You’ve done something interesting here, but it’s not necessarily easy to translate. I want to talk about that for a minute because it’s one thing to go around and interview people who have been successful and look at what they’ve done. By the time you’ve done that with ten people, for example, you now have ten different pictures of what success looks like. Sometimes it’s hard to deconstruct that, reverse engineer the things that worked and then apply them to your own situation. Obviously you’ve done that over the last year with the advice that you got. What’s been difficult? What did you find that maybe was easier than you thought it was? After going through that, what did you learn about the process?
What I was searching for in terms of a common denominator that could translate to people was what are the foundational principles behind it? Sometimes people might say, “Dorie, are these techniques going to last? Are podcasts going to be a thing forever?” I have no idea. It’s possible some new technology is going to take over and render podcasts obsolete, although I strongly doubt it in a sense that radio itself is merging with podcasts and television certainly did not kill radio. This is a technology that has persisted for years. Any particular channel that you’re using, the specifics may vary in the future, but their foundations that if someone is a strategic entrepreneur, they can apply to the present moment.
One of the things that is critical and this is something I go into depth talking about with online courses but it applies to almost anything, is that probably the primary mistake that people make in launching entrepreneurial ventures or new products or services is that they cook up something they think is cool and then they unleash it on the market and say, “Here people, here you go,” and it fails. They’re like, “Why did this fail? This was a brilliant idea.” You thought it was a brilliant idea, but apparently other people did not. This is hard because entrepreneurs are excitable people and we get hopped up on our ideas.
Going through the disciplined process of saying, “I have this idea. This is not necessarily the greatest idea in the world. It is a hypothesis. Let me test the hypothesis. Let me survey my audience. Let me run a small pilot. Let me see if people are willing to pay for it first in a small way. If they are, then I can double down on it and do more of that.” By the time you go through that process for almost anything that you do, you are going to weed out a very large percentage of the error margin. You’re not going in whole hog and hoping, you have been testing along the way so that you’re making huge unfounded bets. That will save you from a lot of problems down the road in any entrepreneurial pursuit that you do.
It’s really hard to do that though and you mentioned that. I see all the time as we talk with business owners, this desire for certainty is so strong and I don’t think it exists. Everything is an experiment because anytime we get out there and we think we’re certain of something, it’s easy to get proven wrong and sent down a rough path. It’s difficult to discipline yourself to want to do that. Looking at what you’ve been able to take out of the research that you did and then you implemented it, you had to prioritize the different steps to take. You talk about building audience and a bunch of different ways to do that. You talk about how to roll out products and some similar approaches to do that. If you had to lay those out in terms of a framework, where would somebody start, do you think?
Broadly speaking, if we zoom back to the highest level, ultimately, there’re a few steps along the way. The first one is actually way before you get to any product or service. It’s about building trust with your audience. If your business is that you’re selling a commodity on Amazon or something like that, it’s less about necessarily trust with you, but even so people are looking for reviews. You’re on eBay. They want to know that you’re not going to take their money and run away. That is a form of trust building. Especially if you are running the business that is related to something that is either expensive or requires a bespoke element to it, they want to know that you are a reputable person and that is a process that that takes some time to develop and you do that in two ways.
One, I’m a big fan, and this is a drum that I beat in my other books as well, of content creation. That is the best way in terms of the invisible work that we do in the service economy to make it manifest. It is very hard for non-insiders to know that you are good at marketing or that you are good at legal services or whatever your thing is because they don’t know how to evaluate that properly. The only way that they can do it, short of talking to someone that you have worked with previously, testimonials, referrals, that’s all great. If they want to investigate it for themselves, the best thing that they can do is read or somehow consume content that you have created so they can get a feel for who you are and how you think.
That’s probably a large part of why you do this podcast or why people write books, do blogging, or make videos. It’s so people can take it in and say, “I like this Steve Guy. He makes sense. We jive together. He seems rational. This is a person I can do business with.” The trust building process is huge. The second piece that goes hand in glove with that is going deep on your art. Meaning, a lot of the push on online marketing where it gets tarred and where good, responsible business people get a little skittish sometimes is there are many online charlatans that are visible that say, “Make $10,000 dollars in a day, do it overnight.”
The truth is you can’t immediately go to that. You need to understand your customers deeply. Oftentimes that involves a detailed process before you even start leveraging it in a big way of doing elbow to elbow work, coaching, consulting, or at least deep focus groups so that you understand the language they use. You understand the problems people are having so that you know what they need and you know how you can help them. It’s only then that you can begin to fully leverage it with the power of the internet and be sure that you’re offering people something that they want.
The number one problem our clients have is that they’re not seeing enough people. We boil it down to lead generation but they would describe it as, “We don’t see enough people.” They look for all of these different ways that are popular now to go and do that on the internet, but the problem with that is most of the time you’re communicating with strangers. The vast majority of businesses in the world don’t need 10,000 customers to be successful. You need ten. For a lot of people who are going to read your book and go out and start an entrepreneurial venture, if they could get that critical five, ten or fifteen new clients, they’d be off and running. They look at the methods that are taught and those methods are great if you’re going after thousands.
There’s nothing wrong with going after the thousands, but to get going, you really need to get the ten right away. There are probably ten people around you that trust you that you already have a relationship with that you can go to. You talk about this in the book. Focus on the resources that you’ve got, the relationships that you’ve got, and see how you can go in and make those things pay right now to make this whole thing sustainable. Those other leverage efforts, they come in later. They’re important but to your point there, they’re much more difficult to make work if you haven’t done that close in homework and gone deep with the people you’re trying to serve.
Tying in with that, sometimes professionals hesitate to even embark upon content creation because they say, “This is pathetic. I put something on LinkedIn and it got 100 likes. I need 1,000, I need 10,000, I need 100,000. Why am I bothering?” They get discouraged and they give up. Sure, if you’re selling a $2 fidget spinner or something like that, then yes, you need thousands of people. You need a mass audience. If you are selling a high ticket item, a high margin product or service that is trust based, it doesn’t matter if 100 people read it. If they are the right 100 people, that blog post could get you a $50,000 contract.
The way that people need to think about this early on, yes it is great and it is the cherry on top if it can get you new eyeballs. Go for that for sure, but what it is even better for early on is closing the sale better and faster. If you can create content that shows that you’re an authority and if you’ve got somebody that’s a possible interested prospect and you say, “That’s funny that you mentioned that. I just wrote a piece about that. Let me send it to you.” They read that, they say, “Steve’s already been thinking about this. Steve already has these great solutions that seemed perfect for me. Obviously, I should choose Steve.” It makes everything worthwhile.