Sunday, November 19, 2017
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product development

It is very typical. Whenever you start a new business, one hundred percent of your time is spent on making your product better. Awesome Idea + Awesome Product = Awesome (and by “awesome” I mean “money making”) Startup, right?

Well, not really.

The typical thinking here is this. You will create this amazing product or service and the customers will immediately rush in to buy it. And, being a perfectionist of course, if you don’t see the sales, you tend to blame―what else―the product. The product has to be improved, improved, and improved again until that mysterious BIG DAY comes, when an influx of customers, users, funds and venture capitalists will make your company a superstar! And yet the days go by and then the years, and the situation seems to be staying the same. What could possibly be the problem? One possible problem has to do with the fact that no matter how much time you spend on improving your product, the mysterious BIG DAY may never come until you start using what we call

The “One-One-One” Technique.

 

The “One-One-One” Technique has to do with planning your project so that for every one unit of time spent on:
1) the development of your product, you spend one unit of time on
2) marketing and at least one unit of time on
3) sales.

So what in the world is so special about this idea?

Marketing can never be an afterthought. For many successful startups, it has to do with spending an obscene amount of time developing those “silly” things such as detailed product descriptions, instructional videos, that Q&A section to help users get around your product, a service, or a website. And how about infographics to make your process appear as simple as possible?  The reality is that often marketing takes just as much time, if not more, than creating the initial product, and those of us who have launched at least a couple of successful products in the past know its importance.

Sales, a third element of your startup, is just as important. Sales has to do with placing an actual human being in front of your product.  Here we are talking about live seminars, webinars, and what is commonly known as a “human being” to present your product to. How about that toll-free number that leads a potential customer or an investor to a live person? Or a live pitch person who will present your product in front of that important executive in your industry? Whether you are pitching your idea to new users, or to a venture capital firm, sales has to do with getting a pretty good handle on your sales pitch using the marketing materials you have created and the willingness reach out and to respond to your potential customers or investors at a moment’s notice.

Now the obvious question is this. How can you possibly focus on your marketing when you are still stuck in the product development stage? And how can you possibly start working on sales when you still haven’t finalized your marketing materials?

The answer is, as always, somewhat counterintuitive, and if you are familiar with launching a new product, you may already know the answer. Specifically, the best time to start developing your marketing materials (your education videos, your “how-to” help sections, your Q&As and your animation) is precisely during the time of developing your product. This will not only help you showcase all of your product’s most important features, but will save you a ton of time in the future.

Similarly, and as always, counterintuitively, the best time to start “selling” your product is before your product (your website, your store, etc.) is complete and the proverbial opening ribbon is yet to be cut. The feedback you will get from users (or customers) of your “beta” product will likely become the invaluable input you need to make your product better prior to its official launch date.

 

Authentically yours,

 

Max Azarov
“Authentic Startup,” Author

 

Copyright @2015 | YoloStartup.com

Authentic Startup: The Concept

Or, Don’t Overthink, Stick To The Model That Works

“Authentic Startup” is a way of creating profitable startups from scratch using personal and business experience you already have, or can easily obtain. It took several years for “Authentic Startup” to be transformed into a system in its present form.  It started as a “cheat sheet” I intended to use to “cheat” on any future exams at my “Experience University.”

In my own example, I was able to launch/co-launch several startups, including graphic design startup, a healthcare startup, a pharmacy (recently acquired by a chain), and even an EMR medical records startup by progressively building on each one of my business and life experiences.

“Authentic Startup” is founded on a concept that all of our experiences have a real cash value and it is up to us to “unlock” it using proper “packaging,” pricing and marketing tools while taking advantage of S.P.I.N. model at its core.

 

Authentic Startup: The Book

Eventually, “Authentic Startup” turned into a book with 40+ illustrations, graphs and inspirational content that takes a mystery out of launching a startup by setting up theoretical and practical frameworks to make your startup (or existing business) successful by keeping you away from overthinking and re-inventing the wheel by focusing on:

  1. How To Become a True Leader Of Your Own Startup and Stop Waiting on Others To Believe In Your Project

  2. How to Be Excited About Your Product

  3. How to Determine When is the Best Time to Seek Financing While Avoiding Traps

  4. How to Define an Authentic Product

  5. How to Package Your Product and Properly Price It.

  6. How to Properly Build a Website and Landing Pages with Conversion in Mind

  7. How to Achieve Explosive Sales Using Online Marketing and “The Nuclear Marketing” Concept

 

addtocart-amazon2

 Contents:

Listed below are the actual chapters of “Authentic SPIN: How To Turn Your Unique Experiences Into a Profitable Startup”:
  1. Authenticity as a Starting Point of Your Startup

  2. The Three Words That Will Make All The Difference

  3. The “Experience Game” Strategy

  4. The Omega Mission Principle & The Two Types of Startups

  5. The Startup Capital Trap 101

  6. “SPIN” Packaging Your Experience Into a Sellable Product or Service

  7. How To Create an Authentic Product or Service The Smart Way: Marginal Authenticity Principle

  8. How to “Tweak” Your Product and Improve Conversion Using 7SP Authenticity Test

  9. SPIN Packages and Pricing

  10. Internet Sales 101: 8 Elements Of a SPIN Website

  11. Internet Marketing: Search Engine Timbuktu Dilemma

  12. Unlimited Customer Leads: Adding SPIN Copywriting and Social Media Components To Your Sales Funnel

  13. Even More Customer Leads: Google Bus Scenario

  14. The Nuclear Sales Funnel

  15. The Spin Gravity Theory

 

addtocart-amazon2

Download it now! I look forward to your reviews and feedback.

When I came to America with just a few hundred dollars in my pocket, I didn’t yet understand the full potential of what it means to build an American dream from scratch. I didn’t know that an average Joe like myself had the capacity to make thousands, and later, tens of thousands of dollars in a single day as a part of my journey of consistently learning from, and building on both positive and negative experiences.

So, How Much Money Do You Need To Start a Startup?

Is it $5,000? $10,000? 100,000? 100 million?

What if I told that the amount of money you need to start your own business equals to, precisely, whatever you have in your bank account + however creative you can be to get the rest of what you need to get your startup going  ($0 in additional costs) + whatever experience you can bring to your business ($0 in additional costs), plus the cost of knowledge you will gain in the process.

I will explain.

A startup with $100MM does not have to be nearly as creative as a startup with only $1,000 to play with.
Similarly, a person with $1,000 in startup money will have to bring a lot more experience to, and be willing to learn a lot more from running a brand new startup:

before

 

10 Startup Courses (and Lessons I have Learned) at My True Alma Mater, “The Experience University”

Of course, the “knowledge” part can be a tricky one. During just the first few years of my startups I racked up a pretty hefty tuition fee payable to my true Alma Mater I call “The Experience University” (disclaimer: “Experience University” is not an actual university :)) The following is a short list of some of my pretty expensive “courses” I took at the “E.U.” while paying to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue and unnecessary business expenses (while the lessons below are real, course numbers, of course, are not :)).

1. Being Authentic 101 
A real life lesson where I found out that selling unique, authentic product(s) is the best way to maintain control of my pricing and profit margins. Startup that is founded on a unique/authentic product is, generally speaking, much more likely to succeed. Selling a high priced, unique product is much more rewarding and keeps your anxiety level within the normal range :). In addition, whenever you sell a product that is neither unique nor authentic you run a risk of competing with others over increasingly slimmer profit margins, thus automatically running a risk of losing your business.

2. Don’t Start a Business Just Because Someone Thinks You Should Start A Business 101
You can easily get yourself in a total disaster of a situation by jumping into, let’s say, a social networking project, or a brand new coffee shop business, expecting it to work just because it worked for someone else. Or perhaps because your friend told you that coffee shops in general make a lot of money.

3. Your Product Does Not Have To Be “Disruptive” to be Unique 101
Most of the billion dollar ideas (i.e. Facebook, Amazon.com, Google.com, Chobani Yogurt) are not all that “new” and not all that “unique.” All of them are slightly modified versions of products/services which already existed in the market at the time they were introduced. And yes, it took me a lot of valuable time to determine how much modification is needed for my product to be in demand.

4. Not Waiting On Others 105
Another real life course where I learned not to spend so much valuable time waiting on others instead of taking a lead and proactively doing a lot of the things (sales, etc) on my own.

5. Just Because You Have A Business It Does Not Mean It Will Make Money 201
Strange, but true. Going to work early and staying up late while working on your business does not equate to making money. What I have learned was the fact that one type of businesses is more likely to succeed and make more money than others and, ironically enough, the businesses that are likely to make more (a lot more) money, typically, require less (a lot less) work.

6. Being Your Own Boss Does Not Always Make You Free 205
Pick a business that does not tie you up to one geographical location. If you do not follow this advice, say good-bye to your travel plans and vacations. When planning a business, choose one that can be eventually managed via your phone and a laptop. I call it “The Agency Model.”

7. Many Already Have A Best Selling Product Or Service To Sell. They Just Don’t Know It Yet 305
Most of your business and life experiences can be packaged and sold by turning it into a new innovative service (consulting, graphic design, brokerage, a book, etc) or an innovative product (actual physical or software product). The problem for so many is not the lack of experience, it is the inability to turn experience into sellable packages and eventually into actual dollars. (Read my book, Authentic Spin, to find out more).

8. You Don’t Always Have To Spend Money To Make Money 401
Marketing can be very costly. Or it can be very cheap. It all depends on whether you are willing to spend some time learning how to do it. If you do it properly, you can get unlimited leads at very little cost. Yes, I am talking about online marketing.

9. Nuclear Sales Funnel 405
Don’t spend another dollar on advertisement until you can be sure that the sale of your product to just 1 customer will bring 2 more to your doorsteps.

10. Life Goes By Fast: The “Now” Method 410
From the time we are born util the time we die, only one moment matters. This moment is called “now.” Yesterday cannot be changed and tomorrow is not guaranteed. So if you want to start something. Start now.

 

Authentic Startup: The Concept

Or, Don’t Overthink, Stick To The Model That Works

“Authentic Startup” is a way of creating profitable startups from scratch using personal and business experience you already have, or can easily obtain. It took several years for “Authentic Startup” to be transformed into a system in its present form.  It started as a “cheat sheet” I intended to use to “cheat” on any future exams at my “Experience University.”

In my own example, I was able to launch/co-launch several startups, including graphic design startup, a healthcare startup, a pharmacy (recently acquired by a chain), and even an EMR medical records startup by progressively building on each one of my business and life experiences.

“Authentic Startup” is founded on a concept that all of our experiences have a real cash value and it is up to us to “unlock” it using proper “packaging,” pricing and marketing tools while taking advantage of S.P.I.N. model at its core.

 

Authentic Startup: The Book

Eventually, “Authentic Startup” turned into a book with 40+ illustrations, graphs and inspirational content that takes a mystery out of launching a startup by setting up theoretical and practical frameworks to make your startup (or existing business) successful by keeping you away from overthinking and re-inventing the wheel by focusing on:

  1. How To Become a True Leader Of Your Own Startup and Stop Waiting on Others To Believe In Your Project

  2. How to Be Excited About Your Product

  3. How to Determine When is the Best Time to Seek Financing While Avoiding Traps

  4. How to Define an Authentic Product

  5. How to Package Your Product and Properly Price It.

  6. How to Properly Build a Website and Landing Pages with Conversion in Mind

  7. How to Achieve Explosive Sales Using Online Marketing and “The Nuclear Marketing” Concept

 

addtocart-amazon2

 Contents:

Listed below are the actual chapters of “Authentic Startup: How To Turn Your Unique Experiences Into a Profitable Startup”:
  1. Authenticity as a Starting Point of Your Startup

  2. The Three Words That Will Make All The Difference

  3. The “Experience Game” Strategy

  4. The Omega Mission Principle & The Two Types of Startups

  5. The Startup Capital Trap 101

  6. “SPIN” Packaging Your Experience Into a Sellable Product or Service

  7. How To Create an Authentic Product or Service The Smart Way: Marginal Authenticity Principle

  8. How to “Tweak” Your Product and Improve Conversion Using 7SP Authenticity Test

  9. SPIN Packages and Pricing

  10. Internet Sales 101: 8 Elements Of a SPIN Website

  11. Internet Marketing: Search Engine Timbuktu Dilemma

  12. Unlimited Customer Leads: Adding SPIN Copywriting and Social Media Components To Your Sales Funnel

  13. Even More Customer Leads: Google Bus Scenario

  14. The Nuclear Sales Funnel

  15. The Spin Gravity Theory

 

addtocart-amazon2

Download it now! I look forward to your reviews and feedback.

There was a point when I became an addict.

A “hashtag-contentmarketing” addict.

A “hashtag-contentmarketing” addict who became convinced that in this day and age building a business without content marketing is all but a mute point.

I became an addict who I tried to read all about content marketing on Twitter. I paid my “hashtag-contentmarketing” and “hashtag-marketing” dues by scrolling up and down through various blogs with “marketing” tags while occupying that coveted table next to the only outlet at my Barnes & Noble bookstore.

I did all of this to accomplish one thing. To be a better “hashtag-contentmarketing” person. And to do this I needed a “hashtag-perfect-content-formula” that works.

 

The “Perfect Content” Formula. The 4 Elements.

By the time I was done, I have ended up with content creation formula that consisted of 4 elements:

combined

 

handThe Links:

(For convenience sake the links are here):

Fact browsing:
www.factbrowser.com

Images:
www.shutterstock.com,
www.dollarphotoclub.com
www.clker.com

Infographics:
www.infogr.am or www.easel.ly

 

The Dilemma

Now, after figuring out the “perfect content,” 4-element formula I had a dilemma. It appeared to me that a pretty heavy percentage of blogs I have encountered already, more or less, followed a similar formula and yet, their content seemed dull, not very useful and, quite frankly, not particularly interesting.

The reality was, I came to conclude, there is a definite threshold  to how many articles titled “7 Reasons You Should Add Images To Your Blog,” and “5 Reasons You Should Use Captivating Headlines” one can scroll through until thoughts such as “What am I doing here?” begin to creep in and a Starbucks girl washing floors under the table next to your politely tells you that it is already after 10 p.m and it’s time for you to leave the premises.

For the sake of my time and my own sanity, I concluded, when it came to most of such blogs, reading the headlines was sufficient.

And yet, the dilemma remained. How do I adjust the “perfect content” formula so that the content I write does not appear dull, not very useful and, quite frankly, not particularly interesting to anyone, myself included?

 

The Fifth Element

Over time, the revelation I eventually came to, was that just like any good formula, my “perfect content” formula was lacking a key variable.

I call this variable, the “authenticity variable.”

Since I have already spent a great amount of time defining “authenticity” in my book, I will say only that one of the definitions of authenticity has to do with being able to trace an item (tangible or intangible) to its original source (the author).

When it comes to writing or blogging, staying authentic means that your content should be unique enough for your repeat reader to be able to determine you as an author prior to scrolling down to see your name, whether by developing a distinct point of view on a niche subject, attaching your blog (or a video blog) to your life story,  a unique manner of writing, or a unique visual representation of your blog, etc.

No matter what you are trying to promote or share,  and no matter how many images and how much infographic content you use, content marketing should revolve around what I now call “The Fifth Element:” incorporating your unique and authentic take on a particular subject in each post, independent of how popular or unpopular it is.

And no, I am not talking about you being the center of the universe, I am merely talking about your viewpoint, your own (not someone else’s) trials and errors and your own experiences being the center of your blog. Thus, a blogger who never ran a business should never write about “7 Steps To Run a Business,” just like a blogger who never had to hire employees should never write about “7 Steps To Hire A Great Team.” This is unauthentic, laughable, always obvious, and always detrimental to blog’s credibility.

Yes, you can follow the 4-element formula to enhance your content with facts, infographic and images, however, the idea that you should blindly use factbrowser.com to search for something interesting to write about (just because you yourself have nothing to write about), or the idea that you should be using infographic  just for the sake of infographic to be successful at content marketing is, essentially, a virtual equivalent of trying to use vague titles, complex plots and never-ending sentences to replicate, let’s say, the success of Dostoyevsky’s novels.

handThe Takeaway.

Do tell your story. Do reveal who you are. Do share your mistakes and what you have learned from them.

Do use images. Do use captivating headlines. Do use facts.

Do NOT create content that does not have your own take on a subject.

Do NOT attempt to replicate other blogs as by the time you start thinking about copying someone else’s content, it has already been copied many times over.

If you have something to say – say it. If you don’t have anything to say – don’t. If you like what you see on someone else’s blog – retweet, like, and move on, don’t clutter the internet by trying to create more and  more copies of what is already out there.

And finally, stay true to yourself and your don’t get sidetracked by what others are up to.

 

What Was Your Experience With Posts that are Authentic (offer a unique point of view of an author) vs. Non-Authentic (re-written version of someone else’s blog)? Please let me know by commenting below.

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov, “Authentic Spin,” Author

The Old Sales Funnel: “Tell Me What I Need and I Will Buy It From You”

First time I’ve heard a term “sales funnel” was back in my days when I got a job as a financial advisor for a major corporation.

After passing my “Series 7” exam and becoming a licensed broker for NYSE, I had to become intimately familiar with our corporate sales funnel for selling our main product, individualized financial plans. For those of us working in the front lines of this financial sales machine, a simplified version of our sales funnel looked something like this:

  1. Endlessly “cold call” outdated sales leads for hours at a time.
  2. Upon successful contact, invite a lead to visit the office for a “cup of coffee.”
  3. Then, there came a “sales pitch,” culminated with a sale of a firm’s “financial plan” as a form of initial engagement.
  4. If the lead liked the financial plan we put together, he or she would, often, decide to transfer a large bulk of his/her funds to be placed under our firm’s management.
  5. If the client was not willing to transfer his or her money to us, the sale was considered unsuccessful, but as a minimum, we got paid for a financial plan we put together.

Whether it was my work as a financial advisor or most of my other sales jobs, essentially, it all came down to this: you start with a sales pitch, you “close,” you charge a fee, and you hope that the client keeps buying more and more products from you:

Old Model

 

Death of a “Sales Pitch”

With time, however, a very interesting trend began to occur: more and more consumers stopped caring about a “sales pitch.” They stopped answering telemarketing phone calls and stopped paying attention to TV ads.

Today, for the most part, if a consumer has a need for something, he/she can get it by searching the internet.

Need a traffic attorney in Chicago? How about a hundred of them? Just keep hitting the “Next” button of your search engine.

Need a wedding planner? Here is another hundred showing up right on the first few pages of Google.

Need a financial planner? Not a problem. Google will give you a long list you wouldn’t know what to do with.

Counting on the old sales funnel in order to survive, over time, became a loser’s game. Something had to be done.

 

The New Sales Funnel: “I Know What I Need, Use Your Blog to Tell Me Why I Should Choose You.

Today, when it comes to sales, my approach is this: customers already have a pretty good general idea of what they are looking for, and it is now my job to showcase my product and build enough of a relationship with them to help them choose my product over my competition. And there is simply no better way to do it than using a blog as a part of your overall online strategy.

Today’s sales funnel looks much different from what it was years ago. Somehow, over time, that annoying outbound telemarketing phone call gradually transformed into something completely unexpected: a click (or a touch, if you are using your phone). And that cup of coffee when you get to learn about the company and start developing a relationship with your client turned into something even more unexpected: a website with a blog.  

New Model-1

 

A Click (Formerly Known as a “Cold Lead”)

Today, it doesn’t matter where your click comes from. It can come from your online ad, your twitter account, or your Facebook page. What matters is your ability to get the click.

A Blog (Formerly Known as a “Free Cup Of Coffee”)

Unlike the “good old days” of selling, now you get to have an endless metaphorical cup of coffee with your potential audience in the form of a blog. Blog for a business is, first and foremost, a real-time relationship builder. Secondly, it is a showcase of your work. Thirdly, it is a lead generator. 

blogdefinition

 

Here I am talking about a blog that does not revolve around “Buy my product now!” message, but rather contains valuable information that allows you to build trust between you and your future customer. The goal of your blog is to not “pitch,” but rather let others know that you are an “ok” guy or a girl to work with. Your second goal is to give your visitors an opportunity to learn and interact with you in order to build even more trust.


Let’s look at it this way. Once your blog is established, the visitors of your blog will typically be divided into 3 categories:

1. The Non-Buyers :/  (typically around 90%) who will never buy anything from you no matter what you say or offer. Some of those visitors are still getting to know you, some are there by mistake, some don’t have the money and others are there for all the wrong reasons altogether.

2. Occasional Buyers 🙂  (or skeptics like myself) who enjoy reading and learning, but are willing to pay for a product as long as they see value in it. Those will be the majority of your buying visitors.

3. Fan-Buyers 🙂 🙂 who will buy anything you have for sale on your website, no matter what it is. They sign up for your seminars, buy your books and try your products.

While you will not be able to tell which one of the 3 categories a particular visitor of your website belongs to until they decide to spend money on your website, it is important to continue using your blog as a relationship builder with 100% of your visitors, buyers, fans and non-buyers alike.

Technology will change. Sales funnels will evolve. And yet your need to build a true human relationship in order to connect with others and grow your fan base will remain.

 

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov, Authentic Spin, Author

 

What Was Your Experience?

What was your experience of adding a blog feature to your business website? Did it help your customer interaction, or did it make it worse? Please feel free to comment below.

Launching Your Product As Soon As Humanly Possible

You see, if you are an entrepreneur, chances are by nature you are a creative person. And it’s awesome. However, this also means that you, as a creative person, are likely to have a very serious disease.

It is called Perfection. And when your startup is still in its beginning stages, it may be deadly.

Let me explain. Kind of like an artist who steps away from his or her canvas over and over to make sure the painting is perfect, we tend to spend a lot of time trying to quote/unquote “perfect our product.”  The problem is, when we are trying to make our product quote/ unquote perfect, we make it so in our own mind only. That is, without realizing that our potential consumer may have a completely different definition of “perfect,” when it comes to our product.

What often happens is while one startup (Alpha), will spend years perfecting their product, we will call it Product A, another startup (Beta)company will launch a series of competitive products A1, product B1, and product C1, put it out in front of actual customers (or users) and let them vote for their favorite one with their actual wallets, subscriptions, product trials and so forth.

Suppose that Beta’s product launch determined that Product A1 has a conversion rate of 0%, meaning that no one out of 100 viewers of their ad had any interest in buying it, Product B has a conversion rate of 4% and Product C, which they  never thought of as a perfect product, has a conversion rate of 8%, meaning that twice as many people considered their least likely product, Product C, to be “perfect.”

In short, put your product out in front of at least 100 actual people as soon as it’s humanly possible. It is not your feelings, not your emotions, but solid data on how many sales, subscriptions or signups you were able to generate per 100 potential consumers of your product―i.e. people who will be the true users of your product―who will determine the direction of your product development.

And, as any successful startup entrepreneur will tell you, if Product A, B, C and D fail to generate enough conversions, no need for drama. And when the alphabet runs out, simply start over.

Remember―it is your dream and YOU are the only one that can make it happen.

Max Azarov

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