Startup Misconceptions: The Question of Competition

In my effort to always provide a steady stream of useful information to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, I post tons of interesting and helpful articles that I find around the web that I think can help answer questions for my followers and help you all move your businesses forward. Oftentimes, people write me asking to elaborate on those articles or pieces of those articles so I am starting a series that will do just that. I may combine a few or leave a few out here and there, but I will cover the topics that people most often asked me to elaborate on.

I recently posted an article from RockthePost about common misconceptions people have about launching a new company. The next of those misconceptions that I want to tackle here is a two-sided confusion about competition. 

There are two damaging misconceptions about competition that I see new entrepreneurs believing all of the time, either of which could tank the company (or prevent it from even getting off the ground in the first place). Those two misconceptions are that unless you have a completely new idea, you cannot start a new company and that if you have a completely new idea, you will never have any competition. Both misconceptions are patently false.

Let’s start with the idea that you can’t start a company unless you have an idea that nobody else is working on. Firstly, that’s never going to happen. As I mentioned in a post about why entrepreneurs shouldn’t be scared to share their ideas, you’re not special, so thinking that you’re the only one working on a particular idea at a particular time is delusional. If you’re in the United States, even if your idea is truly “one in a million,” there are still about 312 other people working on that same idea right now. Have you ever wondered why most VCs refuse to sign non-disclosure agreements? It’s because they’ll probably be pitched basically the same idea by a number of different entrepreneurs and don’t want to open themselves up to getting sued. Have you wondered why you often here people talking about investing in the team more so than in the idea? It’s because good ideas really are a dime a dozen. It’s the execution that makes success stories.

With that said, you don’t have to abandon a great idea just because you see others out there with the same or similar idea. There is still an opportunity for you to find success by somehow setting your company apart and offering the same or similar products or services but doing it better, or faster, or more accurately. You absolutely need to have a value proposition that will set you apart from other companies in order to succeed. That doesn’t mean your idea has to be so original that nobody else has ever thought of it. Google was not the first search engine; Facebook was not the first social network; BMW was not the first car brand. If you want to build a business, focus on how you can add more value for the customer than anyone else out there, not on how you can come up with an idea so off the wall that nobody else is working on it.

Along similar lines, you have to understand that there will always be competition so, even if you think that you’re the only working on something, you can’t rely on being the only company in the space for your success. Firstly, as I mentioned before, you’re probably not actually the only one working on that idea. The other companies may be in stealth mode or may simply not have gotten enough traction yet for you to hear about them, but they’re probably out there. Secondly, even if by odd circumstance you are the only company working on something, you can bet your booty that competitors will start coming out of the woodwork if you find success. You must have something that sets you apart from the competition in the eyes of the customer or you’ll be in trouble.

In order to find success you need to understand that your obsession with competitors cannot be about whether or not they exist – they always will. It has to be about how you’re different than those competitors; how you offer more to the customers you’re fighting over; how you operate more efficiently than those competitors; and how you will continue to stay relevant, even if the space gets crowded. For more info about how to set yourself apart, spend some time poking around this site for tips.

 

Now I want to hear from you: Have you found yourself falling into one of these competition misconception traps? Please let me know in the comments section below and, if you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter so you’ll never miss any info that could help you successfully grow your business. 

If you liked this video, please spread the love by liking it and sharing with anyone whom you think would find it valuable. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next time on New Venture Mentor. 

How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Can Improve Your Marketing

Marketing is all about tapping into human needs and desires so that you can motivate your potential customers to buy what you sell. In order to tap into those needs and desires, you have to first understand what they are and, probably the most famous model for examining this is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a model for understanding human motivation and breaks down the needs and desire of humans into 5 categories:

  • Physiological or the most basic human needs like food, water, and air for survival are at the base of maslow’s needs pyramid.
  • Safety is one step above physiological but still describes needs, not wants, and includes things like shelter or health.
  • Love and belonging is next on the pyramid and moves into what humans want versus what they need and refers to friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships and intimacy within those relationships.
  • Esteem refers to the human desire for self-confidence and the respect of others.
  • Self-actualization refers to things like moral development, creativity, and problem solving ability.

According to Maslow’s model, all human motivation is based on fulfilling one of these 5 needs and people must work their way up the pyramid and fulfill their most basic needs first before they have time to worry about fulfilling their higher needs.

So, what does this mean for you as an entrepreneur trying to market your startup or small business? It means that you must align your marketing with fulfilling the correct need level for your target customers and that you must be cognizant of matching the need level of your product or service with the appropriate need level for that market. In more straight-forward terms, if someone is working on fulfilling their safety needs you cannot successfully market a product or service to them that will help with self-actualization. They’re simply not there yet. 

It all goes back to aligning your marketing message and tactics with the target customer and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one way to help you understand that customer.

 

Now I want to hear from you:

  • Which need level does the product or service you sell appeal to and how?
  • Is your marketing strategy in line with targeting customers who are working on fulfilling that need level?
  • How does your messaging help them see that what you offer will help fulfill that need and motivate them to buy?

Let me know in the comments section below.

If you found this video helpful or interesting, please help spread the word. Share it with someone whom you think would find it helpful or benefit from the discussion. And don’t forget to follow me on social media and subscribe to my newsletter so that you never miss any information that could help you and your business succeed.

How to Create Target Customer Personas to Maximize Your Marketing

Understanding who your ideal customer is, where he or she is, and what he or she is motivated by is key to a successful marketing strategy. If you don’t understand who you’re selling to, it will be pretty difficult to sell. Therefore, creating target customer profiles or personas can be a great way to get started with your marketing strategy development.

Customer personas are quite common in the development of marketing strategies and they’re basically character sketches designed to help you understand your customer and his or her needs and motivations.

To create one, begin with some solid market research so you will be basing your persona on facts instead of just making things up. If you’re not sure how to begin with conducting market research, you can check out my video about that topic.

Next, you want to keep the information you gained from market research close at hand and sit down and begin brainstorming about your ideal customers. You can start with the easy stuff like demographic information: is your customer male or female? How old? What type of job do they have and how much money do they make? Are they well educated? Where do they live? What is their family structure like? Then start moving on to deeper information about the target customer’s personality and motivations: What are their morals and values? What does a typical day look like? What do they do in their free time? What are their habits and likes – i.e. is this a vegan yoga addict or a martini-drinking club-hopper? Do they want to go to the spa on the weekend or go hiking and camping? Where do they hang out and who are they there with?

Be as detailed as possible when you describe your target customer. If you need help structuring the brainstorm, grab my Ideal Customer Worksheet to help you. It’s over on the Free Downloads page.

Once you’ve created a full persona for your ideal customer you can use that persona to inform your marketing strategy because now you understand who it is you’re selling too. If you want this person to actually buy from you, you need to look at their lifestyle and target your marketing so that it hits at the right time in their buying schedule, appeals to their needs and desires, and fits in with their lifestyle and self-image.

When you come up with ideas for new marketing campaigns, go back to your ideal customer persona and think, “Would this campaign appeal to this customer? Would they see it? Would they remember it? Would it motivate them to buy?” If not, it’s not going to be a successful marketing campaign and you need to go back to the drawing board.

 

Now I want to hear from you: Who is your ideal customer and have you used personas in your marketing planning in the past? Let me know in the comments section below. 

Did you like this video? If so, please remember to like it and to share it with anyone whom you think would it find it helpful. And don’t forget to follow me on social media and sign up for my newsletter so you never miss any info that will help you grow your business.

 

Why Entrepreneurs Must Have a Social Media Editorial Calendar

Social media seems pretty straightforward and simple on the surface, but it’s incredibly easy to let it fall through the cracks when there are a million different balls you’re juggling in your business and you haven’t created a clear plan. When developing your social media strategy, it’s important to create an “editorial calendar” for yourself identifying what you’ll post, on which platform, on what day, and at what time.

You want to draft the schedule to keep yourself organized for a few reasons:

Firstly, it’s important that you keep your social media properties up to date. If you go weeks without posting, the potential customers that visit will notice that inactivity and wonder if you’re still around or if you’d be responsive to them if they became customers.

Secondly, you want to space out the different types of posts in a logical manner. You shouldn’t post 27 photos in a row and then not post another photo again for 3 months. The goal is to keep your social media followers interested by providing variety and quality. When you create a posting schedule, you’re more likely to strategically share the different content you curate as opposed to just randomly posting.

Along the same lines, it’s important to have some consistency in how often you post. If you post everything real time as you see it or think of it, there will be days when you post 15 times and then weeks when you have nothing to share. Again, that’s not good for building customer trust, so you want to curate your content constantly but schedule when you share it strategically.

Finally, if you create a plan you can determine when the most effective times to post various content are in order to receive the most engagement from your followers. While you can and should look up statistics about when users are active on the different platforms, this varies so greatly between groups that it’s important you do some of your own testing. As you post, track what posts get the most engagement and note any patterns: times of day, days of the week, types of posts, etc. Then use that information to adjust your strategy and give your followers more of what they want, when they want it.

To help you out with your content scheduling so that you don’t have to sit online all day every day, as well as to help you track engagement, I highly recommend utilizing one of the many services that can integrate all of your social media platforms and allow you to schedule posts in the future. I personally use Hootsuite but there are many similar platforms out there and whichever you’re most comfortable with is the one you should use.

*** UPDATE*** As I mentioned in the original post, I use Hootsuite for my social media management and when I shared this post with my social media and business networking communities, they all seemed to say that Hootsuite was their favorite tool as well. If you’re interested in giving Hootsuite a try, click here and you’ll get a 30-day free trial of their pro version. This is an affiliate link, meaning I will get paid if you purchase through this link. I want to be totally upfront about that, but I also want to make clear that I am promoting Hootsuite because I use it and love it, not because I get paid.

 

Now let’s hear what works for you: Do you have an editorial calendar for your social media posts and how far in advance do you plan? What’s your favorite social media management tool – Hootsuite, Buffer, or something else? Let me know in the comments section below what works for you.

If you found this video helpful or interesting, please spread the word. Like it and share it with someone whom you think would benefit from the information and I will be hugely appreciative.

 

How to Conduct Market Research for Free

Last week I walked you through the basics of creating a solid marketing plan that you can use to promote your startup or small business. Much of what that marketing plan is built around is comprehensive market research, so I thought I should give you a little more detail about where to get some of the information you’ll be attempting to dig up about your ideal customer as you begin to work on your marketing plan.

Many entrepreneurs are afraid to dig into doing market research because they don’t know where to begin and fear that the only way to get good data is to pay a market research company a ton of money. When you’re just starting out with planning your business, however, you can do a ton of very effective market research yourself, for free. Check out this week’s video to learn about some of the best tools out there for getting market research without spending more than you already do for your internet connection.

How to Create a Marketing Plan for Your Startup or Small Business

When you’re just launching a company or you’re trying to grow a small business you don’t have the massive marketing budget or penetrating brand recognition of major multinationals. Developing a solid marketing plan is key to successfully bringing in new customers and building a thriving business. Watch this week’s video to learn the basics of creating a solid marketing plan for your business’ success:

How to Get Your Business in the Press Using HARO

Naturally, one of the biggest struggles for any new business is marketing. They don’t have the name recognition they need but they also don’t have the money to fund major marketing projects or pay for a public relations team. That’s why entrepreneurs have to learn a few tricks to try to get their names out into the press and in front of potential customers and one of those tricks is the service Help a Reporter Out. Watch this week’s video to learn what HARO is, why you should be using it, and how to get started.

Update: I got a note from the folks over at MonkeyLearn who said, “we recently discovered that some experts sources are using MonkeyLearn to create personalized alerts for HARO requests. This helps them speed up the process of answering relevant HARO queries and save time. With this in mind, we wrote a guide about automating this process in four easy steps (without writing a single line of code).”

I haven’t tried it yet but I’m interested in anything that helps me save time so I wanted to share. Let me know if you give it a try and find it helpful. Again, here’s the link to their guide

 

How to Increase Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth is hands down the most effective marketing technique for any small business or startup and, with an ever-growing number of avenues for your customers to help spread the word, you should absolutely be taking full advantage. However, it’s tough to stand out from the crowd enough that others will start publicly singing your praises.

With that said, there are ways to encourage your happy customers to spread the word. Check out the video below for tips to get your supporters talking:

Using Marketing Partnerships to Promote Your Business

Marketing partnerships are a great way for business owners to amplify their marketing reach without creating much extra work or expense. The basic idea is to find another business whose customers are the same as yours but that offers a complementary – not competing – product or service. Then you team up and both help promote the other to all of your customers.

This tactic can be hugely successfully without too much effort, so check out the video below to learn how to implement it:

How to Measure Your Social Media Efforts’ Effectiveness

Because social media only costs in time and not in clear, clean dollars, the ROI is a little more slippery and many business owners don’t bother to track if their social media strategies are succeeding or not. But time is money, so you need to know if you’re wasting it or spending it wisely. To make sure you know whether or not your social media efforts are time well spent, here are a few basic ways to track if your social media efforts are being successful or if you need to reevaluate:

The point of all of these metrics is to make you aware of what is and is not working so that you can adjust your strategy. Remember, this is about taking a step back so you can improve your strategy, i.e. work on your business instead of just working in your business.