Sunday, November 19, 2017
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starting a startup

I have recently read an article about “the right way” to start a startup. It had a list that included having a great team, sufficient financing and a plan for “monetization.” I am pretty sure it was a true eye-opener for those who were ready to launch their startup by hiring an unruly team, no financing, and no plans to make any money (sarcasm).

Yes, you can find an amazing team of developers and you can also be a step ahead of your competition by thinking “monetization” first and, in fact, you can read every major book about a startup and funding and yet, NONE of it will ever matter until you have the key component of your startup: quality audience.

But before we discuss the significance of having a quality audience for your startup and offer a few clues to your audience’s whereabouts, let’s talk about a very sensitive startup clock that makes having the quality audience a priority #1 prior to having your startup go “live.” I am talking about the ROI Clock.

 

The ROI Clock.

What many of new entrepreneurs don’t realize is that the proverbial ROI clock starts ticking as soon as the very first dollar is invested into developing a logo, making your very first set of business cards, your website and that state of the art software to run your business. At this stage, many new businesses don’t make any money and yet the business expenses begin to pile up, one charge after another.

 

Googlenomics of Today: Bidding Your Small Business CPC Against Multi-billion Corporations

It is true that Google Adwords can quickly resolve your audience problems. And yet, it is also true that in today’s Googlenomics, based on its system of more and more competitive bidding you may end up “competitively bidding” against multi-billion corporations that have no concern of whether to spend a $1 or $100 per click, as long as it puts them on that coveted front page of Google.

As your costs per click begin to add up, you may begin to wonder if the startup game was worth it (as was the case with some of the app developers I met some time ago) and if there was anything else you could have done prior to having your startup go “live.”

 

A Social Marketing Structure Designed to Save On Costs Per Click.

As I have learned from my own experience, there are at least 3 things one should do (especially prior to having a business go “live”) to save his/her company or a startup tens of thousands of dollars by building a true and engaged audience at minimal cost prior to, or while building a new business. All have to do with maximizing social media as a part of overall marketing strategy.

Start Building and “Working” a Twitter Following In Your Niche (Higher quality, free contacts)
It is  just now, after years of complete denial, I only wish I could tell you that I have started Twitter years ago and now I have tens of thousands of followers. I haven’t. I did start setting up Twitter accounts for all, myself and my clients just a few months ago and at this point, all of the accounts combined can start bragging about finally getting thousands of highly engaged followers who are noticeably contributing to our overall website registration rates and email signups at NO (or very minimal) additional cost.

Start Niche Blogging
After spending a good amount of my “younger” years in a highly regulated pharmaceutical world I was, at least initially, against blogging as a form of marketing altogether. In fact, the idea of blogging as a part of a marketing strategy for a very long time appeared to me, to put it politely, not very serious. As recently as several years ago, the idea of blogging away at a local Starbucks always appeared to be an activity more suited for someone who doesn’t really have a “real” job, or “real” marketing strategy.  If I could drive thousands of visitors to my and my clients’ websites using a proven formula of Fine-tuned SEO combined with an ironed-out adwords campaign, why bother changing things, right? Wrong. Because ironed-out Twitter+Blogging campaign has a potential to drive even more visitors at NO (or very minimal) additional cost.

Start and “Work” your YouTube Channel
Ok, unless you have an extremely engaging content, or you already have a pretty big following, trying to build your YouTube Channel from scratch my appear like a daunting task, and yet, there are 2 things to consider.

  • Properly structured video content will lead users to your website and, eventually, to your product at absolutely NO cost.
  • Even, if your content is not engaging enough to  become viral, the cost-effectiveness of YouTube AdWords ads when it comes to driving traffic to your website in my experience significantly exceeds that of using plain, non-YouTube text ads.

 

Old Model vs. New Model.

Overall, to me this blog is personal. The formula for  building an engaged audience for my businesses and businesses that work with us has been irreversibly changed. While just several years ago, most of our efforts were focused on SEO and Google AdWords with minimal efforts put into blogging and Social Media, today our strategy had a 180 degree turnaround:

OldModelvsNewModel

 

What Was Your Experience?

Are you on Twitter? LinkedIn? Instagram? How did it help (or not help) your business and your marketing/sales strategy?

Look forward to hearing about your experience.

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov, “Authentic Spin”  Author

 

 

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

 

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 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

 

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

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.