Business school is okay, but it won’t prepare you for the realities of entrepreneurship. You can’t learn until you do. That said, it’s wise to learn from the mistakes of others. You’ll shorten your learning curve and save some trouble. Sound like a smart strategy to you? If so, watch out for these painful business mistakes new entrepreneurs make. Pay attention to #5, because it’ll make your marketing efforts 100% worthless.
1. Failing to test demand for your product or service.
It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about (insert your business idea here).
If people don’t find value in your offer, it’s doomed from the start. Don’t put too much stock in the opinions of your friends and family. They’ll say anything to avoid hurting your feelings.
Look for businesses that provide a similar offer. If there are plenty of them, that’s a good sign (assuming you’re able to differentiate in a way that helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace).
2. Failing to build anticipation for your launch.
The bigger and splashier your business launch, the faster you’ll turn it into a profitable endeavor.
“Build it and they will come,” is bad advice. Here’s a more accurate take on that quote: “Build it, promote the heck out of it, and then maybe they will come.”
There are many ways to build anticipation. For example, plan an event for your community. If you’re a web designer, maybe you could host a “how to market your business online” class at a local library.
Create a Facebook event and invite anyone who might be interested. Encourage them to bring a friend (or several). Promote the event with a blog, press release, TV news interview, and/or targeted Facebook ad.
Hire a photographer to take pictures during your event. Record interviews with attendees RE: what they learned. Later, you can use those as testimonials on your website. Social proof makes any offer seem more persuasive.
3. Failing to establish a sizable safety net.
It’s impossible to predict how much time you’ll need to become profitable.
If your start-up costs are low, then you might monetize your offer within a month. If your start-up costs are high, then you might need a year or more.
Regardless of the specifics, ask yourself: “How much money will I need to support myself while I build my business?” Answer honestly. And be conservative. Entrepreneurship is less stressful without the threat of going broke.
4. Failing to have a strong support team.
You can’t do it all. Find a mentor who’s already made a mark in your industry. Ask them to tell you about their biggest struggles and successes. Learning from their mistakes will save you an immense amount of time and trouble.
Also, make friends with people who work in related industries. If you’re selling freelancing services on the Internet, befriend copywriters and web designers. They might provide insights that make your website more user friendly and offer more compelling. Make sure to return the favor in some way!
More generally, it’s inefficient to do everything yourself. I’ve published several books for clients. Instead of designing the cover — which would look atrocious despite hours of work — I outsource that task to an expert. The cost is easily outweighed by the time saved. Own your weaknesses (and make them a moot point by knowing when to outsource).
5. Failing to know your demographics.
Good luck selling your product or service to a person you don’t understand. You need to be 100% aware of your customers’ biggest fears and frustrations. If you’re not solving a real problem, then no one will buy your offer.
Fortunately, the Internet makes market research easier than ever. Join Facebook groups related to your business. For example, gym owners could join weight-loss support groups. Don’t march in and aggressively market yourself.
Instead, act like a fly on the wall. Keep your mouth shut and listen to what people have to say. Pay attention to the common struggles or pain points people discuss. You’ll gain empathy and understanding. Find a way to emphasize those concepts in your marketing. People will think: “Wow… they really get me!”
Read More Articles by Daniel Wallen:
- 4 Simple but Powerful Ways to Be More Efficient Every Day
- Embrace the Struggle: How to Stay Optimistic during Tough Times
- Freelancing 101: How to Get Your First Paying Client within a Month