*This article was written for and featured on The Mom Empire
Let me start by saying I’ve worked for many startup companies and have watched some grow successfully, while others struggled to thrive and eventually evaporated. From years of working in many different industries and closely watching the making of successes and failures, I am happy to share the top mistakes I’ve seen new businesses make that contributed to their eventual downfall, and offer a few small but impactful tweaks to avoid trouble later on.
Before I start, it’s important to note that this entire article is strictly my opinion and suggestions and might not work for everyone, so take it or leave it. I also want to start by saying that the type of business I’m referring to specifically in this article is online businesses, not brick and mortar businesses. For brick and mortar business tips, I will be sending a separate email.
What works well for one type of business might not work well for another. Everyone knows that, right? WRONG! Most people don’t know that. You see, some companies are struggling badly because they’re using marketing methods that are not meant for their type of business. Let’s dive right in.
1. Spending Too Much Money (this one is inevitable) – If you Google “what new businesses need” you’ll get a long list of products and services that professionals highly recommend. But guess what? As a business owner, YOU are the professional and decision-maker, and YOU get to decide what your business needs. How can you tell? Look at competing businesses and see what they offer.
What I recommend (facts according to Get.com): The 20-80 rule reigns. The majority of business comes from a minority of paying customers. Spend money to reach only your targeted market, and keep customer-acquisition costs low. The best advertising is word of mouth – effective, valuable beyond price, and free. (I couldn’t have said it better myself!)
2. Website Creation – Don’t be tempted to build a custom website from scratch!! I would know, as a web designer and developer myself, my job was often to repair the damages made by previous web developers and designers (and restore faith in humanity). I discovered that there are web developers out there who are sneaky scammers – they will give you a long list of jargon and fees, in hopes that you’ll pay them more money for their services. Don’t fall for it!!
What I recommend: Most new businesses just need the basics: A domain name (think: yourbusinesshere.com), and a web host (think: WordPress or SquareSpace). Everything else can wait. Simply browse the free templates the host provides and add your own pictures and content and you’re good to go! The rest you can add and upgrade as your company grows and starts making a profit.
3. Marketing and Outreach – Outreach is not the problem. It’s the type of outreach you’re doing. Most companies blast out countless emails and social posts hoping to attract followers and hoping that people will purchase their products as a result. According to Forbes, subscriber reach for social media posting is only 10%, and 20% for emailing (and it’s even worse for magazines so don’t waste your time or money with those). How can anyone make sales based on those low numbers??
What I recommend: For businesses who wish to use social media (Facebook specifically) to promote their company, here’s what I suggest: with Facebook’s new algorithm, there’s no way all of your followers will even see the ad, because everyone is online at different times and depending on how many posts they scroll through, they might not see the ad. Try placement ads instead. According to SocialMediaToday, Facebook has recently announced a new tool that will enable companies to have better control of where their ads appear across their ad delivery network. Do your research and see if this might be right for your company.
If you’re looking to use email marketing to promote your company and grow your sales, I recommend sharing coupons, flash sales and free “stuff” like printable templates, ebooks, etc. Use deadlines to create a sense of urgency!! People buy out of a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). People are also more likely to subscribe to an email list if they’re getting something free.
4. Having WAY TOO MANY IDEAS – Ideas are good, that’s not the problem. The problem is having so many ideas and long lists of “things to do” and being so bombarded with hopes and dreams for your business that it leads to inaction, anxiety, or significant loss of money. Take the time you need to brainstorm, strategize, set weekly and monthly goals (not just reaching for the sky), and review your successes. Focus on the most important stuff: What your business aims to do (what specific problem needs to be solved), who it intends to help, and how.
Here’s my recommendation (besides what was said above): Invest your time (but not money) into a good task management system. I find Trello very helpful as a free online and mobile task management app. I can add my list of tasks, along with assignments, goals, deadlines and ideas. Again, I’m not against ideas. Ideas are great. I’m against the overwhelming amount of ideas that lead to anxiety and spending money on services that you don’t need (like Yellow Page and newspaper ads – why is that still a thing??). Celebrate the wins. Learn from the losses. They’re going to happen. Get better, grow stronger, and in the long run, your company will do well, longer.
5. Hiring Employees Too Early – According to Under 30 CEO, the biggest waste of money for small business/entrepreneurs is hiring employees during their early stages.
Here’s what to do instead: Instead of hiring employees, unpaid interns are a free source of help so that businesses and entrepreneurs can begin to learn the process of delegation and refocus their time and energy into the most productive and lucrative aspects of their business. Wait what?? Believe it or not, some people are actually willing to work for free (call it an internship or whatever you want), especially during the startup phase of a new company, in order to obtain bragging rights to having a part in the company’s overall and eventual growth and success. Of course, your job as the employer is to make their time meaningful and productive. Don’t just overload them with busy work, your job is to teach them, guide them, and promote them as soon as your business picks up. Give them the promise of eventual promotion.
I hope this article was helpful and didn’t scare anyone away. There are so many “things to do and buy” and “investments to be made” when it comes to starting a new business, and that can be terrifying. Simply pick and choose what works best for you and your business. It’s my hope that every small business, especially businesses owned by working Moms, is successful and profitable.
Sincerely, Corri Anna