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1 5 Tips to Prepare Yourself for an Entrepreneurial Burnout Threat

There are several areas an entrepreneur needs to shred for getting a better position in the game before the risk itself devours him whole. The entrepreneurial spirit must be kept alive and the fire kindled from time to time so doesn’t die out of hope and exhaustion. If you’re too cocky to say yes almost every time to catch the opportunity train, you have a serious “Burnout” risk.

What Causes Burnout?

Meltdowns are a direct result from lack of composure and firm footing. Having a dull edge at chances and no homework whatsoever is bound to eroding what’s left of the abilities within the broken soul of the entrepreneur. According to research 50% of small businesses fail within the first year. Keeping your edge razor sharp will make you bent on avoiding any burnouts you are so very afraid to fall in.

1 GP photo

Entrepreneurs same as you are cut from the same cloth with similar chances and choices and believing one is gifted and the other doomed in peril is utter wish-wash rubbish. Surveys suggest that 40% of small business are making profits, so it’s nothing to be afraid of, but what about the remaining?

1. Always welcome Opinions

If you’re too much of egotistical thicko’ then there is no cure, but being not, you are entitled to fair use of your brain same as everyone!

People who have actually suffered survived entrepreneurial burnouts are alive. Some of their chronicles are on the internet where as others are just looking for someone to ask for a veteran advice. Seek them out and study them. Shrug off that knightly attitude and make your own pace by implementing expert advice. Learn from their mistakes before you learn it the hard way.

2. Inspiration is Your New Diet

A smart entrepreneur keeps himself surrounded with inspiration same as a fish keep itself surrounded with water, not just to live but to survive.  If you have the liberty to set out your own team make sure you don’t pick the textbook kind. Hire the open minded and contributing folk who keep circulating a flow of genuine and out of the box ideas. This not only helps break the ice between you and the employees, but also gives you regular dose of productive debates.

3. Take 5! And Eat Healthy

In more clearers words, get a life pal. You need not glue your back to your chair and spend countless hours working on some new idea at the cost of your ability to enjoy life. Take your family out for dinner, get your friends together or even draw some doodles on a boogie board. Long story short, cut some slack for the sake of you.

Secondly, eating a healthy and balanced diet is the most underrated remedy for burnout paranoia. Keeping your body from the nutrition it needs is religiously, ethically and professionally condemned throughout the world. Making yourself frail and weak not only undermines your potential to work on a higher spectrum, but also signals your weakness to other competitors hungry for blood.

4. Tracking your Progress

This is another crucial aspect that inhibits the progress of an entrepreneurial expedition. What happens when you remain adrift like a plastic bag? It’s pretty much obvious that you lose track from where you begin. Once you are set afoot to in the business environment your must endure, better yet persevere, but most importantly remember your ideals and motives that pioneered your thoughts into action. Keep a thorough track from where you started and where you are trying to head. Make small but executive decisions so that a trail can be formed.

5. Do not Drown in Expectations

“When you have expectation you are setting yourself up for disappointment”. Well, we can’t entirely agree with Ryan Reynolds here, but you do get the point.

You cannot simply expect to a raise a billion by the end of the year with your entrepreneurial blue prints and sit tight while everything falls as you planned. There is no such ideology that can be mechanized into empirical results. Ask Communism, it will testify! Burnouts can be avoided, but in no circumstances you are impervious. To keep yourself in the green zone, set the optimal expectations you can achieve backed by study and research that can vouch for your progress.

Conclusion

To make yourself the manifestation of the ideal entrepreneur, you must gather the right amount of energy and motivation to free yourself from the shackles of fear and risk taking. Get yourself up in the business, willing to take risk. For example, you may start your online auction business very easily through Magento Auction. A famous saying from the liberator of the Sub-Continent (Old India), Muhammad Ali Jinnah says it all:

I do not believe in taking right decisions,

I take decisions and make them right!

 

bio photoSimon Walker is an experienced PHP Developer having expertise in Magento, PrestaShop & WordPress Development and currently working for FMEExtensions and FMEAddons. He blogs regularly on ecommerce tips and tricks, PHP Development and social media. He led to the development of top Extensions like Magento PopUP and Magento Out of Stock Notification. He lives in Austin, Texas and currently working as a E-commerce consultant.

5 7 Activities That Don’t Scale but Will Win You Customers

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Photo Credit:www.launchsolid.com

Starting a business is hard work and early on you will need to hustle to find your first customers. There is no need to stress right away about what marketing channels will scale because you won’t know which options work best. And even when you do find out what will scale, it’s often the activities that don’t scale that will continue to provide the best ROI.

1. Attend an Industry Conference

For example, if your business is building websites for construction companies, you need to find out the most popular conferences. A quick Google search shows these conferences would be a good bet to attend: Construction Super Conference or the International Conference on Transportation. For your first few conferences, going as an attendee is recommended so you can scope them out and determine if it makes sense for you to come back as a vendor (and possibly rent a booth). Spend time walking the aisles, and I love hanging out by the lunch area, if you sit down at the right table and strike up a good conversation you can make a critical connection.

2. Organize a Q&A with Industry Experts

Create a list of 6-10 questions and reach out to industry experts to see if they want to participate. Package up the responses in a PDF, include bios and photos and make sure to give everyone a copy. Blog about the responses and encourage participants to get the word out. Since you are appealing to the vanity of the experts, it’s very easy to drum up interest, don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Sponsor Relevant Meetup Events

Meetup events all over the world are going on and they are often just a handful of people. If you target relevant Meetup groups and offer to sponsor their next event, you will find a lot of takers. Sometimes money to buy pizza is all you need to do and the organizer will add a special offer on their Meetup page and if you’re lucky and/or persuasive they will announce it at the event.

4. Solicit Individual and Personalized Feedback on Your Product or Service

Early on it’s a struggle to get even 5 or 10 people on board as customers. When you do get the first few customers reach out to each one of them with a personal email and thank them for trying you out. Ask for pointed feedback and if you can get them to spare 10 to 15 minutes on the phone that is fantastic as they will provide helpful insight about your product.

5. Attend Local Meetings/Events

Leverage your hometown or nearest big city to attend marketing groups and meetings. Chamber of Commerce meetings or local business groups are a great place to start. It’s not that you will necessarily find your ideal customer in your backyard, but once you start talking about your new company, your networking may uncover other opportunities. In addition, the people you meet may know other people that will help propel your business forward.

6. Target Tangentially Related Companies for Joint Marketing Efforts

If you own a stock photo site, it would make sense to contact web development companies as they often need stock photos when they are creating new websites. You could create a co-branded landing page that provides a discount to the web development companies if they want to have access to a special offer on your site. You could send their special offer to your email list (and vice versa) if you want to do additional joint marketing.

7. Create Handwritten Letters as a Relationship Builder

The old school approach can win you big points. If you take time to customize handwritten letter like this example here, you have a great shot at making a beneficial introduction. Do your homework and understand what the person likes and dislikes before writing the letter and make sure to send it to their place of business.

11.16 headshotChad Fisher is a co-founder of Content Runner, a marketplace for connecting users and freelance writers for the creation of unique written content. Friends of Duct Tape Marketing can create a free account and receive a $30 credit to try out the writers on Content Runner, click here to learn more!

1 13 Lead Generating Things You Should Be Doing (But Probably Aren’t)

The face of Marketing in 2015 has rapidly changed and continues to do so at an extremely fast pace. One of the more recent developments in the world of small business marketing is ‘growth hacking.’

Now, this term evolved from the hundreds of start-up companies that have exploded over the last 5-10 years like ‘Uber,’ ‘Air BnB,’ ‘Airtasker,’ and many, many more. According to Wikipedia growth hacking is:

Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacker” in 2010.[7][8] In the blog post, he defined a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth.”

Read on if you want to get your quick growth hacking wins for your business…

Now, in the US growth hacking has become a science; there are countless courses on how to become a growth hacker, and accelerate the rate of growth for your business.

Leading growth hack education provider, One Month’s CEO, Mattan Griffel is constantly giving away his expertise for free. One of these such instances was a presentation he gave at the end of 2014 where he gave away 29 Growth Hacking Quick Wins.

Now this presentation is 198 slides….so I thought I would give you legendary small businesses the quicker, condensed version of just top 13, so you can get to implementation even faster!

These hacks are listed in order of ease. The easiest to implement in your business come first at number 13, then they get progressively more complex leading to number 1 and 2 being highly technical tips! Good luck!

13. Measure Happiness

Using a net promoter score, consistently ask your customers how likely they are to recommend you to your friends.

Some tools are: Qualaroo and Promoter.io to integrate into your website. Ask your promoters to share!

12. Create More Landing Pages 

According to Griffel, companies with 10+ landing pages get 55% more signups.

Some tips: Each page should be 90% unique, you should use different offers, target different segments, and highlight different unique selling points. Send advertising to landing pages NOT the homepage.

11. Use Paid Ads to Test Headlines & Images

Most paid ads have the same elements as a landing page including headline, body copy and image. So use your ads to test what people respond best do and then tailor landing pages accordingly. It will save you time and money.

10. Set Up Redirects For Link-Tracking 

Use bit.ly to create trackable links for a range of different campaigns, discount codes or landing pages so you can track in real time the results of your many different campaigns.

9. Remove Landing Page Links

Remove links that distract people from your call to action. This includes the menu links at the top of your pages. You will get between 90%-100% better conversion. Also, test minimal landing pages, where all you ask for is customer details.

8. Use Qualaroo To Get Customer Feedback 

Discover sign up hesitations and learn what information is missing on your site including customer intentions. This information will help you decide what to TEST.

7. Buy Demographic Data About Your Users 

Companies like TowerData (US based) provide intelligent data about your users.

6. Split The Ask 

If your ask is too high up front, you’re alienating potential users. Now this is another way to talk about ‘lead grabbers’. Visit site –> Give them incentive e.g. ebook, whitepaper, video–>Provide email–>build relationship & educate by sending valuable content –> they sign up. This works because you lower your activation risk at each point. It also makes things more simple and you can test more. Get creative!

5. Test Weird Call To Action Copy

Some case studies show that non-standard CTAs convert better than overused ‘learn more’ and ‘sign up’ buttons. Just be weirder!

4. Use a Contrasting Colour For Your CTA 

This one is pretty straightforward but ofter overlooked. If your CTA stands out against other information people will more likely click it!

3. Put your CTA on the right 

People read from left to right in an F Pattern.

2. Repeat Your CTA Above And Below The Fold

 People should be able to click whenever they feel ready and not have to scroll to find it as they are innately lazy and just won’t click.

1. Add Reassurance Copy 

‘Why you’ll love it’, ‘Last week 5,000 companies sign up for ‘x”.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 10.38.52 AMMeg Rose Russell is Director of Rosy Marketing, a marketing consultancy established to change the face of marketing in Australia. She aims to enable entrepreneurs and small businesses owners to realise their truths through strategic and systematic marketing. With over 10 years of marketing blood sweat and tears invested in growing a range of businesses including companies like IBM and SalesForce across a range of industries from Events and Charity to IT and Finance, she now uses her strategic insights to provide marketing tools, consulting and coaching to small businesses. She is also a proud member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network. Interested in setting up an exploratory call? Check her out at www.rosymarketing.com

Stay On Top Of Modern Marketing

“Youth Is the Engine of the World” – Matisyahu

Since I started writing my new book, YouthNation, last summer, the changes I have been studying have evolved in some instances more quickly than I could type. The groundswells from urban corners to suburban shopping malls are dictating the future of the American business economy.

Where would our nation be without Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, or Twitter? Apple, a technology company, has the largest market cap on Wall Street and looks to be running away with that title. No longer do bellwether blue-chip titans hold the keys to our future. Instead, it’s a group of upstart millennial-minded organizations that are changing the face of communications, media, commerce, and transportation.

The problem is that there are still so many companies whose leadership is on the outside looking in. When I spoke at a conference of more than 200 digital marketers last month, I asked how many had heard of WeWork — a $5 billion company that’s changing the face of commercial real estate. Just two raised their hands. And this was an audience of professional digital marketers! Most of the rest of the country is even further on the fringe of this revolution.

In the 1960s and 70s, youth culture was counterculture, fighting big business and big government in an effort to be heard. They had to protest in big groups and stage be-ins and other happenings to effect change. The seminal event of that counterculture, Woodstock, attracted what was, in 1969, a mind-blowing 400,000 people. The Electronic Daisy Carnival draws more than that to Las Vegas Every Year. The power of youth in sheer numbers, share of voice, and macroeconomic impact is greater today than ever before.

So what can you do, as a modern marketer, to stay on the right side of disruption? Here are a few modest suggestions:

  • Change the way you consume news: Curate your news from those who you respect, using tools like Nuzzle, which aggregate the headlines that are shared by the people you follow.
  • Learn about emerging startups. Attend conferences and read blogs to keep abreast of companies like the aforementioned WeWork, Kickstarter, Postmates, and so many others, which are disrupting fabled industries that have remained static for nearly a century.
  • Search platforms like Skillshare where (very inexpensive) classes can keep your skills fresh in shifting areas such as search engine optimization and mobile design.
  • Choose your sources wisely. Increasingly, traditional media sources are becoming also-rans, as the most important news is broken by platforms like Mashable, and by influencers who are close to the industries being affected.
  • Learn the new social platforms, even if they seem silly at first. If the first wave was Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the second wave is Instagram, SnapChat and Pinterest. Doing a deep dive and using them actively will enable you to fully understand these tools, and will spark ideas on the ways your business can use them.

Yes, the world continues to change, and for many, the changes are scary. But the new forces are easily accessible, so you are now more empowered than ever before to harness these changes and catapult your business to new heights. If you’d like to go deeper, YouthNation may serve as a roadmap.

 

Matt_Britton_72_DPIMatt Britton is the founder and CEO of innovative ad agency MRY, and the chair and co-founder of @CrowdTap, the people-powered marketing platform. On Twitter, he’s @MattyB.

1 How To Succeed At Content Marketing On A Small Budget

Here’s great news for your small business: You can succeed at content marketing without spending a fortune. In fact, you may be able to out-content market much larger competitors with much larger budgets. In this article, we’ll review a simple, focused approach to creating a content marketing campaign that is affordable and effective.

shutterstock_95024107Why You Will Succeed: Quality Trumps Quantity

Large companies sometimes turn content marketing into link building campaigns for SEO — putting the emphasis on the number of links, and hence the number of articles published. But whether for Google or people, high-quality content achieves the best results.

Small-business owners understand their business inside-out and know how to talk to customers and prospects. Thus, they are in a position to write highly authoritative and useful content — content that high-profile, influential websites and blogs in their niche are eager to publish. Such content holds several important benefits for small businesses:

  1. Improving brand image
  2. Establishing credibility
  3. Expanding brand awareness
  4. Generating sales leads and referrals
  5. Creating natural links that greatly improve the firm’s SEO visibility

shutterstock_164492432How to Succeed: A Hands-on Approach

The secret weapon to small-business content marketing is you. You know what to write about. You know how to write about it in ways that influence customer perception and action. You know the top publishing sites and may already have a dialog with some of them. Set realistic goals of publishing two articles per month and proceed as follows:

  • Set aside one to two hours per month to brainstorm topics with your team. Create a simple editorial detailing topics, key points and a target-publishing site for each article.
  • Set aside two to four hours per month to write two articles. Find an editor, either on staff or freelance, to edit as needed. The level of editing you need depends a lot on your writing skills; don’t be deterred if you are not a master writer. For more insight on editing, click here.
  • Set aside one to three hours per month to pitch your articles to publishing sites. You may be able to delegate this assignment to your top marketing person.
  • Task a staffer to monitor published articles. Keep track of the number of comments and social shares each article produces, as well as how many visits to your website were referred from publishing sites. Have this person alert you to any comments that need your response. Spend one hour per month reviewing performance data.
  • Continuously improve your efforts by looking for new publishing sites, and monitoring customer/prospect feedback and questions from whatever sources for new topic ideas.

This content marketing to-do list requires a little over one day a month from the writer (you) — and not much at all in the way of hard costs.

How to Succeed: Stay Focused on Off-site Articles

It’s tempting to expand into other types of content marketing once you’ve gotten your off-site article publishing off the ground. But take care: spreading yourself too thin could lead to mediocre execution on all fronts. Here are reasons not to venture out too quickly in certain content marketing avenues:

  • Social Media. You can labor for years to build a sizeable, engaged and relevant following on your own social media sites. Far easier is to piggyback on the established social media communities of your publishing sites.
  • Company Blog. An on-site blog is certainly a good thing, but doing it properly will consume a lot of internal resources. Effective blogs require the steady production of high-quality content and energetic marketing to develop an audience. Additionally, a blog should have an underlying SEO strategy that adds another layer of complexity and cost.
  • Visual Content. Infographics, video, slide presentations and photography have a huge “cool” factor and attract attention from valuable publishers. Nevertheless, visual content is expensive to produce and hard to do effectively, even with a substantial budget.

If you see your initial content strategy gain traction, based on lead generation, social shares, anecdotal evidence and other relevant factors, you can always expand. It’s a great problem to have — much better than trying to do too much and getting nowhere.

sn-brad-shorr-2Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm serving business of all sizes with their content marketing needs. You can read Brad’s work on Moz, Smashing Magazine, and About.com.

26 How to Build a Blog with 100,000+ Monthly Page Views

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Vinay Patankar – Enjoy!

how to build a blog

You’ve probably heard that blogging is a great way to generate leads and sales for your business. John has talked about blogging many times on this very blog. And the truth is, it does work, many companies have seen stellar results from creating compelling blogs and building large audiences around them.

But why is it so hard?

While this may be true, building a successful blog is much harder than it sounds. I’ve been blogging for a long time. I ran a personal blog and a number of different niche blogs during my time as an Affiliate Marketer. I wrote hundreds of posts and did various “link building” tactics to try and rank my blogs to get traffic. This did produce some results, I got a bit of traffic and a few sales, but it never turned into the lead-generating-cash-machine I dreamt about every night before bed.

It was only when I started blogging for my startup Process Street did I start to see some real numbers and results from my efforts. We are still in early days (the blog is about 6 months old) but we recently hit the 1,000 subscriber mark and are now receiving over 100,000 page views every month!

traffic stats

What changed?

So what did I do different this time than all the other times I blogged?

The answer is content promotion. In my early days of blogging, I would spend 90% of my time writing content, once it was done I’d share it on my social media properties then move on to the next post. I now spend just 30% of my time on creating content and 70% promoting it.

content creation vs content promotion

This does not mean I write lower quality content by any means, in fact, my content is much higher quality now, I just write fewer posts. Like much fewer. I was writing up to 10 articles a day across my various blogs, now I am lucky if I manage to get 1 per week out. But when I write, I write longer, more detailed, more personal, more actionable and more impactful posts than I ever did before. This is not by chance, this is part of the carefully curated content strategy that I came up with from watching some of the greatest SaaS content marketers in the world like Buffer and Moz.

Creating high quality content is absolutely necessary to build a blog that people read, share and link to, but creating high quality content is only half the battle (or 30%!). High quality content is not useful if nobody sees it. Today, I have a team of 3 Virtual Assistants that focus on promoting my content, and not just content on my blog, I have them promote guest posts I write on other peoples blogs (like this one) plus any post that links to one of my products or posts.

So what is content promotion and how do I do it?

Well I’m glad you asked. It just so happens that I created a very detailed and in-depth checklist that you can follow to promote your content. This checklist is responsible for driving at least 1,000 visitors to every post I have written, it in itself is a huge piece of content that took me 3 days to create! Now it’s all yours. Use it yourself or hand it off to a VA and watch the visitors roll in.

Grab my content promotion checklist below and supercharge your blog today.

vinay headshot process street 100x100Vinay Patankar is an ex digital nomad and startup growth specialist. He is the CEO of Process Street, a platform that manages recurring processes for teams and turns businesses into automated, self growing machines. Find him on Twitter, Google+ or his Blog. Sign up for a free trial of Process Street here: http://process.st

Five Ways You’re Not Going To Get An Investor For Your Startup

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Weston Bergmann – Enjoy!

Angel InvestorThere are a lot of ways to attract an angel investor to your startup. There are even more ways to turn them off. These are some of them.

1. Not Having Traction

Sophisticated investors invest in companies that are ready to scale. Meaning the founders have proven on some level that people will pay for what they’re selling and they’ve proven they can repeat said process. The investment dollars are meant to extrapolate on this proven traction. If you’re asking for dollars and you have no traction, what you’re really saying is you want investors to gamble on your experiments.

2. Not Knowing Your Cost Of Customer Acquisition

Knowing how much it costs to acquire a customer is debatably the most important variable in an investor’s equation. Here’s a simple example, if you know how much it costs to acquire 100 customers…. than investors can use this equation:

Cost of getting 100 customers = X

Revenue from 100 customers = Y

Amount of money investor is willing to invest = Z

(Y minus X) times Z = total profit

Z divided by X = amount of customers

Now the investor can ask himself or herself if the amount of new customers and their profit is a big enough splash to get them to that next level. That next level could be something like organic growth possibilities, a larger round, an acquisition target, etc. If it’s not big enough you’re either not asking for enough money (red flag) or your cost of customer acquisition is too high (bigger red flag).

3. Having a Weak Team

Every investor says the same thing: bet on the jockey, not the horse. They’re looking for a “wow factor” that stands out from the crowd. Think about it…if you don’t stand out, how can you create something else that does? There are a lot of attributes that defines an entrepreneur’s “wow factor.” You don’t need all of these, but it’d be nice:

-Out-of-this-world storytelling ability

-Remarkable education

-Previously failed startup

-Extremely successful previous startup

-Personal money invested

-Ability to build your own product

-Connected (social media, rolodex, leadership roles)

-Back story that stands out (Olympian, celebrity, star athlete, successful author, etc.)


4. Being Unlikable 

If you’re about to take a bunch of money from someone to go off and change the world you’re solidifying a relationship with that person for the long-run. No one wants to work with someone that’s not fun, isn’t likable, isn’t agreeable, and isn’t at least a little cool. If you’re thinking, “wow, this isn’t me at all,” it’s your responsibility to find someone that is and make them the face of your company. Yes, this is sometimes called politics. Deal with it or fund the company yourself.

5. Not Being Honest

There are two major reasons why you want to be honest. The first is it adds credibility. If you don’t say the answer “I don’t know” at least once in a long Q & A session you’re not going to get funded. Investors are going to ping you with hundreds of questions until you’re blue in the face, and they’re purposely going to ask you at least one question there is no answer to. They’re testing you to see if you have the confidence to tell them you don’t know. Obviously you can’t say, “I don’t know” too much, or that looks bad for a different reason. But once-or-twice adds a lot of credibility to the rest of the questions that you did answer.

The second reason why honesty is important is something called fraudulent inducement. It means that if an investor can prove you lied to them about anything during the pitch and due-diligence stage – they’re entitled to 100% of that money back. Trust me, you will have already spent some of it (if not all of it) by the time they want it back. The best way to not get caught lying to an investor…surprise, surprise…don’t lie at all. Ever.

Wes with BootstrapWeston Bergmann is the founder and lead investor in a business incubator in Kansas City called BetaBlox. He’s acquired part of over 60 startups in the last two years alone. He is a radical practitioner of lean methodologies and an honors graduate from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. He’s lived in ten different countries and his dog’s name is Bootstrap.

2 5 Operational Tips Every Startup CEO Should Know and Follow

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Morgan Sims – Enjoy!

Op Tips_MSimsStarting a company from nothing is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. From a staff of 5 founders to 500 employees, there are several things startup CEOs should know and practice while growing their companies. Hiring and keeping the right people and developing the right company culture are two of the most important things for the CEO of a startup.

To operate your startup successfully, consider the following.

Hire the Right People

At the beginning stages of your company, you won’t be able to hire very many people. So take time to consider which positions you need to fill first and hire people who can do a lot of things on their own, since your small staff will have to deal with situations big companies have entire departments for. Your employees need to be innovative and self-starters because you won’t have time to walk them through every step of their jobs.

Consider whether you can first hire people on a freelance basis, so you don’t have to think about benefits and salaries right off the bat. Your colleagues and new employees are great resources for finding more people who would fit well with your new company, so use them.

Be A Good Communicator

Communication is key for keeping a startup going and retaining the best employees. Keep them updated on how the company is doing, especially when you’re in the launch stages and the staff is very small. Continuing this practice as the company grows is in your best interests. Continue to demonstrate passion about the company and your vision for the future, even when things seem rough. Remember, too, that communication goes both ways. Leave channels open for people to communicate with you as well, making sure they stay open with surveys and meetings as you take on more employees.

Be Flexible

As a startup CEO, you’re going to have to be flexible about everything. You’ll need the ability to learn quickly on your feet because things are going to wrong, ventures are going to fail, and projects will fall apart. Learn to adapt to these situations and continue to push your company to grow. You may have to change directions based on data or stop a money-sucking project right in the middle.

A startup probably won’t have enough money to employ specialists like lawyers or analysts off the bat, so you’ll have to get creative to solve some of these problems yourself. You also need to be flexible with employees. Offering telecommuting or nontraditional hours will help you attract and keep great people.

Give Your Employees Tools They Need

No matter how great your employees are, they won’t be able to accomplish much if they don’t have the necessary tools to do their jobs. It might be expensive to get good equipment and programs, but the money spent will be worth it in the long run. Imagine your internet failing in the middle of a big project. Learn more here about the importance of stable Internet connections.

Don’t just think connections and hardware, either. Consider apps and social media tools that’ll help you expand without spending a lot of money. The right software will give your employees the edge they need to help the company grow.

Cultivate Your Company’s Culture

The culture of your company needs to continue to appeal to employees as the company grows. Culture changes as you hire more people, expand into departments, and a bigger hierarchy develops. Your company’s values need to be clear to employees and potential employees. Let people know what working for your company is like and what your current employees enjoy about it.

Making money, attracting customers, and growing the business can’t happen without great employees. A solid business plan and great tech will only get you so far. The right people will be able to support the company, find opportunities for growth, and add even more valuable members to the team. From culture to flexibility to communication, following these tips will help you develop your startup’s best asset: its employees.

MSimsMorgan Sims is a writer and recent graduate who loves all things tech and social media. When she’s not trying out new gadgets or reading she spends most of her time with her dog, cooking and staying active. Follow her @MorganSims00.

2 What it Really Takes to Start Up a Small Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Sam Melton – Enjoy!

80426_80484_3_harlem

photo credit: darnellthenewsman.com

A bakery that specializes in all things cupcake. A party planning service that offers one-of-a-kind themed events. The best new plumber in town.

Chances are there’s a small business idea out there with your name on it. Maybe you’ve got that entrepreneurial itch, or you’re currently without work or working for too little pay.

Many have the dream to start a business, but only a few have the know-how to nurture a successful startup. Write up a business plan and follow these procedures to get from the idea phase to implementation:

1.  Find the start-up cash (and manpower) you need – without resorting to dishonesty.

Fudging the truth to make your business proposal sound more impressive than it might actually be is an easy thing to do – especially if you need investors or employees, like, now. You may exaggerate your business’ potential to make it a more appealing investment. Or bend the truth about the strength of the business model to recruit employees.

To avoid all the lies (even the white lies) and still get your startup started up, always:

  • Back up your financial projections with valid assumptions.

Be able to back up every figure in discussions with potential investors. Use current and projected trends in your field to find the numbers, and offer legitimate estimates in your debates.

Don’t just tack on zeros to make your business’ future seem more stable. It’s one of the easiest lies to catch.

  • Make sure employee paychecks don’t bounce.

Instead of promising employees a market salary you might not be able to afford, share the details of your startup’s risk with potential hires.

Your employee will appreciate a scheduled rollout of pay increases more than a worthless check. They may even be more motivated to drive the company forward if they’re invested in its future.

2.  Invest in the right tools now to help ensure success down the road. 

If you aren’t particularly tech savvy, the time to learn is now. Computers and the Internet have made it possible for even the smallest businesses to make a big impact. The New York City Economic Development Corporation understands the value of equipping entrepreneurs with game-changing Internet access.

They’ve partnered with Verizon to set up one of NYC’s Harlem Garage incubators with super-fast Internet. According to the Wall Street Journal, startups at the incubator will receive “award-winning FiOS Quantum 300 megabits-per-second Internet service, free for six months, to support the high-tech, high-bandwidth needs of these innovative, new companies.”

The online tools necessary for content management on the business level require a certain amount of computer literacy, but are designed to place a company in a position to compete in the current market. Equip yourself with the following right off the bat:

  • Web hosting.

Choose a Web hosting service to host your domain and make it available for consumers to access your site and learn about your business.

  • Online data storage.

One of the most useful aspects of computer technology is the ability to store large amounts of data. Use a cloud service like Dropbox to store business files online so they can be accessed anywhere and anytime, even if company computers crash.

  • Online project management software.

Keep yourself and your employees on track when it comes to tackling difficult projects. This software helps you allocate tasks, manage your team, documents and more.

3.  Avoid common money traps by knowing where to skimp – and where to sacrifice.

Thinning out overhead costs can be difficult, especially in those volatile early days and months of a small business’ life.

It may seem necessary to rent the fancy office space, to buy the expensive new furniture or office equipment. Often, another money suck is employing a large staff right at first.

Equip yourself with the basic essentials and a staff that is eager to learn and motivated – rather than a staff with credentials out the wazoo and a background at a Fortune 500.

You can also save money by choosing an office location with less features and lower rent. Or maybe switching out expensive and trendy office equipment for reliable – but less costly, brands.

80426_80484_2_SnapshotSam Melton is a former marketing professional turned freelance writer.  His specialties are business and sports technology.

8 5 Elements of a Can't Miss Business

success

jeff_golden via Flickr

I suppose anyone that starts a business feels they have what it takes to make it a success.

And, while you may indeed possess the next big idea, it’s likely more important that you understand a thing or two about the dynamics of bringing any idea to a market.

Below are 5 attributes that business owner should consider and embrace as they plan to start or pivot their business in the direction of can’t miss success.

1) The owner is the customer

Understanding the characteristics, desires and behaviors of a narrowly defined target market is very hard work, but essential to your success. Every marketing book or expert will tell you this, but few can give you the magic tablet that allows you to go deeply in the psyche of your prospect.

You can acquire some measure of knowledge from various research techniques, but nothing beats living, breathing, and feeling the same things your prospects do. Some of the surest successes in history have come from founders who created a product or service to meet a personal need and discovered a business by virtue of doing so.

2) The market understands the offering

Some entrepreneurs dream of locking themselves in a padded room for a year or so and emerging with the world’s greatest innovation. Sounds romantic I know, but if your innovation simply solves an incredible problem people don’t yet know they have, you may wind up burning through the money before they get it.

Better to innovate around a proven market, borrow genius from an unrelated industry, or discover an unmet need in a mature market crying for a solution.

3) The market already spends money here

Sometimes marketers shy away from competition. If market research shows that there’s too much competition in a given area or industry, the thinking is that the market is saturated and there’s probably no room for your start-up there.

To that I say nonsense. While it may be true that your neighborhood couldn’t possibly stand another coffee shop, I’ve found the success of several businesses in an industry, even in the same direct community, can spell opportunity.

If people are already spending money on a product or service then two-thirds of your work is done. They understand and value the offering enough to whip out their wallets. All that’s left for you to do now is show them how much better you can make the experience. Few businesses really provide great service. In fact, stealing market share in mature markets is one of the easiest paths for smart start-ups to run.

4) It’s an innovation that simplifies

Much of this article has focused on entering proven markets. While that’s absolutely the advice I’m giving here, know that you must do so with a significant point of differentiation that market easily understands and appreciates. In most cases this can be done by looking at the way most folks in the chosen market operate and find a way to simplify your offerings around breaking the mold.

For example, if people in your service business operate by proposal and bid, come up with a fixed price. If the traditional operating method is custom work, come up with a series of pre-packaged offerings that meet most people’s needs without the custom hassle.

There’s a popular pizza restaurant in Berkeley California that has one unique pizza on the menu each day. They make it up in big batches and serve thousands a day at $20 per pie.

5) Nothing is precious

Here’s the one that can snag small business founders. If you’re in love with your bright shiny baby start-up and all that it offers, you may become blind to the reality the market suggests.

Keeping an open mind and a willingness to discover what the market really wants and adapt accordingly is one of the core advantages of your smallness – remember to use it.

Talk to your customers, talk to your competitors, talk to your employees and remember nothing is precious but what the numbers prove to be so.