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3 Dumbass Start-up Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

3 Dumbass Start-up Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

In my freshman year of college (2007), my friends and I wanted to start a magazine publishing company aptly named DTO (Defying The Odds) Publishing. We had a great idea for a local periodical that would give out fitness advice and integrate coupons and ad space from local businesses. This was all pre-iPad, so don’t judge me. We were hyped and to this day, I think it would have worked with the correct follow through. We had nothing but free time and the university had even offered to let us use their printing press, there was really nothing standing in our way.. I think one of the media directors had a “thing” for me. It was a slam dunk.

We never even published our first article.

When I think about the epic fall-apart, I cringe and I get the prickles on the back of my neck. The kind of prickles mixed with face-palm and a little bit of shame. We even had a logo designed. It’s somewhere in the deep netherworld of my hard drive sobbing uncontrollably and I can’t bear to look at it.

So what happened to DTO? It crashed and burned brilliantly, of course.

Were we just a bunch of lazy jackasses lacking ambition and business smarts? No, we weren’t. But we did make some major start-up mistakes that we couldn’t take back.

Here are the big mistakes you’re up against and the solutions to turn them around fast.

think about in the shower

    Start-Up Mistake # 1: You never learn “idea incubation”

    Being the naive 19 year olds that we were, we thought one way to start our business would be to take a trip to the local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) to get some solid advice on what steps to implement next.

    What a mistake!

    The SBDC office in Tampa is pretty convincing. It’s located in a big glass building overlooking the water on the top floor — quite authoritative. It’s filled with little offices that say “Joe Schmoe, Super-smart MBA” on the glass door. So we set up our appointment with one of the consultants to talk about our magazine and he proceeded to pull out books, charts and graphs on the publishing industry that demonstrated precisely what we feared the most: we were going to fail.

    Every graph had a downward trend, every expense report was in the red. He all but said “There’s nothing you can do to make this work.” Right then and there, based on someone else’s opinion of my business model, I mentally began packing up shop.

    Looking back on the situation, I can’t believe I gave up that easily. I assumed that somebody with “credentials” and my apparent best interests in mind was worth listening to.

    Start-up entrepreneurs have tough exteriors, but we’re fragile on the inside. We are scared and when it comes down to it, we’re often subconsciously looking for a reason why our idea won’t work because many of us don’t believe in our heart of hearts that we are worthy of success. In the baby stages of your idea, before it’s fully developed and walking by itself, it’s extremely easy to become discouraged and give up.

    Don’t.

    This is the period of time when you need to be letting your idea incubate.

    The High Leverage solution:

    I know you’re excited about your idea…and although I don’t know you, I’m excited for you too. For all I know, you could be the love child of Zuckerberg and Jobs. Kind of gross to think about, but kind of cool.

    Either way, I’m sure you have a great idea. Too bad the idea itself worthless.

    “What do you mean by worthless, Daniel? I thought you told me I was smart and creative…wahhh!”

    Relax. Your idea is worthless because an idea unexecuted remains just that: an idea. Only executed ideas have value in the start-up world. An idea has to be born to actually grow up.

    Think of your your mind as a womb and your initial idea as the small collection of cells called a zygote (dork alert) that will eventually multiply and create the fetus. Those idea cells need the right conditions to grow, or else, no fetus. After that, the fetus needs time to develop to turn into the infant that will eventually be your business and once your idea is born, it will continue to grow with the help of resources outside of you. It will start walking, you’ll teach it to ride a bike and it will grow up. Maybe if you’re lucky, it will even take care of you in your old age. That was a gross and convoluted metaphor, but I hope it made sense.

    What happens if you deliver a baby before it’s ready to come out? Premature babies are often too weak to survive on their own. There’s a higher mortality rate. I was a “preemie” and I have the tube scars on my chest to prove that being born too early is a hard road. Feel bad for me.

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    The key to giving birth to a healthy baby (or idea) is incubation.

    No matter how excited you are with your idea, your task is to incubate it for as long as you need to in order to make sure that you can deliver it successfully. Let some of the complex ideas and questions bouncing around in your head settle down and simplify. Get some answers for yourself so that when others (friends, family, ‘experts’) inevitably try to poke holes in what you’re doing (and, oh, will they ever) – you have the confidence to either respond to them without completely crumbling or you realize that their objections are completely unwarranted.

    Incubation isn’t a new phenomenon. Some of the most successful start-ups have been born from incubation programs that give them the resources and time needed to develop before releasing them out into the dangerous, predatory market of competition and public scrutiny. Y Combinator and Techstars both have incubation programs that nurse fledgling ideas until they are big and strong – and look at the marked difference in failure rate between those programs and first year start-ups without the period of incubation.

    http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2011/11/03/infographic-college-or-incubator-for-startup-founders/

      Source:xconomy.com

      In some cases, start-ups incubated at Techstars were 600% more likely to succeed than other first year businesses. 600 percent. Pretty overwhelming evidence for coddling your fledgling idea.

      Now, to be clear, you don’t need to be in one of these programs to greatly increase your chances of success. Incubate your ideas, strengthen them in your head, flesh them out in your mind, refine them and find their true voice. Find your market, research the hell out of your competition and learn what people really want rather than assuming that you already know. Become painfully aware of the effort your endeavor will entail.

      Talking to others about our ideas too soon will expose them before they are ready. Play it close to the chest, give yourself time to refine, then start bringing them into fruition.

      Incubate, then act.

      Start-Up Mistake #2: You keep #$%&ing up your social media marketing

      Some would be entrepreneurs want to start a new website any time they think of a good idea. They get all juiced about it, then start flinging their crap all over social media like a chimp on heat.

      “Follow me, ‘LIKE’ me, look what I did, check this out!”

      I could kill myself every time I get a notification like this. I’m going to kill you if I see you sending notifications out asking me to check out your new site. I’m unfriending all of you!

      Here’s the thing, it’s important to have a social media presence. Sure, let people know you’re alive…let them know what you’re working on. But let’s face it, there are two very sad realities about your social media network:

      Nobody is listening to you and nobody cares.

      Even your mom doesn’t really care. She’s just humoring you.

       “Oh there Daniel goes, being mean again.”

      I’m not being mean, I’m just being honest. Social media is great as a way to talk to people, but it’s also a huge ego machine. We’ve designed social media as a collective mirror so that we can determine how people feel about us.

      We want to leverage social media to expose our ideas to new markets and connect with people we wouldn’t typically have the opportunity to connect with. Problem is, it’s usually the same 10% of people responding to us every time we post. If you have 1,000 friends on Facebook, you probably have 25 that actually like you enough to check up on you, 15 that you actually talk to and 5-10 who will actually take the time to check out your business.

      And all of this is your fault.

      Sad, but true. Luckily, there’s a way to fix it.

      The High Leverage Solution

      So am I saying social media is useless? Isn’t that completely counter-intuitive to the current trends in marketing right now that say strong social presence is actually a key component to successful start-ups?

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      Well….yes and no.

      Social media is useless for your business if it’s just your mom, your friends from college and your dog looking at your updates.nYes, I know people who make profiles for their dogs. Very, very lonely people.

      Essentially, the friends you already have aren’t going to give you the feedback you need to grow. They’re going to like almost everything you put out. You need unbiased perspectives. Social media is only useful when you can leverage it one and two levels outside of your immediate social group and start building relationships with people that you don’t know directly, but who may still know of you through a mutual friend (or friend-of-a-friend).

      This one-off relationship creates social proof.

      What exactly is social proof? My friend, you ask excellent questions. You’ve been controlled and coerced by social proof most of your life, even if you weren’t aware of it.

       “No, it’s not that fast. You’ll be fine.”

       “Don’t worry about it, we’re all skipping. They told us we could.”

      “No, you can’t get pregnant the first time. I learned it in health class.”

       “Smoke this, you’ll like it. My friends and I smoke it all the time.”

      Any of these sound familiar? The last two definitely NEVER happened to me.

      Social proof is a form of peer pressure that we leverage on each other with the basic premise that if one person or a group of people that you know have done something, you should/can/might do that thing too. Of course, when we grow up we become immune to this type of dollar store trick psychology, right?

      Hell no!

      Don’t believe me? Just ask The Nielsen Company. They’ve been tracking what people do, buy and watch in a really creepy big brother way for over 88 years – and they’ve gotten freaky good at it. They found that 90% of people “completely” or “somewhat” trusted recommendations from people that they know. Talk about pre-qualification and peer pressure.

      trust_in_advertising

        Source: The Nielsen Company

        Social proof is alive and well. Social media is the best way to leverage it, but like I said, you have to be able to break out of your immediate circle and stop begging for praise from your friends who’d tell you that your retarded stick figure sketches are masterpieces.

        How do you break out of your immediate sphere of influence and affect people who can actually help build your business?

        Positioning. You need expert positioning.

        People want to follow experts, gurus and authoritative figures. They don’t want your opinions, they want your educated insights as a thought leader. So the first step is to start referring to yourself as a leader. Dan Zarella did an interesting study on the relationship between authoritative key words in Twitter bios and follower number.

        guru_followers

          Source: Dan Zarella

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          Note all the words indicate expertise. Titles like “official”, “founder”, “speaker”, “expert”, “guru” and “author” all tell people:

           “Hi, listen to me. I’m smarter than you.”

          And you know us humans. We love to be led by smart people. So start leading. Whatever your start-up is, one of these titles probably applies to you. Use it.

          What Would MLK Jr. Do (on social media)…?

          In the same context as assuming a leadership-worthy title, you also must begin speaking like a leader. As it turns out, true leaders don’t spend 140 characters yammering about themselves. Leaders create valuable content for people to learn from and give direction to their field.

          Think about what the term “thought leader” really means. A thought leader says:

          “you already know me and what I’m about. I’m a _____ (insert above authoritative Twitter bio words). Here’s what you should be doing if you want to achieve similar results.”

          If I ever need to tweak the context or voice of my social media interaction, I just think of Martin Luther King Jr.

          I ask WWMLKD? Imagine two hypothetical tweets from the 1963 march on Washington:

          @MLKjr: Dammit, my feet are killing me. It’s so hot out here, I got those #PitStains going on. Hope @CorettaScott got something good for me to eat when I get home.

          or….

          @MLKjr: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Here’s an article for my followers to consider [insert link].

          Now, which tweet communicates more power and authority? Which is more focused on creating value? Which one do you care about more? Which MLK jr. are you more likely to follow.

          Notice that tweet number 1 might have actually been what he was feeling at the time, but it comes off very “me-centered” and selfish. Tweet 2, on the other hand, is a carefully crafted message that communicates the ideas of a thought leader. Incidentally, it’s actually a real quote from a letter that MLK wrote as well. Hmm, maybe he was on to something. We all need to adhere to the etiquette of tweet 2.

          Engaging social media in the context of a thought leader does two things:

          •  First, it stops you from looking like a flaming Will-Ferrell-in-Anchorman douchebag.
          •  Second, it makes you relatable and likeable by showing that you genuinely want to contribute to society for a reason outside of your gigantic ego stroking addiction.

          It’s a true win-win.

          Zarella found another gem that proves follower count CLEARLY drops as self-referential tweets increase. Interesting. This scientifically proves that people don’t care about what you ate for breakfast. They care about how your information can help them grow and move their lives forward. Be a leader in tone and context by helping them to do that.

          Next time you get a case of the “me, me me’s”, think about this:

          self_ref

            Source: Dan Zarella

            Start-Up Mistake #3: you’re still trying to “network” like a jerk

            Here’s the thing about other people: we need them. You can’t build a business on your own and the success of your business largely depends on the quality of people it attracts. So you need to be diligent in attracting the right people to build your network.

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            Before we dive into this one, let’s talk a little about the term “networking” — what it IS and what it IS NOT.

            • Networking is NOT friending or following people on social media.
            • Networking is NOT meeting someone and immediately trying to leverage them in some way.
            • Networking is not joining some business club with a bunch of wannabe’s in a circle jerk trying to generate leads together after a $699 initiation fee.
            • Networking…unfortunately, is not always fast.

            We all know that we have to network in order to build our businesses. However, if I told you to go out and do it…you probably wouldn’t be able to. It’s not a linear process.

            And that’s OK.

            The Mistake

            The truth is, networking simply for the sake of networking is just creepy and unnatural because of the implied message if gives off to other people:

            “Hey, I don’t know you from jack…but I was hoping that you’d be comfortable enough to give me your advice and hook me up with all your closest personal and business connections. Also, my name is Daniel.”

            Would that motivate you to whip out your little black book and give me the hook up?

            A big, fat HELL NO.

            Yet that’s the implicit message sent when we network simply to enhance our business. It often comes off as self-serving.

            Stop it.

            Stop forcing unnatural interaction with others in your industry with an underhanded ulterior motive. It’s not cute (and they know you’re doing it).

            The High Leverage Solution

            So what is the correct way to network and enhance your positioning without becoming a leech?

            The temptation is to think of yourself like a central server in the middle of a bunch of nodes — all of them receiving your information, and with the right combination of signals from you, doing what you want them to do.

            Try this instead:

            Rather than thinking about yourself at the center of the nodes, think of yourself as a node among fellow nodes, with no central hub — just an endless connection of (mostly) friendly compatriots. You’re all working to pass information along, and it goes both ways. You’re all connected on an equal plane, without trying to gain advantage or hoard resources from one another.

            Your goal here is to make friends, not just connections.

            To really get yourself in this mindset, you have to start asking different questions. Rather than “how can this person help me?”, it’s much more useful in the long run to actively seek out people to help and ask “how can I serve this person benevolently?”

            Besides the fact that JFK would be quite proud of you, the the cool part about this paradigm is that your initial act of service doesn’t have to be huge to justify a huge return later.

            The effects of obligation, reciprocity and compliance have all been well documented. As a part maintaining of social norms, people will go to extreme lengths to return a favor (even one that was not asked for) — regardless of whether they actually like the person or not — as demonstrated in an experiment by Cornell psychologist Dennis Regan in 1971.

            Regan had subjects believe they were in an “art appreciation” experiment with a partner, who was really Regan’s assistant. In the experiment the assistant would disappear for a two-minute break and bring back a soft drink for the subject. After the art experiment was through, the assistant asked the subject to buy raffle tickets from him. In the control group the assistant behaved in exactly the same manner, but did not buy the subject a drink. The subjects who had received the favor, a soft drink, bought more raffle tickets than those in the control group despite the fact that they hadn’t asked for the drink to begin with. Regan also had the subjects fill out surveys after they finished the experiment and found that whether they personally liked the assistant or not had no effect on how many tickets they bought. One problem of reciprocity, however, focuses on the unequal profit obtained from the concept of reciprocal concessions. The emotional burden to repay bothers some more than others, causing some to overcompensate with more than what was given originally. In the Regan study, subjects paid more money for the tickets than the cost of the (un-requested) soft drink.

            According to the study, most participants actually felt obligated to give back more than they were given simply because they were given a gift. Interesting. Now, to be clear, you want to use these psychological tendencies for good, not evil. Approach people bearing genuine goodwill, offering to help them achieve something. More than likely it will be returned to you. So really dig deep on what you have to offer, then give it everything you have.

            Soon you’ll have a bunch of genuine friends rather than business acquaintances. With a bunch of friends helping you to pay it forward and working to see you succeed, there will be no need to “network” ever again.

             

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            Last Updated on September 29, 2020

            How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

            How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

            Unsurprisingly enough, all businesses are online today. Considering the advances in the smartphone industry as well as the increasingly accessible internet facility, it was only a matter of time before businesses took advantage of the online environment.

            This increasing popularity makes for a promising future for a lot of young entrepreneurs. And knowing how to start an online business will open up a world of possibilities for you that was not possible 10 years ago.

            So, keeping the potential for exponential growth in mind, let’s dive into the article below, and explore the steps of starting an online business that will bring you success.

            1. Becoming the Master of ‘ONE’ Trade

            Most successful online businesses are the master of one trade. And that’s why beginning with a niche is always a good idea.

            A niche market is a focused segment within a larger market. Imagine a men’s shoes market and then, imagine handcrafted brown Italian leather shoes for men. While the previous one is a bigger market, the latter one is simply a more focused segment within that market.

            Knowing the niche helps a lot to start an online business and if you are feeling a bit lost, here are some self-queries that will act as a perfect guide:

            What Speaks to Your Heart?

            This first way of discovering the niche is perfect for those who want to do what they love. Working in a market that you love will ensure that constant excitement and drive to do better, eventually leading to ultimate prosperity.

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            Decisions Based on Knowledge

            The second way is perfect for those who have a lot of untapped knowledge about a specific industry. Utilizing the insights on a specific industry is a great way to find a niche. This way, you’ll already know all the ins and outs of the industry and can easily get ahead of all the competitors.

            Undiscovered Potential

            Lastly, conducting research into various industries and finding an untapped segment is another amazing way of finding the right niche. This practice will require you to come up with a new and unique solution for uncatered audiences.

            2. When Is Your Idea Valid?

            All the great ideas for starting an online business needs to be valid. And once you have found the niche, this validation process is what comes next.

            Proving the soundness of the idea is not at all hard. A detailed industry examination is all you need initially to understand the value of the concept and recalibrate it to turn into a great online business.

            Market research is a systematic unraveling of the target market. This research will include all the information on the product/service you are about to sell, the target audience, and how the competitors are operating in this crowded market.

            This in-depth research will give you the initial idea of how the products can make an impact in the outside world. And once the small online business ideas are validated, it will be time to move on and craft a plan and start working on establishing the business.

            3. Crafting the Map to Success

            Having a proper plan for an online business is like having a map when you travel to an unknown city. This is a document that includes all the factual information on the business and crucial business data.

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            To help you out, here’s a list of all the information online business plans must include:

            • An idea of objective – The best online business plans always have a clear outline of the business goals and intentions. Having this clear outline will increase the efficiency of business functions later on. The target demographic, business model—all kinds of information needs to be a part of this document.
            • Taking stock of available resources – A startup needs to utilize all the resources it has, and that’s why the plan needs to have an in-depth outline of the financial resources in use as well as the employees and their expertise. With a better idea of all the resources in hand, starting an online business will be an easier process.

            4. The Virtual Storefront: A Process of Development

            The steps of how to start an online business are incomplete without the website creation process. With the right website approach, you can easily succeed in increasing business revenue.

            What does that perfect business website look like? Let’s follow these steps to create an effective business website.

            Choose Your Approach

            There are numerous ways of making a website and for a positive outcome, you need to choose the perfect approach. Depending on the business model, initial finances, and end goals, there are two kinds of approaches for the online storefront:

            • Third-party approach – Third-party platforms will connect you with the customers out there. For small online business ideas, Creating an account or site with these platforms will be beneficial because these platforms come with a large array of services as well as a big enough existing consumer base ready to utilize.
            • Creating a new website –  A business-specific website will help you eliminate the third party go-between and connect directly with the buyers. With this approach, you get more control over the business and how it is presented to the consumers out there and the revenue you make. Any of the above-mentioned approaches can be beneficial for easy online business startups. However, to achieve some specific business goals, having a customized website will be more beneficial for you.

            Design Can Bring You Maximum Success!

            For those who have decided to create their own site, the design is of paramount importance. With a great design, you will be able to engage and interact with the visitors better and encourage them to make a purchase.

            The design, however, is not just a matter of aesthetics. A website’s design encompasses all aspects of it, from the visual effects to the content that’s used on the site.

            To create a truly amazing design that reflects new online business concepts here are a few matters to consider:

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            • Keep it responsive – Many markets are simply skipping over the desktop phase and launching the business for mobile users around the world.[1] Considering this popularity of the mobile internet market, the business website has to be responsive. This approach will help you to reach a bigger audience and conduct business on a larger scale.
            • Users want a fast experience – Using high-quality images on the site does improve the visuals, but make sure all those images are compressed. Having a faster website will enhance the user experience on the site. Besides compressing all the media content on the site, you can also utilize an asynchronous loading technique that loads all the contents simultaneously, reducing friction. With a faster site, it will become easier to implement the online business startup ideas into reality.
            • Define the brand – The design stage determines a lot of things for the business website and one of those things is the business image. To make an impact on the world with the business, you have to create a perfect image and for that, a brand guide is necessary. The brand guide is a document that includes all the information and guidelines on various visual elements on the site that makes up the business personality. Based on the kind of image you want to create, all the elements will be outlined in this documentation.

            Where the Website Becomes Reality

            Since we know how website design helps to launch a successful online business, it is time to move onto development. Online business development is where the idea becomes a reality. And to make this reality perfect, you need to make sure that the development and deployment process goes well.

            A high performing site always includes all the right features that enhance the user experience as well as helps you to convert more traffic. And for the best results, ensure the use of only the latest tech stack during development.

            Here are some development issues you have to pay attention to while building the business website:

            • The right partner makes all the difference – For small startups who are wondering how to start an online business, finding the right development partner is going to make all the difference. However, before making a decision, there are a few things you should contemplate. The team that you are about to hire should have experience in catering to your industry, as well as an extensive portfolio and good reviews. Additionally, it will be perfect if the agency or freelancer also provides a 360-degree service, from development to maintenance.
            • How to assure the quality of the site? – Testing the site is an integral part of the answer to the question of “how to start an online business?”. An experienced partner will be able to help you the most with this. From security testing to split testing, this stage in development will help in understanding how well the site functions and what needs to change. And once the changes are made and the test results come clean, it will be time to launch the website.

            5. Some Tricks to Increase Online Sales

            Selling online is not easy, but not hard either. In a physical store, you can use campaigns, go door to door with pamphlets, and such. However, successful online businesses have their own style of campaigns that helps them to sell more without any problems.

            So, what are these tricks?

            Utilize the Magic of SEO

            With an increase in quality traffic, the sales ratio will go up too. And to drive quality traffic on the website, you need to utilize the SEO tricks, and probably hire an SEO expert.

            When starting an online business site, ensure all the content on the site is optimized to rank for the right queries by target consumers. With a higher rank on the SERP, the traffic will increase on the site.

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            With the increase in quality traffic, it will become easier for you to convert visitors. The visitor data will help you to adjust the site performance. In brief, utilizing SEO will open the doors to a lot of possibilities for your small online business ideas.[2]

            Entice With Free Value

            Consumers today have lots of options to choose from. And keeping all that in mind, it will be wise to create a business plan for an online startup that provides free value to the users before asking them to buy something.

            Consumers want to buy from someone who knows what they are doing, especially in the case of a curated service or goods provider. And that’s why to turn the profitable online business ideas even more effective, you need to start offering free value on the site, with free products and content.

            Having a blog is also another way of displaying your expertise. With specialized content on the industry, you can easily grab the attention of the audience. And once assured of your knowledge on the matter, consumers will feel a lot safer about making a purchase.

            A Killer Customer Service Is Everything

            Your small online business idea needs a better service option. Using AI-based interactive features to implement better support for the global consumer base will prove to be extremely beneficial. With a 24/7 automated support channel, customers will be satisfied with your business and come back more often.

            It’s an Easy Process: All You Have to Do Is to Start

            And there it is, the simple five-step process of starting an online business that is bound to succeed. If you look closely, you’ll notice that there are not a lot of differences between creating a physical business and an online one. The main differences are only in the consumer and competitive landscape.

            While a physical store faces and caters to local competitors and consumers, the online business has to deal with the same on a global basis. So, focusing well on the global market landscape while crafting the plan will help you succeed.

            More Tips on How to Start an Online Business

            Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

            Reference

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