So you’re starting a business? You’ve chosen a product or service to sell, and found a space to rent (or cordoned off a room in your home). You’ve set up your computer and printer, and written down your goals. You’ve reworked your budget to make sure you can pay the bills. You might even have a full-blown business plan, complete with a market analysis and study of your competition.
But what don’t you know? Do you know what you don’t know?
Knowledge gaps bring extra challenges to getting a business off the ground. You might not fully understand a problem, such as a customer pain point or a glitch in delivery. Technology changes rapidly. The marketing landscape has changed, moving from reliance on traditional media (think newspapers and TV) to an integrated, automated system that leverages your online platform, social media, SEO and growth hacking (more on those terms in future posts).
How do you know what you don’t know? If you don’t know what you don’t know, how do you find out? Here are four key ways to get quick answers to in-the-trenches questions that arise unexpectedly.
1. Mentors. Your local chamber of commerce, small business center or SCORE office can be a good place to find entrepreneurs who have already walked your path and can share their experience and wisdom. They can also walk you through the various stages of business development and share the challenges that can happen along the way so you can be better prepared.
2. Mastermind groups. Whether online or in-person, a support group comprising fellow entrepreneurs can be a great way to share your daily struggles and get answers to your questions. Some members will likely be ahead of you in the process, and you can learn from their experience. Another bonus of being in a mastermind group: many require members to pledge action steps toward weekly goals, building in a layer of accountability that can help you move your business forward.
3. Stick to your strengths. This can be difficult for the bootstrapping entrepreneur. But the time it takes you to research everything you need to do to solve a problem could cost you more than just hiring someone to do it for you. So be smart with your time and money, and focus your energy on what you do best. Whether it’s IT, bookkeeping or marketing, you need a team of people to help your business succeed, even if you’re a solopreneur. Ask people in your network for recommendations.
4. Embrace just-in-time learning. Sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know until it hits you in the face. That’s OK. If we wait until we know everything about an idea or process before we begin, we may never begin. In fact, “learning,” or spending most of your work time watching webinars, reading books, listening to podcasts, can become a substitute for productivity, if we let it pull us from the core details of making our business successful. Just dive in. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. When you need help, get it. You’re an entrepreneur, a maverick. Many very successful people have experienced moments of failure. You’ll be in good company.
Every business needs a marketing strategy. Don’t know where to start? SweetWater Marketing can help. Let’s start the conversation today. Call us at (256) 617-2092, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.