Testing My Assumptions: Pulling Back the Curtain on My Business
The following is the fourth and final segment in a 4-part video series that documents the evolution of my young business, in the hopes that others can learn from my experience—my successes, my mistakes, and the process of applying a critical eye to your business as it develops.
Part 4: Entrepreneurs—Refining Your Value Proposition
You can’t understand how a startup really works until you live it. You can read all the books and study all the theories, but you won’t know what it’s like until you’ve been through it first hand. And don’t tell me that your large company is “like a startup,” because it’s not. I can tell you from being on both sides—being “entrepreneurial” in a large company does not mean that you are an entrepreneur.
Startups have two distinguishing characteristics:
- Absolute risk: The business dies if you don’t succeed. Everyone goes home, not back to their desks.
- Rapid growth: Inflection point required. Incremental growth is lauded only after you are done being a startup.
I joined two early-stage startups in my career, and it was some of the most rewarding work that I did. Nothing compares to the dizzying speed of progress you can make on a daily basis, especially compared to my experience at large companies. Pair each rush with a crushing low, because that’s what it’s about. Up, down, up, down, every week. Sometimes it felt like every hour.
It’s not for everyone—you really have to be comfortable with a lot of uncertainly, a lot of disappointment, and the fact that there’s nowhere to hide. If you fail, it’s all on you. You second-guess every decision, you play back your mistakes over and over again in your head. You keep iterating, cycling quickly, and learning at each step—until you get it right. Then you move on to the next element of your business.
Some people thrive in this environment. They love the churn, the fast pace, and the sheer impact they can have. But even the people that are built for this still suffer from a set of common mistakes. I see the same ones over and over again—not just in the startups in which I was involved directly, but in the ones that I mentor, too.
This is where I thought I could help when I started my own consulting business—to help entrepreneurs avoid the common pitfalls. But nine months into my business, I’m realizing that I can’t help everyone. My value proposition is that I help people build an audience through a content strategy. That assumes two things, when working with entrepreneurs:
- You need an audience. It’s worth making the distinction between an audience and customers. Every business needs customers (or clients), but not all businesses need an audience.
- You connect over content. I would contend that every business needs content—in the digital world, content is how you make connections with customers and clients. But what’s your content strategy? In other words, what’s your intent?
To answer that, look at your own business right now. What kind of content are you creating?
- Is it simple “passive” content, like your Web site, tag line, or slogan? This is about hanging your shingle and making sure that you have an online presence. It’s about branding—projecting an image. It’s a place for potential customers to find out the basics about you and your mission.
- Is it “outbound” content, like e-mail campaigns, ad copy, or a finely-tuned sales pitch? This is about sales and marketing, plain and simple. It’s about creating awareness of your company, which is incredibly important to a young business. It’s about compelling, call-to-action content, whether it’s meant to be delivered via print, digital, or even in person.
- Is it “inbound” content, like a blog, social media, ebooks, or white papers? This is about providing value to your customers first, before you start talking about yourself. It’s about building trust, and therefore it must be done with genuine intent. It’s the deepest connection you can make with your customers, and pay off bigger—but only in the long view.
The first two are about you, and the third is about your customer. While the first two are important, I consider them to be baseline activities. Every business needs branding and awareness. Table stakes. But the third one is where the magic happens, because it’s about a relationship between you and your customer. It’s not just you talking about yourself and what you can do—it’s about actually doing. Once you’ve helped someone without expecting something in return, you’ve laid the first brick in a foundation of trust. Branding and awareness are nothing without trust.
Sure, I can help you with all three—I am a strategist, I am an advisor, I am a writer. But while there are lots of people who can help you with simple brand development and awareness campaigns, I can really shine when it comes to helping you build the trust of your audience with an inbound strategy.
Just like I said before, it’s not for everyone. Some businesses don’t need an inbound strategy. Sometimes it’s all about hand-to-hand selling, or having a product/service that’s so good that every customer creates new ones for you. But neither of those strategies are going to deliver rapid growth. There’s only one path—delight your customers with a great product/service and then empower them to tell your story, excitedly and willingly. A content strategy builds and leverages all of your content towards that goal.
How can I help?
I write a ton of articles pitched at helping entrepreneurs, all published here on my site: http://bit.ly/articles-for-entrepreneurs.
If you are new to the concept of content strategy, start here: Content Strategy for Entrepreneurs: http://bit.ly/MB-CSE.
Whom can I help?
It’s been a worthwhile exercise casting a critical eye on the first nine months of my business (in the 4-part video series, Testing My Assumptions: Pulling Back the Curtain on My Business). It’s really helped me understand the profile of my ideal client—the person who’s likely to get the most out of working with me.
To hire me for specific help with your content strategy, please see: http://mboezi.com/entrepreneurs. The first “orienting” session is always free.
Contact me directly here: http://mboezi.com/contact.
I offer a wide variety of services, from coaching and strategizing to writing and editing. My goal is to train you so that you can do all this on your own and not be dependent on me. Most of all, I want to make you successful. It’s all available to you in today’s world—you just need a strategy.
Copyright 2014 Control Mouse Media, LLC http://www.controlmousemedia.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use is a violation of applicable copyright laws. All views or opinions expressed in this video and its description are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the author’s employers, past or present.
Music credit: Cataclysmic Converter http://bit.ly/cataclysmic-converter.