This is how I overcame my biggest business challenge. The content is inspired by the Office Depot Business Solutions Center as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #GearLove
Throughout the last decade, I have started a lot of businesses. Some of them worked for a certain amount of time, earning as much as $50,000 a month. Others just flopped as soon as they were started. Some put me into debt. Others carried no risk but wasted time.
The biggest challenge I had when running a business was trying to figure out how to move from offline marketing to online marketing.
I was born in 1984. I’m at the age where in school, brick and mortar business practices were taught, yet our whole economy was moving digital.
I had the skills of how to sell in person. I could market something through traditional means of marketing. I could write collateral and make it work. But figuring out how to maximize off of the digital market was one of the hardest challenges I encountered.
There was just so much to learn and understand. I saw some people get millions of views on their website. But each time I tried to get something up and running, I just couldn’t figure out how to get it to work online.
So even with the businesses that I had that were based on the Internet, I did most of my marketing and sales through offline channels, such as the phone and by mail.
To overcome this, I realized I needed to take a step back.
I decided to take a break from doing business. Instead, I indulged myself into studying resource after resource of how to maximize my efforts online. Two great sources I went to in that frame of time was a site made by my friend Neil Patel from high school, Quicksprout, and Copyblogger, a site that teaches people how to write sales copy.
For a whole year, I studied. Then in 2011, I tried to take what I learned and put it up online. After writing about three posts, I saw that no one was reading what I wrote nor could discover it. I recognized that I failed miserably at it. So I gave up and took another break.
Then in 2013, I discovered James Altucher, a bestselling author who ran hedge funds and created various multi million dollar businesses. I was at a point where I was no longer sure of what I wanted to do, so I got inspired by his content then just tried writing online on the same platform he wrote on.
Somehow, my content this time around caught on.
Within 6 months of writing, I had picked up 10,000 followers and 2 million views on my content, mostly on a site called Quora. I decided that it was time to restart a business, since I figured out how to attain the visibility. I set up my blog and laid out the blueprints of what kind of business I wanted to do and rode the wave of the momentum.
Within another year, I picked up a total of 10 million views on my content, had it featured in publications such as Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, La Times, BBC, and so forth. On Twitter, I went from 550 followers to 30,000 in eight months. I leveraged my whole social media network to help upgrade my personal network, connect with everyone I thought I needed to know and reestablished a successful business out of it all.
The costs weren’t even as abhorrent as many people may have thought it would be.
Emery Skolfield, VP of Digital Strategy & Marketing for Office Depot & OfficeMax says that the biggest mistakes that he sees small businesses make when it comes to their digital marketing is inactivity.
Emery Skolfield says, ”Many small businesses, unfortunately, feel they can’t get involved in digital marketing — that it’s something only big companies do. The reality is you don’t need a million dollars to run a social media marketing campaign or to send regular emails to your customers.”
I was always under the impression that I’d need millions of dollars to gain exposure on my own.
I thought that the guides provided online that help you gain visibility were just theory and not something that would work in practice. Yet, when I tried to practice what was preached, on the proper platforms, I achieved more success than I could ever imagine.
My total investment when setting up my blog was about $700. I asked for a lot of custom work that really wasn’t that necessary and could have got away with creating it for a lot less. I spent around $150 a month on the maintenance of my site through a virtual assistant. Plus, maybe a few hundred dollars on ads here and there. Compared to what was made, that was a drop in the bucket. Yet, even with these minimal costs, most of my visibility and growth was organic. All I really needed was time, a computer and a phone to post the content.
Nowadays, I haven’t spent much more as far as costs go. Just the cost of a GoPro camera and a few accessories (around $600) as I start to move my content into the video sphere.
Since I have been involved with so many businesses in the past, I realized something else that stuck out to me.
I invested most of my time into the company’s brands that I worked with. Yet, even though I made them recognizable brands in the past, that they were not around today. On my resume with either current or potential clients, they meant nothing.
So I decided to shift my way of building a business.
Back in 2006 when I used to do sales, I was taught to follow a specific method. It was called the ten steps of a sale. So I looked back on the ten steps of a sale and focused on the first three:
- Meet and greet.
- Sell yourself.
- Sell your company.
Something about that finally clicked. I always led with the company first. But then I thought about how much more trust I would have with my clients if they believed in me first. So I realized what I needed to do was first lead with myself.
So instead of following traditional means of branding underneath a company, I focused on personal branding and built my brand underneath my name instead. I knew for certain, that no matter what happens, as long as I’m alive, I will still be here to maintain my personal name. So instead of building my content on behalf of a company that may or may not be here tomorrow, I could build my content underneath my name instead.
Then when I am able to build trust and rapport with my audience, they will be more than happy to buy from the company that I represent.
So I guess my biggest obstacle was really two fold.
- How to get visibility and traction online.
- How to build credibility underneath my personal brand as opposed to a company brand.
For other tips on how to overcome your business challenges or get insights through a wealth of information on many topics relevant to your business, visit Office Depot Business Solutions Center and check out the expertise provided in the articles on their site.
What challenges and obstacles did you face when you started your business and how did you overcome them?