As an entrepreneur, I wear many hats. I’m my company’s chief accountant, salesperson, strategist and product-builder. I’m responsible for making sure that my business stays thriving six months and six years from now. It’s exhausting, scary and highly rewarding all at once.
The biggest challenge I face is that there are only 24 hours in the day. With eight hours spent sleeping, I have very little time to be everything to everyone. I’m constantly in the trenches working with my existing customers, which means that I have very little time to build marketing campaigns, guest blog and build the infrastructure that I need to keep my business growing sustainably.
The irony is that my company is a marketing company. I help other companies grow their demand generation, customer acquisition and retention programs. When it comes to my customers I’m all in, but when it comes to my own marketing operations, I need to carve out time where I can find it.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to invest in initiatives that make a lasting impact — to build marketing into my day-to-day operations and to maximize the impact of each and every moment. It’s this mindset that has helped me grow my business to more than fifty startup and enterprise clients in the last two years. It’s these skills that helped move me ahead:
The Ability to Write
The Internet makes communication more important than ever. Running a content production company, I see firsthand that companies struggle to build thought leadership within the communities they influence. That’s why, in addition to my client work, I always make time to blog about the topics that inspire me personally and professionally — to ensure that I’m always a part of the conversation and that my target audiences can find me if they Google the topics I write about. It’s this dedication that has helped me build a strong inbound sales channel. I’ve only cold-pitched one customer in my entire career.
Comfort With Ambiguity
Success in marketing comes from experimentation. Too often, budget-strapped entrepreneurs will reluctantly invest even $100 in running a test campaign because they want to know exactly how much web traffic to expect.
The fact is that with marketing, you rarely know what you’re going to get unless you run a small test first. Even more importantly, you need to run experiments continuously so that you can quickly identify opportunities for growth.
One of the reasons why I’ve been happy — and able to move forward — as an entrepreneur is that I’m extremely comfortable with ambiguity. I’m willing to take calculated risks in initiatives with outcomes that are less-than-certain. I’m open to committing small budgets to experiment with marketing campaigns, and I’m okay with generating a loss sometimes.
Some campaigns will fall flat and others will be awesome. You need to be comfortable with both scenarios.
The Ability to Focus
Successful marketing programs take time to build. It’s very easy, as a result, to become distracted. When you take the time to figure out whether something works, you might be tempted to quit, try something new or abandon your idea altogether.
Don’t give up so easily.
Focus on a few key initiatives and stick to them. You need to develop an eye for what is likely to work and what isn’t, so that you invest in the right channels instead of chasing dead ends.
An example marketing initiative is my guest posting strategy. I love writing blog posts for Entrepreneur, The Next Web, Business Insider and Forbes. But for the first few months I wasn’t quite sure that my contributions yielded the value that I wanted. But I stuck with it. At the six-month mark, I started to see some leads and feedback coming in through my contributed pieces. My credibility increased and I grew my client base. Focus was my biggest asset.
Marketing requires an understanding of the big picture and a commitment to smaller details. In addition to focusing on specific optimizations, it’s important to know why you do what you do. It’s this ability, along with these three skills, that will be your north star.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Photo credit: CC by Mark Smiciklas