How does one prepare to be an entrepreneur?
What attributes do you need to have that will contribute the most to whether you will make it or break it?
Discipline? confidence? creativity? motivation? risk tolerance? vision? flexibility?
Yes, these are all important. But if you are starting out as a self-employed entrepreneur you may not even get to a point where your business is viable enough to really benefit from having those skills.
You may burn out before you get any traction.
If we put the soft skills like hustle, intuition for opportunity, great communication skills aside. And discard resources like having extra money or a large network to tap into, and only focus on skills that can be studied. What do we come up with?
One might argue that to be most prepared, entrepreneurs need to get a business (MBA) or a technical (engineering, computer science) degree.
But does this kind of background really prepare someone for entrepreneurship?
Given that most people jump into entrepreneurship because they have an idea for a product. You might answer yes if you are looking at it from an “I need to know how to build a product perspective”. Or from an “I need to be able to write a business plan and get some funding” perspective.
But think about it from a more practical point of view?
If you are starting out as a solopreneur, you need to be able to attract:
- Investors (if you are going after funding).
- People who can build the product (i.e. a technical team).
- People who can sell the product.
- An audience that you can convert into customers for your product and eventually turn into evangelists.
Most of what you learn in universities will only prepare you to work in established companies (i.e. for other entrepreneurs).
But based on what I’ve seen, if there was one pre-requisite skill that will skyrocket your entrepreneurship journey like no other, it is Digital Marketing.
It will help you to:
- Test out new ideas quickly.
- Figure out if there is a real demand for your product before you actually invest time and money into building it.
- Understand the customer’s journey.
- Identify traffic channels that matter most to your product.
- Drive traffic to your product from those customer acquisition channels.
- Advertise on social media and other online channels (with small budgets).
- Acquire copywriting skills that actually make people stop what they are doing to read and click on your ads.
- Build funnels that guide the prospects by the hand and turn them into paying customers.
- Discover your competitors and be able to analyze their marketing plans.
- Gain visibility for your startup through content marketing and social media tactics.
- Build a large audience (email lists and social media followers) that would buy from you whenever you have something new and valuable to offer.
- Convert casual buyers into brand advocates who buy more and encourage members of their network to do the same.
- Improve your visibility in search results.
- Implement growth hacks.
If you’re not sure of the value of all that, contrast with the entrepreneur who doesn’t know how to do any of this and ends up building a product in the dark that nobody ever hears about.
Even entrepreneurs who are aware of all this don’t know where to start and how to put together a solid marketing plan.
At best, they would hire someone to do all of the above for them who might not have any vested interest or stake in the company. The results will be nothing short of mediocre.
Digital Marketing takes a lot of time and effort to learn and get good at. But trust me when I tell you that it is the most worthwhile way to spend your time if you are really serious about making it as an entrepreneur.
Now if you’re still not convinced, think about it from the perspective of who you are trying to attract:
- Your Technical co-founders: Most technical co-founders have no clue where to start to get what they want to build in the hands of paying customers. They will be motivated to work with you (not only because you have a good idea, but because they can see a clear and workable plan of how you will get the product to be built in the hands of paying customers).
- Your investors: They will feel better because they will be convinced with solid numerical evidence that they will make their money back tenfold.
- Your audience: Not only digital marketing efforts will help you establish followers in the first place, but the fanbase it allows you to build will appreciate you because you are speaking their language and understand their problems. And you appear in front of them out of thin air because you know who they are and where to find them.
- Your customers will be warmed up and satisfied because, through your well thought of funnels, you are able to meet them at the right stages in their customer journeys.
Digital marketing skills in the hands of entrepreneurs are like superpowers and the results can be nothing short of spectacular.
Its when you combine those skills with your intuition, vision and all this other stuff that you see magic happens.
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