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7 Bulletproof Business Fundamentals Needed for Success

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Have you ever seen those “top books to read for cs” lists? It’s frustrating to see 50+ books that you have to finish reading before moving on with your startup. They make you feel like, if you don’t read them a disaster will happen.

Although that is somewhat true. I have good news for you. You don’t have to read them all! I’m going to give you 7 of the most powerful tips needed for a great start. But, am I giving you everything you have to know? Of course NOT, and that’s where the bad news comes in…

You will have to read them eventually, but just to buy you some time I’ve summarized the important starting points from all the books I’ve read, so you can get a well-informed head start. I’m doing this so you can start now and stop with the “I have to learn” excuses. Sound good? Then, get a pen and paper because you’re going to be starting sooner than you think.

Here are the seven bulletproof business fundamentals needed for success:

1. It’s all a test

You won’t get everything right the first time. Many entrepreneurs think they’ve failed whenever their product doesn’t work out. It feels terrible… I know. You work for months on a product and then no one buys it. In fact, that’s why they tell you to launch as soon as you can.

So, you can get feedback and update your product fast. Listen to feedback carefully, modify the product and then launch again. Keep repeating this process until you get better and better. You’ll never stop enhancing it since nothing will ever be perfect. Remember that a startup is an experiment lab and there’s always something to improve.

You just have to improve one thing at a time. Oh yeah, one more thing… Don’t just accept feedback. Rather you should demand it and reward for it!

 

2. Give them the fish

Customers don’t want to learn how it’s done. Let me give you an example, imagine you enter a barbershop and the barber gives you scissors and teaches you how to cut your own hair. I’m guessing, you wouldn’t be happy at all. All you wanted was to get a quick haircut and then get out of there. Right? You don’t want to learn how to cut hair. You want your haircut. That’s why you should never teach your customers how to fish. Instead, sell the fish to them!

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs

3. Target, Lock and engage

Be specific. Don’t try to do everything and don’t try to target everyone. If you think your product is too general then make it specific. I don’t care if you’re selling pizza or an online course.

Here’s an example, Would you rather be a bodybuilder’s pizza restaurant or just the next boring pizza restaurant? Obviously the first one because it stands out and it’s specific. Bodybuilders who love pizza will rush right through your doors because you told them that this place is for them, you focused on them and you welcomed them. Unlike the general pizza place that makes them feel like the next customer. When you specifically create something for someone they will feel special.

That’s not all. Have you ever considered how much it would cost to promote your products to everyone?  Hint: A LOT! Selling to everyone isn’t logical either. I mean, you wouldn’t try to sell a car to a 10 year old or candy to a 70 year old, would you? Ok, you get the point.

 

4. Playing the monopoly game

If you really want to make it big in the business, you need to have an advantage. Not just a tiny advantage, but, a great one. You need to stand out and be different. Remember that bodybuilder’s pizza place I told you about? That stands out to bodybuilders like no other pizza place ever will.

Contrary to what you learnt at school, competition is actually a bad thing and you need to try your best to avoid it. Exactly like the bodybuilder’s pizza place did. They differentiated themselves from the competition and began operating in the bodybuilder’s pizza market. It is a pretty small niche market, but they now have a monopoly in it.

As long as no one starts competing with them early on and they scale fast, they’ll still be the dominant business in the market. So what’s so bad about competition?

The problem with competition is that it wastes people’s efforts and forces them to survive rather than innovate. Innovation is what keeps our economy moving forward. Look at all the huge companies out there that are taking lead in all the innovation, they all have some kind of monopoly.

For example, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Each of those companies have a monopoly:

  • According to Smartinsights, Facebook owns 80% of the social network market.
  • According to Theeword, Google owns just over 88% of the search engine market.
  • According to Time, Microsoft owns just over 90% of the computer operating systems market (not for smartphones).

Although no company owns 100%, they do own the majority share and that’s what makes them super successful. However, these companies did not start big. They took over a small market and then scaled up from there (just like the pizza place). Facebook became popular in Harvard College then other colleges and then the whole world. It didn’t take over the whole world over night. The same with Google and the rest of the world’s largest companies. That’s exactly what you should do too.

 

Competitive-Advantage
 

5. How much will you get paid exactly?

Your income is proportional to the value you provide. First, let’s define value. Value simply put is answering the following question: How can I help people more? That means the more you help people the more you’ll get paid in return. It’s as simple as that. Whenever you want to create a product, always ask yourself, how can I help my target customer even more? Just make sure it’s something they really need help with.

 

6. What’s in it for me?

Who cares about features! People want to know what’s in it for them. What benefit do they get out of it? What problem does it solve for them? There are two types of benefits, logical and emotional (also known as the head and the heart benefits). People simultaneously weigh whether something fits well, is affordable, addresses a need – head part – and whether it makes them happy, look good and loved – heart part.

Features fall into the logical part. As an entrepreneur you should figure out what emotional needs you can fulfill along with the logical ones. You’ll stand out when you do that since a lot of entrepreneurs only focus on logical features. Remember, the power of emotions!

 

7. Are they talking about you?

You’ve probably heard of “word of mouth” or referral marketing and it’s greatness. That’s true, every business needs some sort of “word of mouth” marketing especially in the start.

Want to know how NOT to get it? Be boring! People don’t talk about boring. Have you ever talked to someone about what you had for breakfast last week? No, you wouldn’t even care to remember it, let alone talk about it. But, you can guess it was probably the same old boring breakfast.

Want to know how to get people to talk about you? By surprising customers. That’s because people talk about surprising out of the ordinary experiences. It usually sounds a bit like this:

“You can’t believe what happened yesterday! I ordered a Latte from the XYZ café and oh man, the interior design is just out of this world, I’ve never seen anything like it. I even got a free blueberry muffin and it was the best muffin I’ve ever tasted. You should really go and check it out.”

It doesn’t have to be something too big and expensive. In fact, it shouldn’t. Something as little as a hand written thank you card or tiny gift will go a long way. Whatever you do make sure you’re not boring, otherwise everyone will forget about you.

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

So there you have it. The 7 business fundamentals needed to run a successful business. Nevertheless, knowing them won’t help. You need to act!  You can read all the books you want, but it won’t mean anything if you’re not taking action.

Write them on a notepad and refer to them whenever you’re making your business decisions. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do that counts. If you don’t act now, someone else reading this post will.

Which tip do you think is the most important and why? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Zak Mustapha is a marketer and the founder of Foolishness File on a lifelong mission to help entrepreneurs learn from other entrepreneur’s mistakes so they can advance faster than others. Download his free eBook: 3 Common Marketing Mistakes You Can Stop Making Today to Humanize Your Brand.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Brickwork India

    Aug 9, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Hi Zak!

    The points you mentioned are Actionable, Relevant, Retainable! .

    Wonderful stuff!

  2. Zak Mustapha

    Dec 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Hey Evan,

    Really liked Charlie Munger’s “riding the wave theory”, sounds interesting. I’ll make sure to read about it.

    Thanks for your input and I’m glad you liked the article.

    Kind Regards,

    Zak Mustapha

  3. Evan

    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Zak,

    Thank you for this article.

    It’s superb.

    I appreciate the actionable qualities of it and I learned a lot. Number 4 in my opinion is the most important part, because like the bodybuilder’s pizza shop, you should start small, dominate a niche and then aim to take over the market by monopolizing. This is a huge plain-sight secret that I’m sure most do not know about. I spoke about this brand strategy too when I wrote my article on beating yourself – the competition is you!

    All of the major brands did this, they grabbed an important part of the market they wanted as sort of a land-grab in the beginning, then built their moat. Charlie Munger often talks about this “riding the wave theory” because you get in early, build your moat and then you’re surfing on it for a long time because you were keen enough to spot the opportunity.

    Great insights, and I also really like the first point. Everything takes so much longer than we think it will and things go down so roughly the first time.

    If we’re willing to stick the right thing out long enough, we will prosper.

    Thanks again!

    – Evan

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Startups

How I Started A Business And Defeated 5 Years Of Procrastination When It Came To Doing So.

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I finally started a business! So many people had asked me when I was going to start one again and for the last five years, I’ve procrastinated. There’s a whole bunch of statistics which I’m not going to recite that suggest that many people (including me) want to start their own business.

Before each of us leaves this world, there’s a very strong chance we will try to start our own business at least once.

I talk to so many wannabe entrepreneurs who have an idea or a passion that they want to turn into a business yet they never take action. It’s been five years since my last business venture. I know what this feeling of wanting to begin a business is like because it’s plagued my thoughts for so long.

I’ve always had that spark in my brain that says “Tim, you love this passion of yours. Go and start a business and earn a living from it!”

I have ignored this bright spark for so long. I’ve made excuses. I’ve procrastinated. I’ve told myself I wasn’t good enough.

Then finally, a couple of months ago, I said to myself “SCREW IT! I’M STARTING MY BUSINESS.”

If you’ve ever had similar thoughts, then I want you by the end of this article to take action once and for all. I am going to give you the exact steps and tips I used to defeat five years of procrastination, and finally start my coaching and social media consulting business.

Here’s what I did to start my business:

 

Make a loss if you have to in the beginning to get a free education.

The first client I brought on made a loss. At the end of the consulting, I figured out I didn’t charge enough. This is perfect because I basically bought my first client and got a free education at the same time. The lessons my first client taught me were what I used to base my entire business on.

Rather than overthink the idea of a business, I decided to experiment by actually creating one and attempting to find a business model. The truth is you don’t need to know anything to start a business. As long as you can charge money for what you’re going to do, you’ll learn the rest from experience.

 

If you have no ideas at all, then ask yourself “What can I coach people on?”

Not everyone has a business idea they want to pursue. Some people just know they want to start a business. This was the same for me. I knew I wanted a business, but I had no idea what it was going to do. Then I went to an event and the speaker said that all of us could coach somebody, on something.

So I asked myself the same question and the answer I got back was social media and life. They are the two things I can coach everybody on. They are also the two things I’m passionate about. For you, the seed to your business starts with this same question.

While you may not become a coach, knowing what you can teach people will lead to knowing what you’re passionate about and are motivated to do for free.

 

Float the idea of charging one person, for one product or service.

The way I got started once I knew what I wanted to focus my business on was to float the idea with people. One of the people I floated the idea with wanted to be a client except they wanted me to write very long blog articles for them.
While ghostwriting is a service I’m considering to add in the not too distant future, writing long blog posts about a topic I wasn’t passionate about was not something I was willing to do and I said no.

As I kept putting out into the universe what this business was (which didn’t exist yet), I had several people express interest in what I was doing. One of them turned into my first client without even realizing it. Telling people what you are thinking of doing is how you get those first few clients.

“Act as if the business exists already and you can offer your product or service right away. That’s been a key concept for me to take action and start a business again finally”

 

Your first client gives you the confidence.

Winning the first client gave me the confidence to pursue my business. Getting a client is the best way to back yourself and motivate yourself to avoid procrastination and keep going with your business venture.

“It’s harder to fail when you have a client depending on you”

 

Forget business cards and websites.

I meet so many entrepreneurs in the making who spend hours creating websites, designing logos and even printing business cards (maybe they haven’t heard of LinkedIn). None of these activities will get your business started or give you the motivation you need.

Having the skill to sell yourself and start charging for something, anything, is how you start a business. A business is only a business when it has money coming in the door.

 

Act as if you’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve never done consulting. I didn’t do any business degree. I’m no brainiac.

I read a few books and watched a few consultants that my current employer use. Then I just acted as if I had been consulting for years. In a way, I had. Blogging is kind of like consulting.

In fact, in almost any job, you consult to somebody about something. So, we can all do consulting if we choose too.

Acting as if your business has existed for years is how you give your early clients the confidence to try you out and see if your business can serve their needs.

 

Put together a rough plan on the back of an envelope.

Okay, don’t really use an envelope because that would make you a dinosaur. Jot your rough plan down on the notepad of your not so smartphone. My plan for my business was literally nine things I could teach a business about social media.

These nine things became the plan I was going to follow when I consulted to a business. It took fifteen minutes to write. I suggest having a rough plan, so you know where you are heading and what the business will look like. Please don’t overthink the plan or you’ll never get started!

 

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

This question will help you mitigate the risks that are buzzing around in your head and preventing you from starting a business. When I asked this question during the startup of my business a few months back, I realized that the worst that could happen is I disappoint a few clients.

By asking this question, you figure out that there are no life-threatening consequences to giving a business a go.

 

Ask yourself, “What would this look like if it were insanely easy?”

The temptation with a new business idea is to make it complex and overthink it. This is what so many wannabe entrepreneurs do and it’s a disaster. Asking yourself “What would this look like if it were easy?” helps you to chunk down in your head what you want to do.

Making something easy by default makes it doable to get started. If something is really easy, then it’s pretty hard not to give it a go. With my new business, easy looked like this:

– No website
– One service
– One customer
– Using my existing services like Zoom to enable the business
– Only doing it part time for one hour a week

With these boundaries in place, there was no way I was not going to follow through. I knew that if I wouldn’t do one hour a week of my new business, then I’d never do it seriously, or even at all.

Making my business easy was the first test to see if I could ever do the run-my-own-business gig again. I use making things easy as my BS test for any new idea. Try it for yourself.

 

Add your business into conversations you have with everybody.

I get messages on social media and emails all the time asking how I’m doing and what I’m working on. In every conversation during the early weeks of my business, I added in one phrase: “I’ve started a business.”

I didn’t say what it was. It was only natural people would ask, and I’d politely answer them. By using this approach, you’re not selling and you get to test your idea with real people who could become customers. Some of these conversations ended up in them becoming clients.

 

Always do it as a side hustle to start with.

The reason we procrastinate on our business ideas is that we have heaps of fear about what we’re going to do. A lot of this fear comes from the misconception that you need to quit your job or primary income source to start. You don’t.

Giving up your primary income source is the worst thing you can do. You don’t even know if your business will work or whether you’ll like it. Plus 90% of businesses fail in the first five years. That’s why I committed to only one hour per week to put myself to the entrepreneur test yet again.

Starting your business as a side hustle lets you find your niche and learn what your business will become. In the early days, your business will change lots of times, so you don’t want to bet your life savings on it until you are solid in your approach.

Again, by making my business a side hustle to begin with, I removed the fear, gave myself room to explore and allowed myself to fail. I’d suggest this approach for anyone wanting to start a business.

It’s so much easier this way which means your chances of success are higher. The worst case is you end up with a part-time business which gives you a second income. That’s not a bad result either.

So why can’t you start a business and stop procrastinating again?

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself for a Winning Business

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“My pleasure”. We’ve all heard this before right? It is probably not implemented more than in the culture at Chik-Fil-A. I can’t tell you how many times I go in there and like clockwork they respond to every request with my pleasure. This is something that, not only separates them from their competition but continues to make them a destination for people to seek out when they are hungry.

This attitude that every employee from the cook to the owner carries is something that we should all learn from and understand the importance of in our daily interactions with people, prospects, and customers.  

Are you conditioning yourself everyday to be in a position of service for your family, friends, clients, and anyone that you come into contact with? Too many times I see people not focused and aware of the potential opportunities walking around them every day. Do you want to know why they are missing them? It is because their attitude sucks and isn’t one ready to be of service.   

1. Are You Approachable?   

Are you presenting yourself to everyone with a smile? This is a simple tactic you can implement right now that will open up more conversation opportunities for you and will have others asking how your day is going and the most common question or response from others will be, what has you smiling today?  Nature guards humans and to break down the barriers they have up, you have to be someone they feel is there to help them or be of service. Smiling first is key to opening them up and start breaking down their defenses.  

“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity” – Douglas Adams

2. Are You A Good Listener?

After you create the introduction and start the dialogue with your customer or prospect it is essential to be quiet and listen to them.They will begin to tell you what, how, and why they are looking for help and give you the opportunity to show them how your service will solve their problems and needs. Too many times I see salespeople or business individuals talk right through their prospect or customer and in essence, talk themselves right out of a sale.  

Listening is crucial to being in the customer service business. I mean how you can indeed solve a problem for someone if you first refuse to listen to them and find out their problem/problems in the first place?  

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” – Muhammad Ali

3. Are You An Action Taker?  

The best of the best take action to service their customers, clients, or others for that matter. Talking points are great but it’s the activity and the action steps that people are looking for and out of you. If you really want to create an environment of service, this is non-negotiable. Don’t just communicate with your prospects how you are going to help them or service them, SHOW them through your commitments, actions, and abilities to solve their problems. This is a major part of the attitude of service framework that is necessary to separate you from the all the rest.   

You must first create an environment of service in your own daily habits everyday to create the atmosphere of service you want your colleagues, clients, and general surroundings to see from you as well. Your attitude is the first thing you have to check to get this mindset in alignment with your habits.  

Create a daily smile that others find welcoming.  Listen to everything going on around you so that you are sharp and aware of your surroundings, and then attack every day with actions of solving problems and elevating yourself as the solution others seek out when they need a product or service to better their situation and business.

What are some things you do that show your attitude of service? Comment Below!

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5 Simple Strategies for When You’ve Made a Business Mistake

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business mistakes

Anyone in business with years of experience will likely be able to cite a variety of past mistakes, whether they involve missing a meeting, not delivering content by a deadline or upsetting a client. The reality is, it’s impossible to be error-free in the demanding world of business, where deadlines and individual client preferences are numerous.

Ideally, businesses have a structure in place that helps prevent mistakes before they occur, even though they may still happen. As a result, businesses should realize that a mistake shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. A mistake can present an opportunity to solidify a client relationship, by giving you a chance to make up for it and more.

Here are five simple strategies to address mistakes in business, with integrity and honesty:

1. Provide Clients With Transparency

Businesses that make a mistake and refuse to tell a client about it until questioned will find themselves at the receiving end of an understandably irate client. Giving clients a heads-up shows integrity and a steadfast commitment to making it right, especially if they are not yet aware of the issue.

Ideally, you can address the issue with the client in person, or at least by phone. Showing an apologetic tone in an email is difficult. When apologizing, don’t beat around the bush. Directly clarify the mistake, why it happened and the resolution in progress. By telling a customer or client about a mistake before they realize it on their own, you enforce a willingness to take responsibility and right wrongs.

2. Offer Reassurance on Resolving the Issue

Being transparent about a business mistake is just the first step. It’s equally important to clarify with a client how you will resolve the issue. Since the last thing anyone wants is for the partnership to dissolve with a refund or termination of a contract, the best route is to offer a clear plan on how the project’s results will improve. You should also clarify what steps have been implemented to ensure the mistake does not occur again.

For example, if a PR agency sends out a press release for a client with erroneous content, it can immediately notify the client of the issue, while ensuring them that this round of pitching and its corrective follow-up round will be free of charge. This shows a business taking responsibility for its mistakes, while also offering a solid plan as to how it can resolve the issue without taking more resources or money from the client.

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama

3. Ask for Their Resolution Idea

After providing your own reassurance and strategy to amend the mistake, you should ask the client if there’s anything else you can do. If you proposed a firm plan for correcting the issue, then it’s likely they will simply say no — though the question provides room to make things right if they are not satisfied with your proposal.

If you intend on providing a discount due to your mistake, it’s better to ask the customer for their idea of a resolution before offering a discount, as their ideal discount may be less than what you initially intended on proposing. By accepting their idea for a resolution, the business is essentially admitting all wrongdoing while increasing the confidence of the client.

Additionally, for whatever the customer proposes as a solution, it’s a good idea to increase their desire slightly. For example, if a customer feels that a 10 percent discount is fair, counter with something like, “10 percent is very fair, and I’m very apologetic for our mistake. As a result, I will provide you with 15 percent off as a thank you for your understanding.”

4. Value the Power of Word-of-Mouth

Most clients are knowledgeable enough to know that mistakes happen. Their evaluation of a business incorporates how it responds to its errors. Especially in the digital age, reviews of a business are prevalent on social media and various review platforms.

A business that goes above and beyond to amend its mistake, by informing the customer of its error and offering a fair compensation, is likelier to be praised in reviews as taking charge of mistakes. Combined with other reviews from clients who ideally did not experience mistakes, a business will have an excellent review presence online.

“Free publicity and word of mouth is probably the best and cheapest form of advertising. Learn to use it to your advantage.” – Richard Branson

5. Don’t Stress That It Wasn’t Purposeful

If a client or consumer has spent time and money on your services, then they likely already know your mistake was just that, not some intentional sabotage. As a result, continually stressing that your mistake wasn’t on purpose is a waste of time, especially when you can be spending the dialogue on ideas for resolution and compensation. Taking the lead on amending a mistake is significantly more important than declaring its intent or lack thereof.

Mistakes happen in business, quite often. Eliminating these mistakes is ideal, but when they do occur, it’s possible for a business to salvage a client relationship with transparency, reassurance and a viable resolution.

How do you recover from a business mistake? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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7 Main Reasons Why You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy in 2018

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digital marketing strategy

The face of marketing has changed significantly in the past few decades and even more so in the past few years. People are more informed when making purchases, thanks to the overwhelming availability of information online for virtually all products, companies, and people. Now, followers are your potential customers. As a result, digital marketing has become the preferred marketing strategy for many companies that exist today.

Even so, not all companies have a solid marketing strategy from which they work. While many companies are successfully trucking along without any clear digital marketing strategy, they are not necessarily harnessing the full power of this online trend. If you are serious about making gains with your company or brand, then you must create a clear, actionable digital marketing strategy.

Not totally convinced your company needs one? Here are seven reasons why your company needs one stat:

1. A clear strategy will help you focus

Most companies want to increase their online reach by getting more Instagram followers or growing their Facebook page. This, however, does not serve as a sufficient goal. Companies must determine how many followers they want and by how much they want to increase their conversion rate. Without a clear, written strategy, it is difficult for companies to come up with an effective action plan since they aren’t quite clear on what their goals are.

2. Existing & start-up competitors will take your potential customers

Digital marketing is a very competitive industry and if you’re not actively competing then you are losing. For every hour that you are not making your brand known and accessible, you are losing potential customers to your competitors and all of your future competitors. This alone, should inspire you to get your digital marketing game strong.

3. Help you optimize and adapt

With a well-written plan, companies are able to regularly check in on their current methods and determine if they are working as effectively as planned. A plan can not only help you set goals, but it can also include built-in “check-ups” that allow you to regularly assess your methods. By regularly checking the efficacy of your methods, you can be certain that you won’t be wasting any valuable time or resources on things that simply are not working.

Iconosquare, for example, allows you to fully monitor the statistics of your Instagram page. By having access to detailed real-time stats, you can quickly adjust your strategy to follow the methods that work best.

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus

4. Limit duplication of content or resources

Most companies have several people working in marketing and outreach. Even in small businesses, communication can get mixed and initiatives can be duplicated. By creating a clear digital marketing strategy, you are able to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page. This will prevent not only duplicate content but also duplicate accounts, tools, and programs used. This saves both time and money.

5. Prepares responsive and efficient organization

The difference between a traditional marketing strategy and a digital one is that you are given a lot more wiggle room in your digital marketing strategy. One of the main challenges in marketing is responding to your audience, the market, and the everyday problems that come with running a business. With a solid marketing strategy, you can experiment with new approaches to gaining and keeping customers. This also means that you can eliminate methods that do not work.

6. You won’t know your online demand

You may think that you have an incredible tool, but your target audience may not agree. By crafting an online marketing strategy, you are better able to not only provide better services but also find out which services your potential customers actually want. In fact, many companies function solely through Instagram, placing all of their product and marketing efforts on the social media platform. By doing so, they are able to closely monitor customer profiles and behaviors, the behavior of competitors, and the latest trends in the market. An Instagram account can help you easily achieve each of these things.

Engage, Enlighten, Encourage and especially…just be yourself! Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.” – Susan Cooper

7. Helps in the management of resources

Without a well-thought out strategy, your business can quickly overspend on resources or tools that many not be effective. By setting a budget within your plan, you are better able to allocate funds in an efficient manner. This is absolutely crucial for any business that is looking to make a profit.

A super common strategy among Instagram marketers is to use helpful tools that don’t break the bank. Many marketers pay for programs that gain Instagram followers for a minimal cost so that they can focus their main resources on ad campaigns and creative design, instead.

Creating a digital marketing strategy doesn’t need to be a high-brow project. You can simply begin by stating clear goals and experimenting with tools that fit within your budget. In fact, a good online marketing strategy will likely change several times each year as it adapts to the audience and trends. The important thing is that you make one.

How are you growing your digitial marketing strategies for 2018? Let us know through the comments below!

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5 Things You Must Have in Order to Succeed as a Freelancer

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successful freelancer

Up until about 3 years ago, I honestly had no idea what a freelancer even was. It sounded like a cool job title and I secretly envied people who could call themselves one. Didn’t they get to travel the world with a laptop and go sailing and sip margaritas beside some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet? Yup, I wanted to be a freelancer. (more…)

Iva Ursano is a retired hairstylist turned freelancer from Northern Ontario Canada living a life of freedom, peace and joy in sunny Guatemala. Her two main goals in life are to inspire people around the world with her blogs and to feed hungry little bellies in the poor town she now calls home. Follow her on her fast growing FB page Amazing Me Movement or head on over to her website and sign up for weekly in your face inspiration!

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Brickwork India

    Aug 9, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Hi Zak!

    The points you mentioned are Actionable, Relevant, Retainable! .

    Wonderful stuff!

  2. Zak Mustapha

    Dec 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Hey Evan,

    Really liked Charlie Munger’s “riding the wave theory”, sounds interesting. I’ll make sure to read about it.

    Thanks for your input and I’m glad you liked the article.

    Kind Regards,

    Zak Mustapha

  3. Evan

    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Zak,

    Thank you for this article.

    It’s superb.

    I appreciate the actionable qualities of it and I learned a lot. Number 4 in my opinion is the most important part, because like the bodybuilder’s pizza shop, you should start small, dominate a niche and then aim to take over the market by monopolizing. This is a huge plain-sight secret that I’m sure most do not know about. I spoke about this brand strategy too when I wrote my article on beating yourself – the competition is you!

    All of the major brands did this, they grabbed an important part of the market they wanted as sort of a land-grab in the beginning, then built their moat. Charlie Munger often talks about this “riding the wave theory” because you get in early, build your moat and then you’re surfing on it for a long time because you were keen enough to spot the opportunity.

    Great insights, and I also really like the first point. Everything takes so much longer than we think it will and things go down so roughly the first time.

    If we’re willing to stick the right thing out long enough, we will prosper.

    Thanks again!

    – Evan

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Startups

How I Started A Business And Defeated 5 Years Of Procrastination When It Came To Doing So.

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I finally started a business! So many people had asked me when I was going to start one again and for the last five years, I’ve procrastinated. There’s a whole bunch of statistics which I’m not going to recite that suggest that many people (including me) want to start their own business.

Before each of us leaves this world, there’s a very strong chance we will try to start our own business at least once.

I talk to so many wannabe entrepreneurs who have an idea or a passion that they want to turn into a business yet they never take action. It’s been five years since my last business venture. I know what this feeling of wanting to begin a business is like because it’s plagued my thoughts for so long.

I’ve always had that spark in my brain that says “Tim, you love this passion of yours. Go and start a business and earn a living from it!”

I have ignored this bright spark for so long. I’ve made excuses. I’ve procrastinated. I’ve told myself I wasn’t good enough.

Then finally, a couple of months ago, I said to myself “SCREW IT! I’M STARTING MY BUSINESS.”

If you’ve ever had similar thoughts, then I want you by the end of this article to take action once and for all. I am going to give you the exact steps and tips I used to defeat five years of procrastination, and finally start my coaching and social media consulting business.

Here’s what I did to start my business:

 

Make a loss if you have to in the beginning to get a free education.

The first client I brought on made a loss. At the end of the consulting, I figured out I didn’t charge enough. This is perfect because I basically bought my first client and got a free education at the same time. The lessons my first client taught me were what I used to base my entire business on.

Rather than overthink the idea of a business, I decided to experiment by actually creating one and attempting to find a business model. The truth is you don’t need to know anything to start a business. As long as you can charge money for what you’re going to do, you’ll learn the rest from experience.

 

If you have no ideas at all, then ask yourself “What can I coach people on?”

Not everyone has a business idea they want to pursue. Some people just know they want to start a business. This was the same for me. I knew I wanted a business, but I had no idea what it was going to do. Then I went to an event and the speaker said that all of us could coach somebody, on something.

So I asked myself the same question and the answer I got back was social media and life. They are the two things I can coach everybody on. They are also the two things I’m passionate about. For you, the seed to your business starts with this same question.

While you may not become a coach, knowing what you can teach people will lead to knowing what you’re passionate about and are motivated to do for free.

 

Float the idea of charging one person, for one product or service.

The way I got started once I knew what I wanted to focus my business on was to float the idea with people. One of the people I floated the idea with wanted to be a client except they wanted me to write very long blog articles for them.
While ghostwriting is a service I’m considering to add in the not too distant future, writing long blog posts about a topic I wasn’t passionate about was not something I was willing to do and I said no.

As I kept putting out into the universe what this business was (which didn’t exist yet), I had several people express interest in what I was doing. One of them turned into my first client without even realizing it. Telling people what you are thinking of doing is how you get those first few clients.

“Act as if the business exists already and you can offer your product or service right away. That’s been a key concept for me to take action and start a business again finally”

 

Your first client gives you the confidence.

Winning the first client gave me the confidence to pursue my business. Getting a client is the best way to back yourself and motivate yourself to avoid procrastination and keep going with your business venture.

“It’s harder to fail when you have a client depending on you”

 

Forget business cards and websites.

I meet so many entrepreneurs in the making who spend hours creating websites, designing logos and even printing business cards (maybe they haven’t heard of LinkedIn). None of these activities will get your business started or give you the motivation you need.

Having the skill to sell yourself and start charging for something, anything, is how you start a business. A business is only a business when it has money coming in the door.

 

Act as if you’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve never done consulting. I didn’t do any business degree. I’m no brainiac.

I read a few books and watched a few consultants that my current employer use. Then I just acted as if I had been consulting for years. In a way, I had. Blogging is kind of like consulting.

In fact, in almost any job, you consult to somebody about something. So, we can all do consulting if we choose too.

Acting as if your business has existed for years is how you give your early clients the confidence to try you out and see if your business can serve their needs.

 

Put together a rough plan on the back of an envelope.

Okay, don’t really use an envelope because that would make you a dinosaur. Jot your rough plan down on the notepad of your not so smartphone. My plan for my business was literally nine things I could teach a business about social media.

These nine things became the plan I was going to follow when I consulted to a business. It took fifteen minutes to write. I suggest having a rough plan, so you know where you are heading and what the business will look like. Please don’t overthink the plan or you’ll never get started!

 

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

This question will help you mitigate the risks that are buzzing around in your head and preventing you from starting a business. When I asked this question during the startup of my business a few months back, I realized that the worst that could happen is I disappoint a few clients.

By asking this question, you figure out that there are no life-threatening consequences to giving a business a go.

 

Ask yourself, “What would this look like if it were insanely easy?”

The temptation with a new business idea is to make it complex and overthink it. This is what so many wannabe entrepreneurs do and it’s a disaster. Asking yourself “What would this look like if it were easy?” helps you to chunk down in your head what you want to do.

Making something easy by default makes it doable to get started. If something is really easy, then it’s pretty hard not to give it a go. With my new business, easy looked like this:

– No website
– One service
– One customer
– Using my existing services like Zoom to enable the business
– Only doing it part time for one hour a week

With these boundaries in place, there was no way I was not going to follow through. I knew that if I wouldn’t do one hour a week of my new business, then I’d never do it seriously, or even at all.

Making my business easy was the first test to see if I could ever do the run-my-own-business gig again. I use making things easy as my BS test for any new idea. Try it for yourself.

 

Add your business into conversations you have with everybody.

I get messages on social media and emails all the time asking how I’m doing and what I’m working on. In every conversation during the early weeks of my business, I added in one phrase: “I’ve started a business.”

I didn’t say what it was. It was only natural people would ask, and I’d politely answer them. By using this approach, you’re not selling and you get to test your idea with real people who could become customers. Some of these conversations ended up in them becoming clients.

 

Always do it as a side hustle to start with.

The reason we procrastinate on our business ideas is that we have heaps of fear about what we’re going to do. A lot of this fear comes from the misconception that you need to quit your job or primary income source to start. You don’t.

Giving up your primary income source is the worst thing you can do. You don’t even know if your business will work or whether you’ll like it. Plus 90% of businesses fail in the first five years. That’s why I committed to only one hour per week to put myself to the entrepreneur test yet again.

Starting your business as a side hustle lets you find your niche and learn what your business will become. In the early days, your business will change lots of times, so you don’t want to bet your life savings on it until you are solid in your approach.

Again, by making my business a side hustle to begin with, I removed the fear, gave myself room to explore and allowed myself to fail. I’d suggest this approach for anyone wanting to start a business.

It’s so much easier this way which means your chances of success are higher. The worst case is you end up with a part-time business which gives you a second income. That’s not a bad result either.

So why can’t you start a business and stop procrastinating again?

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself for a Winning Business

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successful business

“My pleasure”. We’ve all heard this before right? It is probably not implemented more than in the culture at Chik-Fil-A. I can’t tell you how many times I go in there and like clockwork they respond to every request with my pleasure. This is something that, not only separates them from their competition but continues to make them a destination for people to seek out when they are hungry.

This attitude that every employee from the cook to the owner carries is something that we should all learn from and understand the importance of in our daily interactions with people, prospects, and customers.  

Are you conditioning yourself everyday to be in a position of service for your family, friends, clients, and anyone that you come into contact with? Too many times I see people not focused and aware of the potential opportunities walking around them every day. Do you want to know why they are missing them? It is because their attitude sucks and isn’t one ready to be of service.   

1. Are You Approachable?   

Are you presenting yourself to everyone with a smile? This is a simple tactic you can implement right now that will open up more conversation opportunities for you and will have others asking how your day is going and the most common question or response from others will be, what has you smiling today?  Nature guards humans and to break down the barriers they have up, you have to be someone they feel is there to help them or be of service. Smiling first is key to opening them up and start breaking down their defenses.  

“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity” – Douglas Adams

2. Are You A Good Listener?

After you create the introduction and start the dialogue with your customer or prospect it is essential to be quiet and listen to them.They will begin to tell you what, how, and why they are looking for help and give you the opportunity to show them how your service will solve their problems and needs. Too many times I see salespeople or business individuals talk right through their prospect or customer and in essence, talk themselves right out of a sale.  

Listening is crucial to being in the customer service business. I mean how you can indeed solve a problem for someone if you first refuse to listen to them and find out their problem/problems in the first place?  

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” – Muhammad Ali

3. Are You An Action Taker?  

The best of the best take action to service their customers, clients, or others for that matter. Talking points are great but it’s the activity and the action steps that people are looking for and out of you. If you really want to create an environment of service, this is non-negotiable. Don’t just communicate with your prospects how you are going to help them or service them, SHOW them through your commitments, actions, and abilities to solve their problems. This is a major part of the attitude of service framework that is necessary to separate you from the all the rest.   

You must first create an environment of service in your own daily habits everyday to create the atmosphere of service you want your colleagues, clients, and general surroundings to see from you as well. Your attitude is the first thing you have to check to get this mindset in alignment with your habits.  

Create a daily smile that others find welcoming.  Listen to everything going on around you so that you are sharp and aware of your surroundings, and then attack every day with actions of solving problems and elevating yourself as the solution others seek out when they need a product or service to better their situation and business.

What are some things you do that show your attitude of service? Comment Below!

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5 Simple Strategies for When You’ve Made a Business Mistake

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business mistakes

Anyone in business with years of experience will likely be able to cite a variety of past mistakes, whether they involve missing a meeting, not delivering content by a deadline or upsetting a client. The reality is, it’s impossible to be error-free in the demanding world of business, where deadlines and individual client preferences are numerous.

Ideally, businesses have a structure in place that helps prevent mistakes before they occur, even though they may still happen. As a result, businesses should realize that a mistake shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. A mistake can present an opportunity to solidify a client relationship, by giving you a chance to make up for it and more.

Here are five simple strategies to address mistakes in business, with integrity and honesty:

1. Provide Clients With Transparency

Businesses that make a mistake and refuse to tell a client about it until questioned will find themselves at the receiving end of an understandably irate client. Giving clients a heads-up shows integrity and a steadfast commitment to making it right, especially if they are not yet aware of the issue.

Ideally, you can address the issue with the client in person, or at least by phone. Showing an apologetic tone in an email is difficult. When apologizing, don’t beat around the bush. Directly clarify the mistake, why it happened and the resolution in progress. By telling a customer or client about a mistake before they realize it on their own, you enforce a willingness to take responsibility and right wrongs.

2. Offer Reassurance on Resolving the Issue

Being transparent about a business mistake is just the first step. It’s equally important to clarify with a client how you will resolve the issue. Since the last thing anyone wants is for the partnership to dissolve with a refund or termination of a contract, the best route is to offer a clear plan on how the project’s results will improve. You should also clarify what steps have been implemented to ensure the mistake does not occur again.

For example, if a PR agency sends out a press release for a client with erroneous content, it can immediately notify the client of the issue, while ensuring them that this round of pitching and its corrective follow-up round will be free of charge. This shows a business taking responsibility for its mistakes, while also offering a solid plan as to how it can resolve the issue without taking more resources or money from the client.

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama

3. Ask for Their Resolution Idea

After providing your own reassurance and strategy to amend the mistake, you should ask the client if there’s anything else you can do. If you proposed a firm plan for correcting the issue, then it’s likely they will simply say no — though the question provides room to make things right if they are not satisfied with your proposal.

If you intend on providing a discount due to your mistake, it’s better to ask the customer for their idea of a resolution before offering a discount, as their ideal discount may be less than what you initially intended on proposing. By accepting their idea for a resolution, the business is essentially admitting all wrongdoing while increasing the confidence of the client.

Additionally, for whatever the customer proposes as a solution, it’s a good idea to increase their desire slightly. For example, if a customer feels that a 10 percent discount is fair, counter with something like, “10 percent is very fair, and I’m very apologetic for our mistake. As a result, I will provide you with 15 percent off as a thank you for your understanding.”

4. Value the Power of Word-of-Mouth

Most clients are knowledgeable enough to know that mistakes happen. Their evaluation of a business incorporates how it responds to its errors. Especially in the digital age, reviews of a business are prevalent on social media and various review platforms.

A business that goes above and beyond to amend its mistake, by informing the customer of its error and offering a fair compensation, is likelier to be praised in reviews as taking charge of mistakes. Combined with other reviews from clients who ideally did not experience mistakes, a business will have an excellent review presence online.

“Free publicity and word of mouth is probably the best and cheapest form of advertising. Learn to use it to your advantage.” – Richard Branson

5. Don’t Stress That It Wasn’t Purposeful

If a client or consumer has spent time and money on your services, then they likely already know your mistake was just that, not some intentional sabotage. As a result, continually stressing that your mistake wasn’t on purpose is a waste of time, especially when you can be spending the dialogue on ideas for resolution and compensation. Taking the lead on amending a mistake is significantly more important than declaring its intent or lack thereof.

Mistakes happen in business, quite often. Eliminating these mistakes is ideal, but when they do occur, it’s possible for a business to salvage a client relationship with transparency, reassurance and a viable resolution.

How do you recover from a business mistake? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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7 Main Reasons Why You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy in 2018

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digital marketing strategy

The face of marketing has changed significantly in the past few decades and even more so in the past few years. People are more informed when making purchases, thanks to the overwhelming availability of information online for virtually all products, companies, and people. Now, followers are your potential customers. As a result, digital marketing has become the preferred marketing strategy for many companies that exist today.

Even so, not all companies have a solid marketing strategy from which they work. While many companies are successfully trucking along without any clear digital marketing strategy, they are not necessarily harnessing the full power of this online trend. If you are serious about making gains with your company or brand, then you must create a clear, actionable digital marketing strategy.

Not totally convinced your company needs one? Here are seven reasons why your company needs one stat:

1. A clear strategy will help you focus

Most companies want to increase their online reach by getting more Instagram followers or growing their Facebook page. This, however, does not serve as a sufficient goal. Companies must determine how many followers they want and by how much they want to increase their conversion rate. Without a clear, written strategy, it is difficult for companies to come up with an effective action plan since they aren’t quite clear on what their goals are.

2. Existing & start-up competitors will take your potential customers

Digital marketing is a very competitive industry and if you’re not actively competing then you are losing. For every hour that you are not making your brand known and accessible, you are losing potential customers to your competitors and all of your future competitors. This alone, should inspire you to get your digital marketing game strong.

3. Help you optimize and adapt

With a well-written plan, companies are able to regularly check in on their current methods and determine if they are working as effectively as planned. A plan can not only help you set goals, but it can also include built-in “check-ups” that allow you to regularly assess your methods. By regularly checking the efficacy of your methods, you can be certain that you won’t be wasting any valuable time or resources on things that simply are not working.

Iconosquare, for example, allows you to fully monitor the statistics of your Instagram page. By having access to detailed real-time stats, you can quickly adjust your strategy to follow the methods that work best.

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus

4. Limit duplication of content or resources

Most companies have several people working in marketing and outreach. Even in small businesses, communication can get mixed and initiatives can be duplicated. By creating a clear digital marketing strategy, you are able to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page. This will prevent not only duplicate content but also duplicate accounts, tools, and programs used. This saves both time and money.

5. Prepares responsive and efficient organization

The difference between a traditional marketing strategy and a digital one is that you are given a lot more wiggle room in your digital marketing strategy. One of the main challenges in marketing is responding to your audience, the market, and the everyday problems that come with running a business. With a solid marketing strategy, you can experiment with new approaches to gaining and keeping customers. This also means that you can eliminate methods that do not work.

6. You won’t know your online demand

You may think that you have an incredible tool, but your target audience may not agree. By crafting an online marketing strategy, you are better able to not only provide better services but also find out which services your potential customers actually want. In fact, many companies function solely through Instagram, placing all of their product and marketing efforts on the social media platform. By doing so, they are able to closely monitor customer profiles and behaviors, the behavior of competitors, and the latest trends in the market. An Instagram account can help you easily achieve each of these things.

Engage, Enlighten, Encourage and especially…just be yourself! Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.” – Susan Cooper

7. Helps in the management of resources

Without a well-thought out strategy, your business can quickly overspend on resources or tools that many not be effective. By setting a budget within your plan, you are better able to allocate funds in an efficient manner. This is absolutely crucial for any business that is looking to make a profit.

A super common strategy among Instagram marketers is to use helpful tools that don’t break the bank. Many marketers pay for programs that gain Instagram followers for a minimal cost so that they can focus their main resources on ad campaigns and creative design, instead.

Creating a digital marketing strategy doesn’t need to be a high-brow project. You can simply begin by stating clear goals and experimenting with tools that fit within your budget. In fact, a good online marketing strategy will likely change several times each year as it adapts to the audience and trends. The important thing is that you make one.

How are you growing your digitial marketing strategies for 2018? Let us know through the comments below!

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