Building your future requires equal measures of passion and hard work
By Suhaib Mohammed
Building a small business online is scary. Big businesses can easily outspend you with PPC, SEO, SMM and inbound marketing campaigns.
However, smart startup founders grimly pass around business battles on the blogosphere, charging low prices for quality product, reversing their vision, failing to voice their opinion on their podcasts, showing contempt for our product, and disrespect for our craft.
And yet, look around at the World Wide Web jungle. It’s watered by the services offered by small businesses. The technology to produce product and convert customers exists because we create codes, design services, and write web pages, blog posts, and marketing materials that generate leads and close sales. And every 350-pound gorilla company uses our products or services to thrive.
If you’re a small online business owner, you can chicken out and quit when you face your competitor in the marketing arena, or you can choose something better. Because there is something better.
In the time since I began building my content marketing business online, I’ve noticed some mindsets, traits, and abilities that make the difference between businesses that want to accelerate their sales, make a profit, and survive, and businesses that want to sell more and increase their ROI but don’t seem to have the ability to do so.
Based on my observations, here are the seven most important things small businesses need to succeed online.
This might sound too simple, but if you’re a small business owner, you know what I mean.
There’s no substitute for the love you have for your products or services. There’s no substitute for the commitment of showing up every day. There’s no substitute for the excitement of receiving an order or for the burning desire to work extra hours, to reach your prospect, to ship an order, and to make more money.
If you don’t love entrepreneurship, your product or service, and the process of getting things done, none of the rest of this really means anything.
I could have just as easily dreamed of building another Moz, Kissmetrics, or Shopify, but I chose what I loved most. Whichever business idea you dream of, it’s about refusing to do it just for the money. It’s not only about making money; it’s about changing your customer’s life for the better.
If you want to achieve that, you have to dominate your industry. You have to be the go-to person for your products or services. Be super professional at your offerings so that your customers won’t want to leave you for your competitor.
2. Attitude of service.
Making money can be a tempting proposition, pursued for the sake of your own interest of becoming rich and dominating the headlines.
However, as soon as the customer clicks to order your product — the vitamin C pills, the Smartphone cover, the SEO or PR services you sell — the product becomes the focus.
Professional founders work with an attitude of serving their customers great value, yes, serving them with beautiful, durable, quality products. They also work to provide excellent customer experiences that exceed their expectations, that gratify rather than aggravate, and that are born out of the genuine attitude of serving the buyer.
Successful consultants, bloggers, and content marketers all live in service to our clients. No matter how stunning or super sexy we may find an idea, if it doesn’t serve our client, out it goes.
Why? Because we have deep love and obsession for our customers.
3. Obsession for the customer.
It has always struck me as odd that many of the most serious startup founders pay more attention to selling than to their customers.
It shouldn’t be that way. Customer obsession comes first. It’s like the engine that pumps cash into your corporate account. It comes from your company’s culture, value proposition, mission, and overall vision to change your customer’s world with your product or service.
Serious visionaries are obsessed with their customers. “If you’re truly obsessed about your customers,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO says. “It will cover a lot of your other mistakes.”
You can’t just sell your products. You can’t just sell your services. You can’t just advertise your brand.
You need to appeal to your customers first, because they are your buyers. And you can’t see a spike in your revenue unless you’re obsessive about charming them with your brand and building quality products that will ease their lives.
4. Obsession for quality.
Many small-business owners imagine that if you have a great business idea and a great vision, you’re qualified to be called an entrepreneur.
Not so fast.
Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs are not just creative; they’re producers of quality products. They understand what type of products to create in the first place, based on the feedback they get from their customers.
They also understand that their products must solve their customers’ pain points. Their products must add value to their customers’ lives and must provide great experiences for them. You can learn more about how to build a solid product by looking at how great companies like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks did it.
If you are obsessed with quality, you can incorporate what you learn from these companies into your business culture. Beyond your product or service, you can internalize quality packaging, simple usability, prompt responsiveness to customer queries, and even quality, compelling content on your company blog.
Because in today’s digitally driven marketing world, quality blog content is king. It’s crucial for your traffic, sales, and revenue.
5. Compelling content.
You may have a brilliant idea. You may have gotten the perfect product/market fit. But, if you don’t devote yourself to the butt-in-chair time needed to produce a significant quantity of compelling content on your company blog, you won’t get where you want to go.
To a great degree, writing compelling content is a skill that can be cultivated. As a small business owner, you can devote some time to practice the art, ingrain writing into your schedule, and write every day to master the craft, or dig deep into freelance marketplaces to find a superb content creator.
Compelling content does more than just amuse your clients. Compelling content can change your life. After writing this viral post on this amazing platform, I received a dozen praises from readers across the globe. I also got a couple of writing gigs.
The blog post went viral not only because the story appealed to its intended audience, but also because the conversational tone and writing style are so engaging and entertaining … the reader feels compelled to share it.
Writing compelling posts has nothing to do with your degree, your experience, or whether or not you’re a native English speaker. It’s about how you make readers feel. That’s why every writer — just like every entrepreneur — must be creative, imaginative, and innovative.
Innovation is critical for your business growth for a number of reasons.
First, innovation develops customer value. Your customers are always in need of a product that will ease their lives, and once they get it, they move on to something else — something easier, newer, or simpler. As Steve Jobs put it, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them,” the Apple founder opined. “By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
Second, innovation is vital for your traffic, sales, and revenue. New ideas, new products, and new stories are what always get the most attention. “The arrogance of success,” according to William Pollard, “is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
Third, innovation-active businesses are more productive and generate more jobs than non-innovation-active businesses, according to a recent data by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
But, building new products from your new ideas is risky. There’s a good chance that you’ll fail. Still, you must do it. You must double up on your experimentation. Bezos says, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.” You’ll see wonders if you consistently innovate.
One of the tough things about growing a startup is that the path you walk is one you make yourself.
There’s no one to tell you how you should work, no one to tell you which direction to go, no one to tell you when to go for a break, no one to tell you when to work extra hours, and no one to tell you when to say no and when you need to be where.
That’s one of the fantastic things about running your own business. But, sometimes Fantastic is also Difficult. You might open your e-commerce shop today, work for an hour, check your email, and retreat for the day.
But, can you come back to do exactly the same thing tomorrow? Can you do it again the day after tomorrow, and again the day after that, and again, and again? Consistently?
That’s the difficult part. And that’s where many entrepreneurs are getting it all wrong.
Building a thriving business is not about working for extra hours today and not working the next day. It’s about doing the work that matters consistently. It’s about showing up every day. It’s about minimalism, not complexity.
So roll up your sleeves and keep working. “For the future,” as Paul Wellstone puts it, “belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.”