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How to Test Your Business Idea Without Spending a Dime

How to Test Your Business Idea Without Spending a Dime

So, you have an amazing idea for a new small business? You are sure that your idea is going to be the “next big thing” but not that sure you should start investing money (…and time) in it?

Well, why don’t you test your idea first? That way you will be sure that your product has an actual market and that it is worth investing in. Yes, you can test almost any idea you have for FREE.

On the other hand, you can always choose to “play safe” and start a blog in a popular niche, open an e-shop with already selling  items…but is that really going to make YOU successful? Is YOUR business really going to survive among all the competition? Not quite sure about that.

Let’s get back to developing, testing and improving new business ideas. After all, you are reading Lifehack!  Just follow the steps bellow:

…before you start:

In order to become a successful entrepreneur, you must first think like one. Yes, you may have heard the phrase “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it” a dozen times, and it certainly has a point. Before testing a business idea successfully, you really must act (and believe) as if it has already been established.

    Step 1: Create a Landing Page:

    Now that you have (an imaginary) business, it is time to get it in front of your (real) audience. And when it comes to customer acquisition, nothing beats the Internet! First things first, create a landing page for free.

    With so many free options out there, you certainly don’t need to spend money on creating a landing page. Try out ucraft’s Free Landing Page Creator and play a bit with different font styles, colors, taglines and images. This page builder has all the features you may need and doesn’t require coding skills at all (what a relief, right?!). You just need to drag & drop, mix & match.

      There is no need to spend too much time building a landing page, the point is to make a few different ones and see how your target audience will react. Afterwards, you’ll be able to combine elements till you find the perfect solution.

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      As mentioned, there are quite a few things you should test on a landing page: start with a template, focus on a catchy text and finish by creating several CTA buttons. When you find a combination with a decent amount of conversions (or at least clicks), you can focus on details such as the tagline, font styles and colors, effects, image sliders etc. Don’t underestimate these so-called “details” – you won’t believe how big of a difference they can make!

            Here are some examples and results of landing page A/B testing, so you can get the idea of how important it is to try out different combinations of:

            …icons

              …CTA buttons

                …anchoring words

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                  …recommending

                    …smaller commitments

                      As you can see, you should really test EVERYTHING, depending on the look of your landing page.

                      Oh right, how to actually test all those landing pages? Don’t worry, it is also very easy and FREE.

                      Sign up with Optimizely for a free trial and start improving elements to get more conversions! You’ll just need to add one line of code to your site and you’re ready to work on your creativity. Don’t forget to keep monitoring what others have to say about it (…I mean, if they actually click the CTA button.)

                        Now that you’ve built a landing page good enough for your brilliant idea, keep testing to see if it’s that brilliant.

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                        Step 2: Get Some Traffic!

                        Well, people won’t find your business by themselves! Yes, a landing page is the first step to take, but now is the time to work on getting traffic to it.

                        Here are 10 basic ways to do it for FREE:

                        • Create a Facebook Page:

                        Facebook has become such a mighty acquisition channel that it is almost impossible for a business not to have an official Facebook page. Ensure yours has high-quality images and graphics (use Canva or Designbold for this purpose), all needed contact information and don’t forget to post regularly. Make sure not all of your posts have a “sales tone”, you should try to manage your page in a way that would be appealing to your potential customers, so add a “how-to” or an “interesting fact” post from time to time.

                        • Create an Instagram Account:

                        An official Instagram page is also a must, regardless of your niche. Include necessary info in the Bio section, but also don’t forget to add a brief description and relevant hashtags under your images. The advantage that Instagram has over Facebook is that you can manually find people who are following accounts similar to yours and try to make them follow you back. That way, you can build your (relevant) audience without spending a dime.

                        • Create a Twitter account:

                        When it comes to promoting your business on social media, Twitter should also be your go-to place (there are more, but depending on the niche, you’ll chose the right ones). You can also manually follow other people, but you really need to actively tweet in order to keep your followers’ attention. Ah, yes, don’t forget to mention your landing page in the Bio section, that’s the point, right?

                        • Be Active on Quora:

                        Now you are probably thinking: one more social media channel? Well, using Quora for business is quite different. Yes, you should create a profile (but not an official one, just pick a name) and try to answer as many niche-related questions as possible. The idea is to show how your business/landing page is the right answer and of course, to link back to it.

                        • Be Active on Reddit:

                        The Quora tactic applies to Reddit as well. The thing is that the community over there is really picky, so if your profile isn’t strong enough or if you are an obvious spammer, you will get banned in no time. Both on Quora and Reddit, you can read comments from real people that can help you improve your (landing page) business.

                        • Create a SlideShare Account:

                        Prepare well-designed presentations about your business and upload them to SlideShare in order to reach broader audiences. Having doubts? Well, did you know that it is powered by LinkedIn?

                        • Brag on Medium:

                        A little PR never hurt nobody, right? Join Medium and spread your business values and vision. Since this is a community that attracts mostly journalists and bloggers, make sure you “wrap it up’’ in a catchy article.

                        • Join and Create Groups:

                        From Facebook to LinkedIn and Google+,  groups have a strong impact on members’ opinion. Join groups relevant to your niche, comment, share opinion and let them know about your business. But, you should really, really avoid spammy posts since there is no point in getting banned. Moreover, create your own group and attract members who would be interested in your business. You can show off, but you should also engage in conversation and ask for opinion and advice.

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                        • Create an Infographic:

                        Creating an infographic about your business is one of the ways you can gain good backlinks to your landing page. However, you shouldn’t be creating them just for SEO purposes. For instance, imagine if it got shared by a big niche influencer? That’d be cool. Just be creative and do your outreach homework thoroughly! Don’t forget to add “created by (insert your company name)”! You can use Vengage or similar tools to create infographics for free.

                        • Join H.A.R.O.

                        H.A.R.O. is a place where you can meet people from your niche, exchange advice, but also get featured on their blogs. So, create a profile, write about your business and gather useful information on both improving and promoting it.

                        Now that you’ve completed all the basic promotion steps, it is time to take it to the next, more advanced level:

                        • SaaSGenius – If you have a SaaS business, this is the directory to submit it to. SaasGenius can bring you high-quality customers, so do your best to build a powerful profile.
                        • GetApp  – This is the ideal place to promote your business app, so don’t skip it!
                        • Hackernews – You need to promote your tech business on this website. Make sure your headlines are catchy since new posts are published almost every minute!
                        • Growthhackers.com – This is a community you’ll want to join if you are into marketing. Show how professional you are!
                        • Inbound.org – The same goes for this community, just make sure you present yourself in the best light.
                        • Digg – This is a great place to present your company blog. Start promoting your landing page in the best possible way.
                        • Dailymotion – Creating promotional videos about your business is always a good idea. Harness the power of Dailymotion and present your videos to a large community.
                        • Hub Pages  – This platform can bring you a lot of amazing leads, but you really need to put some effort into creating original content. Even though promoting your business here is time-consuming, you should take advantage of Hub Pages.

                        Step 3: Face the Truth!

                        Well, now that you’ve done everything to gain attention, you should sit back and see what happens: tons of leads…or zero of them. Of course, it can be something in between and that means that you should keep trying, improving and testing.

                        If zero leads isn’t the case with your landing page, now is the best time to start thinking about investing money in your business and promoting it through paid campaigns. You’ll have to test them as well (…but let’s leave this for another article).

                          Whatever the case may be, remember that massive success doesn’t come overnight and that it goes hand in hand with effort, patience and guess what else? Yes, that’s right, testing.

                          Believe in yourself and good luck!

                          Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

                          More by this author

                          Ana Grasic

                          Growth Hacker, Economist, Marketer

                          10 Lessons from a Frustrated Blogger 10 Hacks and Tools to Boost Your Productivity (Infographic) How to Test Your Business Idea Without Spending a Dime

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                          Last Updated on May 28, 2020

                          How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

                          How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

                          Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

                          To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

                          1. Digital Savviness

                          As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

                          Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

                          Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

                          For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

                          From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

                          Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

                          2. Financial Forecasting

                          Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

                          Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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                          However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

                          Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

                          3. Video Production Skills

                          The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

                          If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

                          In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

                          • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
                          • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
                          • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

                          4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

                          As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

                          Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

                          Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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                          5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

                          Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

                          Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

                          For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

                          Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

                          6. Honing Pitches to Investors

                          Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

                          The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

                          You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

                          Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

                          7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

                          In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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                          Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

                          8. Automating to Your Advantage

                          The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

                          Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

                          9. Managing Millennials

                          Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

                          In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

                          Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

                          A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

                          Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

                          Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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                          Offer Constructive Feedback

                          Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

                          Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

                          10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

                          Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

                          By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

                          Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

                          How to Develop This Skill

                          Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

                          As the African proverb goes:

                          “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

                          Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

                          More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

                          Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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