook or other areas online. When you see an ad, copy it and put it in the folder. Now after 10 days set aside an afternoon and look at all their emails and ads. You'll notice a pattern and if they're truly the best, that pattern is something you should copy. Watch the language each of them use in email #1 and now copy that for your first email in your own words. Do the same for email #2 and so on. Watch the frequency they email you and the time between emails. Listen if they're the best, copy what is working and now make it in your own words and style. Results guaranteed!
Thanks to Mike Kawsula, Dinner Table MBA!
#5- Nothing worth accomplishing happens overnight
With the launch of a new product or project, many of us have a false notion that if it's not wildly successful right away, it wasn't a viable idea. When the initial launch isn't the lottery win we were hoping for, we give up and move on to other things. This isn't to say that the launch was a failure — it's a testament to the need to think longer-term. We need to remember, nothing worth accomplishing happens overnight. To find success and build the businesses that will change ours and our customers' lives, we need to plan ahead and work in monthly increments. You then eliminate the temptation to quit too soon and failing to work through the dip.
Thanks to Jon Nastor, Hack the Entrepreneur!
#6- Fully visualize your sales funnel
The best business tip I can offer is to fully visualize your sales funnel when it comes to your marketing approach, your site design, and the overall functioning of your service. When you put yourself into your ideal customer’s shoes, you see your business as it should be seen – from the unbiased, fresh eyes of a consumer who may or may not be persuaded to purchase from you. Start at the very first contact point between your
company and your ideal consumer – are you capitalizing on this opportunity? Do you have a lead capture tool in place? Are you following up via email? If you’re not nurturing your leads throughout the entire sales funnel, you’re leaving customers and serious cash on the table. Imagine your full customer experience and make it as tailored to your ideal customer as possible. From entry to the sales funnel, to purchase on your site, to follow up campaigns, to customer support, these are the areas to focus your efforts. The sales funnel is everything. Take it one segment at a time, optimize it not from your company’s perspective but from the consumer’s perspective, and you’ll be set up for success.
Thanks to Mike Kamo, Hello Bar!
#7- Success doesn’t happen without failure
One of the best work-related lessons occurred when I was in San Francisco on a business trip. I had a few hours to spare and decided to go to The Walt Disney Family Museum. I thought I would be greeted with singing teacups and talking animals, which was present. What I did not realize is the multiple failures that Walt Disney faced, even after he was considered a genius. It made me realize that success doesn’t happen without failure. It was an important reminder to take risks, not be afraid and to just keep swimming.
Thanks to Ginger E. Jones, WebPunch12.com!
#8- Accentuate Your Why
Tell the story of why you do what you and bring in more clients. Our brains are hard-wired to respond to stories and prefer that to being told facts and figures. In this era of information overload, your story helps your business shine brightly as a beacon of relevance in a dark sea of data.
Thanks to Cristina Smith, Yoga for the Brain!
#9- Maintain a constant eye on relevancy
The most important thing that helps you grow your business in this incredibly disruptive time is relevancy. Relevancy to your customers – are you providing the service or product that helps your customers with the least amount of friction possible? Relevancy to the market direction – are you looking far enough into the future and bridging your company from where it is to where it needs to be in the next two years with service offerings, training and development, and education? Relevancy to your employees – is this the company that will be able to retain great people now and in the future. Without a constant eye on relevancy, you will always be playing catch up and bringing up the rear, which is no way to grow a business.
Thanks to Lee Caraher, Double Forte!
#10- Focus on sales first
My agency Combustible was able to grow to close to 3M in 4 years. The way we achieved this is by focusing on sales first. My very first hire was a director of sales who quickly grew his team to 5 salesmen. As a CEO, I always gave as much attention as needed to the salespeople (prepping pitches, ideas, sales meetings, etc). This approach resulted in a lot of new clients (sometimes 10-15) every month. Yes, that felt like drinking from the firehose sometimes and working extra hard to deliver results for all our clients. But today, we're sitting on a healthy client base and that's a great asset to have!
Thanks to Julien Raby, Combustible!
#11- Amateurs teach amateurs to be amateur
Do not hang with people who know less and have done less. Stretch to be around better, more experienced who will share with you what they’ve learned so that you can learn in one conversation what has taken others years to.
Thanks to Debra Benton
#12- Surround yourself with really smart people
Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with really smart people. Lots of people in leadership roles make the mistake of hiring team members who simply meet expectations and never offer anything new because they have this unfounded fear of perhaps finding out they may not be the smartest person in the room. Hire smart people and challenge them to come up with great ideas.
Thanks to Anthony Gaenzle, AG Integrated Marketing!
#13- Don’t jump to conclusions
As an online entrepreneur, my podcast and website is in front of thousands of people via social media. In a first exposure, someone may make a quick judgment or criticism. I have never regretted taking time to make a thoughtful and kind response. I have worked intentionally to not take the criticism as an excuse to argue or be confrontational. Consequently difficult conversations turned more pleasant, and critics have become subscribers to my show. Not jumping to a conclusion (even if they did first!) has served me well in the challenging online space.
Thanks to Lara McElderry, Married to Doctors!
#14-The best sales pitch begins with the customer
When you have an excellent product and a great company, it's really hard to refrain from being a 24/7 pitching machine. That was me in the early stages of the business. Not only was it obnoxious, it also wasn't very effective and organic. What I have come to realize is that people LOVE to be heard, and they love talking about themselves. So listen with intent, ask questions, and keep it passionate and personal. The more you listen and learn about others the more you understand how your company can help them. Talk less, listen more, and the conversation will naturally flow towards sales.
Thanks to Konrad Chan, Studio Med!
#15-Focus on the long-game
Too many people want to see instant success and growth. While that would be great, there are many factors that go into properly scaling a business. Looking solely at short-term success (or failure) can cause you to make poor decisions by trying to rush the process. Remember, singles eventually turn into runs.
Thanks to Matt Weik, Weik Fitness, LLC!
#16- Confront your fears
Being an entrepreneur can be one of the scariest journeys one can take. It’s full of risk, you will constantly be required to step out of your comfort zone, and the potential for failure is infinitely higher than the possibility of success. Each person has a different set of fears, so the journey is different for everyone. One good way to help with this is to partner with people that are strong in areas that make you fearful. If sales frighten you, partner with someone with strong selling skills. If managing people is one of your weaknesses, then partner with someone that’s a strong manager. The key is to learn from your partners and face your fears when given the opportunity. You must be willing to confront your fears in order to succeed in business. As a great person once said, “If you are afraid to do something, just do it afraid!
Thanks to Rod Brown, OnceLogix!
#17- Solve problems for other people
This requires knowing not just what problems they need to be solved, but how they want them solved, what their desired outcome is, how the problems exhibit themselves, what success looks like, how they like to work, communicate, learn and more. It requires, in other words, understanding and working in your Customer's Context. If a business leader stays focused on solving people's problems, she will continue to have a viable business. Understand clients and understand employees, and focus on people.
Thanks to Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi, Outsourced Strategic Development!
#18- Grow Your Business by Spending Time Growing Your Business
If you want to grow your business, spend time growing your business. No matter what, spend at least an hour a day focused on generating new business. Whether it's cold calling prospects, taking a potential client to lunch, or asking for referrals, do something each day to grow your business. If you're spending an hour a day and you're not growing fast enough, spend two hours a day. If that's not enough, spend three hours. If that's still not enough… you get the picture.
Thanks to Roy Harmon, Advertoscope!
#19- Cultivate relationships with your business partner
While it's difficult to label one thing as the best way to grow your company, I attribute our company's success to the relationship I've cultivated with my business partner. We have unique strengths that balance out. When we launched Raise Vegan Magazine, using her editorial skills and my background in design, we were able to accomplish a new platform for our parents and provide more resources for families on how to raise vegan healthily. We have an incredible team of women behind us, including medical professionals and nutrition experts. By trusting in each other, and pushing through difficult periods, we have an international media company that is growing and thriving.
Thanks to Emily L Wood, Raise Vegan Inc.!
#20- Land and expand strategy
Referrals mean that people who are currently using your product tell their friends, colleagues, ex-co-workers, new co-workers etc. about your product. If they love you and have a great experience with your product or service, your current customers can become your best salespeople and help you grow your business. Make sure you don't forget about your existing customers and make them happy with the right customer success strategy. The ‘land and expand strategy’ is related to the referral strategy, but it’s a little different. It's about getting one person at a company to use you, and because you make them successful, their coworkers and management find out about you and you spread around the organization. Some of our biggest customers have been acquired this way. If one person finds out about you, their manager sees their success and wants it for the rest of his or her team, then the regional manager sees that one manager’s team doing well, so then all the regions get it, then the division, etc.
Thanks to Steven Benson, Badger Maps!
#21-Hire a coach (business coach/life coach)
Even greatly successful people need a coach. Having a coach is like having a mini advisory board, a mentor, a friend, and a business consultant all rolled into one. The right coach can, and does, make the difference between merely getting by, and achieving, personal and professional goals. I cannot overemphasize the potential power and importance of a successful relationship with a coach. I rely on mine as much as I would a sister or best friend – sometimes even more. She's amazing! And the best part is she’s part of an incredible team of coaches and mentors dedicated to helping us grow our businesses! Who can argue with that type of support!
Thanks to Lauren Cohen, e-Council Inc.!
#22- Focus on “doing” more than “saying”
A lot of time can be spent thinking you're working without actually accomplishing any work. As a business owner, a strategy is an important component to success however without the horsepower behind it to bring it to life, it is useless. To hold ourselves accountable, our team at The Navio Group likes to keep our “say/do” ratio low, in which we focus on “doing” more than “saying”. This helped us create a culture in which we are always pushing forward and while we take an occasional pause to ensure we are heading in the right direction, our feet never stop moving.
Thanks to Marco Castelán, The Navio Group!
#23- Invest in Customer Success
For CEOs looking to improve revenue growth, it's a knee-jerk reaction to double down on sales investment. Obviously, new revenue is important, but in the subscription economy, retaining and expanding your existing customer base can have more impact on the business with a smaller investment. Spending your precious capital on customers after the sale used to be misperceived as a cost center, but more and more business are recognizing that proactive, cross-functional Customer Success can be operationalized and scaled to increase revenue growth. When you make sure your customers get value from your product or services and have a great experience with every interaction, you're systematically maximizing the lifetime value of the customer. According to the Harvard Business Review, a 5 percent increase in customer retention rates can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent. Companies that invest in Customer Success not only generate more revenue, they also hold true to their promise to be customer-centric organizations.
Thanks to Nick Mehta, Gainsight!
#24- Know your numbers
The best business tip that helped me grow my business was KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Each industry has key performance indicators. I break this down to the lowest common denominator and track only the top 1-3. It keeps things simple. I am in the real estate sales industry. I know how many people I need to talk to, how many appointments I need to set and how many contracts I need to get signed each month in order to thrive. We track these 3 things on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We run contests on these 3 indicators. Keep it simple and stay focused.
Thanks to Jennifer Murtland, Team Synergi – Keller Williams Advisors Realty!
#25- Avoid reinventing the wheel
Many businesses think they need to be the newest Instagram but in reality, they need to provide a solution to a market that is winning to pay for it. 1) Looking at a market where people are already buying. No need to reinvent a new one when you are just starting out. 2) Find out what you do well and make that the unique selling
Thanks to Jeff Butler