As a marketer, you are in a very unique position to dive into entrepreneurship. Today’s startup scene requires rapid growth with agile solutions. Most startups look to fail fast and adjust accordingly.
Plus - it's no secret that marketers are vital for business growth.
Starting out, it's very easy to overestimate an assumption. For example, your grandmother is looking to downsize her home and purchase a condo within a senior living community. As you help with the search, you discover that there isn’t a great mechanism to find such housing online. Being the marketing problem solver that you are, you think about building a website to meet this need. You present the idea to family and friends, and all seem to love the idea.
So, your idea is validated! Or is it?
Next you build a site that is responsive, social media friendly, and fairly easy to maintain. Now, for you, the fun starts because you can use your marketing skills and the latest tactics to drive users.
Unfortunately, no one shows up! You promoted posts, created landing pages, bought mailing lists, and deployed tracking urls to see the distance of your messages - but, no success in driving traffic. You panic. You don’t understand; you followed your business plan.
With all that effort, not one conversion!
What happened? Did your family and friends confirm your idea to refrain from hurting your feelings? Should you have spent more money on Google AdWords versus Facebook/Instagram? Maybe Pinterest or Yellowpages.com? Better yet, deeply discount your product at a loss on a daily deal (flash) site for supposed brand exposure?
In a day and age where fighting for consumer attention is becoming increasingly difficult, growth hacking has grown in prominence. Facebook, Apple, Beats by Dre, and so many other companies have hacked culture to promote their products.
Growthhackers.net defines growth hacking as “a set of cross-disciplinary skills with 1 goal and 1 goal only: to grow a startup or a business. This means the only focus of a growth hacker is Growth, Growth and Growth. The ultimate goal is to find a predictable, repeatable and scalable growth process. Therefore, growth hacking is a process.”
With your internet listing site, how was the product market fit validated?
Sean Ellis, the person who coined the term growth hacker and runs growthhackers.com, encourages entrepreneurs to gather intelligence on why early users consider a product a “must-have.” Also, he encourages you to ask the following questions:
- “What is the main benefit you get from the product?”
- “Why is that benefit important to you?”
- ”What would you use if this product wasn’t available?”
Marketing, as an entity, stores a warehouse of information on customers. Customers are tracked from promotion to post-purchase behavior. Marketers create and deploy a variety of strategies and tactics to add new customers or retain current customers (or sometimes, even migrate current customers away from your business). As a result, marketers are typically one of the first group of people called on to figure things out when the market suddenly changes.
With an unproven market, your internet listing website has an uphill battle to achieve success. Your struggles may not be a result of your marketing or the quality of your product. understanding the market is vital for penetration.
Q: How do you obtain such answers? A: “Testing drives growth.” - Sean Ellis
Finding early adopters and unlocking your product’s value is an essential step in market discovery - think iPod and the iTunes Store versus Zune and the Windows Media Player. It wasn’t that Apple just created an MP3 box that stores 500 songs. The company created a sleek, well-designed product that allowed users to legally buy music, apps, and games and changed the way users consumed media. The real competitive landscape involved more than the functionality of the technology; it evolved to lifestyle management.
As an entrepreneur, you will have to test hypotheses to obtain product market fit. Each test serves as a hot-cold mechanism to understand how to quantify and qualify relationships. The goal is to test, validate, learn, and then continue until you have found a base that will yield profits.
To unlock value, ask yourself; are the early users of your internet listing site the people living within the condos or are they the children who are helping with the housing search?
Building a Sustainable Small Business
Starting a business can be fun and exhilarating. However, there are other important aspects to remember such as taxes, licensing, legal requirements, insurance, and more. A major hurdle that many small business owners fail to appreciate is the role of doing everything. Many people jump into entrepreneurship because they are highly skilled at something. In Michael Gerber’s book, E-Myth - Why Most Small Businesses Fail, he calls this the “worker/do’er”, the technician that only believes the business will succeed based upon the owner’s technical skill and hands on everything. As a marketer, there's only so much we can leverage with our own hands and professional know-how. It is crucial to understand where your weaknesses are and look to others for support.
As an AMADC member, you have access to the best marketing minds within the DMV (DC, MD, and VA) and some of the best tools around to help you succeed. The chapter has recently launched a new Business Accelerator Program. The program aims to help “entrepreneurs who seek sales and marketing guidance specific to their business challenges in the digital economy.” Leveraging programs like this can help expand your knowledge as well as your network.
As 80% of businesses fail within the first 5 years, the odds are stacked against us. Many of us are only one good idea away from transforming our lives, those we encounter, and ultimately our communities.
What can, and will, you do to test your business assumptions and create a new, thriving business?
Rob Black, Jr. is a marketer with over 15 years experience within property management. He currently operates a creative blog site (www.comizzzle.com) targeting millennials. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.
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