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I was wondering if there are some tips for how to onboard users to a platform that is free to use (but takes a commission on sales).
One way of gaining users is through exposure (marketing, landing page, etc…). But I want to personally sign-up 1,000 users in my first year, through cold calls (Facebook messaging, emails, etc..)
I have a very specific target customer, so I know exactly who I am going to reach out to. But are there tips for the best way to cold call (message) someone when you're selling?
I have an idea for how I plan on reaching out to these individuals, but I don't have a sales background, and I'm sure there are some best practices here. Any advice would be appreciated.
The story of my company, White Spider, began when I rented out the guest bedroom of my San Francisco apartment. I initially did it to make some quick cash to buy a used bike, but that weekend turned into many, and the bedroom became a mainstay on Airbnb. Eventually, I quit my high-paying job as a salesperson, and my side hustle grew into a successful design and guest management firm for vacation rental properties.
We manage hundreds of properties across multiple destination cities in the country. Today, we have the best team in the business made up of 95 percent women (this company didn’t build itself!). We chose to keep our operations completely in the U.S., instead of outsourcing to call centers. This means we pay our team members better than any of our competitors (one of the perks of being self-funded). We create wealth and new income opportunities for our clients. And, yes, it all started as a side hustle.
Below, I’m sharing a few pieces of advice that contributed to our success in the early days, helping to grow our company into the business it is today, in the hopes that these tips will help you to do the same.
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Customer experience is everything
Even in the very beginning, and arguably especially in the very beginning, creating a memorable customer experience is truly everything when building a new business.
Even when I had just a single bedroom listed on Airbnb, customer experience was a top priority. For example, considering each and every item that a guest may want and need during their stay to be comfortable—like Q-tips, tampons or makeup remover wipes. This might seem insignificant to the big picture, but in actuality, they are the big picture. Going the extra mile with details that some might consider a “nice to have” can take the customer experience from mediocre to truly memorable.
Experience is what builds your reputation, creates word-of-mouth momentum, drives referrals and keeps customers coming back for more. Further, with excellent customer service as the north star of the business, it became what we’re known for in the industry today. In fact, the clients who hire us often do so because they have the same commitment to service and know we will truly take care of the guests who stay in their homes.
Capitalize on the skills you have and surround yourself with people who have the rest
Early on, many side hustlers get burnt out because they try to do everything inside of the business. Work in your zone of genius to get your spark of an idea off the ground, then surround yourself with people who are even better than you in the areas where you are not so strong.
For example, my background was in sales, so to get started, I leveraged the skills I’d developed in my career to help build the business, such as creating relationships, communicating the value of a service and the art of follow-up and follow through.
You too likely have a few key skills that can serve as the foundation for getting started. Use those skills to create your initial success, then when you’ve built a little momentum, surround yourself with great people and help them succeed in the areas where they excel.
I promise, no one gets to the top without an incredible team of people around them (no matter what they say), so don’t feel the need to try and do everything.
Use your early successes to leapfrog
Going from one bedroom on Airbnb to managing hundreds of homes across the country, of course, didn’t happen overnight. We got there by treating every win like valuable capital that could be reinvested into the business.
Now, the most obvious form of capital is cold hard cash. While, yes, cash is important for any business, it’s not the only form of currency that can help you turn a side hustle into a full-time business.
For example, spending the time to gather customer testimonials and turning them into case studies builds your credibility. Additionally, an investment in your customer relationships compounds into repeat clients and referrals. When you’re aiming to build momentum in the beginning, no win is too small to leverage for more success.
Dare to be different
One common mistake that budding entrepreneurs often make is focusing too much on their competitors. Many spend a lot of effort on how they’ll compete with others in their industry and not enough on how they’re going to be truly different.
As a company, this has been one of our winning strategies since day one. We never wanted to compete with design firms that were creating pretty, but cookie cutter, spaces. Our approach is being bold and unique, and it has paid off in spades. Airbnb even recreated one of our designs in their corporate headquarters. The space caught their attention because we dared to be different.
Get creative to uncover how you can be truly unique in your side hustle. Perhaps there’s something that your competitors are ignoring, or you have humor on your side in an industry that’s typically very buttoned up. Whatever it is, figuring out how to be in a category of one versus how to be three percent better than your competitors will help you carve out your place in the market more easily and quickly.
Last, but certainly not least, there is one bonus piece of advice I’d like to share for anyone who is working on a side hustle right now. This year could objectively be called a dumpster fire. When times are particularly difficult, it’s important to attach the “why” for your business to what’s truly important to you.
The big why for White Spider is using our business to have a meaningful impact in the world, giving back to underserved communities, fighting social justice issues and creating opportunities for those who deserve them but might be overlooked by mainstream society. I urge you to do the same in your business. When times are tough, it will inspire you to keep moving forward.
The post Tips for Turning Your Side Hustle Into a Thriving Full-Time Business appeared first on StartupNation.
It’s easy for an entrepreneur or a CEO to feel like a leader when things are going well, but the challenge is to keep that confidence and drive in the face of economic downturns, business turnarounds, and stressful personnel situations. Working twenty hours a day, losing your cool, and falling back to a no-risk strategy are not conducive to long-term success.
I saw some practical tips for business leaders under pressure a while back in the book “The Outside the Box Executive,” by Richard Lindenmuth, a seasoned interim CEO, who has stepped in and revitalized more than his share of struggling companies. I’m convinced that his advice is equally relevant to early startups, where the challenges are legion and the path is far from clear.
I agree with Lindenmuth that emotional intelligence and stability is a must in these environments. He calls it strategic empathy, which is sincerely focusing on the individual, but always with the big picture of the business as top of mind:
- Expect anxiety on the team and deal with it directly. When things are not going well, or when the future is clouded with unknowns, expect to find people on the team who are scared and angry. You have to act quickly to communicate strategy, be the role model for calm, and stand up to outliers before the whole team becomes dysfunctional.
- Let them say no, and actively listen to team input. Of course, no leader wants to hear negative views, but it’s important to show empathy and reach everyone on an emotional level, while containing your own emotions. People need to know that it’s safe to express their opinions. Once you get beyond the negatives, most people have real contributions.
- Focus on team members who will tell it like it is. In any organization you will find people who will tell you what you want to hear, or who are fighting for their own survival. Although you must listen at every level, the best leaders look carefully for that middle ground or middle manager that can see the big picture and effectively implement change.
- Don’t send a representative in lieu of direct contact. Lack of your physical presence is read as detachment, or lack of leadership. Direct contact, to people at every level, is the best way to generate trust, respect, support, and action. A recipe for failure is assuming that you can deliver a message once, and get it passed down by subordinates.
- If you see something broken, fix it now. Decisive action inspires confidence. People’s perception of your leadership and trustworthiness is directly related to your word-action alignment and behavioral integrity. Show them what you expect, and people will follow your example. If everyone is fixing problems with confidence, the business will prosper.
- Everyone has to pull their weight in the same boat. Create an environment that encourages and rewards participation and progress, with no penalties for missteps. Define a common goal, such as improving the customer experience, and eliminate any contention between the internal towers of development, marketing, and sales.
- Practice the eight out of ten rule. Generally, out of ten ideas, eight are not usable, but that’s the only way to get to those two good ones. So welcome all suggestions and praise every attempt, which will encourage more ideas. This may also be stated as the Pareto principle, where 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the efforts.
When the business is struggling, it also makes sense to bring in outside help for a fresh perspective. This could be a peer, or independent business advisor, ideally one who has been through a similar kind of struggle in their business. The best leaders put aside their pride and emotion, and listen carefully to guidance from outside the organization.
When real change is required in business, a unilateral top-down business leadership strategy is rarely effective. Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs instead listen, learn, empathize and include everyone in the challenge. With their leadership, and everyone invested in the company’s survival, the odds of success go up dramatically. Are you ready for that really tough challenge?
Startup Professionals Musings
In my view, starting a new business has never been easier, and according to reports from the Kauffman Foundation, the numbers are here to show it. The rate of new entrepreneurs increased between 2013 and 2019, from 280 out of 100,000 to 310 out of 100,000 of the adult population. Over 600,000 new businesses were created in the last year, or over one per minute of every day.
Of course, that’s both the good news and the bad news for aspiring entrepreneurs, since it means more competition, and the business landscape is changing faster than ever. But for founders who do their homework, the cost of entry is lower and the opportunity is higher than ever. Who would not want to join the unicorns (recent startups with a current valuation of over $ 1 billion)?
Even the homework is easier, with free access to more opportunity details and competitor data on your mobile device from anywhere in the world. Excellent detailed resources are everywhere, including a classic book, “The Startup Checklist,” by serial entrepreneur and founder of the New York Angels, David S. Rose. He nails the current key startup parameters, including the following:
- Crafting a lean business plan as your road map. The days of lengthy, text-heavy, business plan documents prepared by expensive experts are behind us. Investors and partners now look only for a framework of your business essentials, within the context of your opportunity, solution, and financials. Just make sure you can fill in all the details.
- Building a minimum viable product, with customer validation. Years ago, it cost a million dollars for a new e-commerce site, one that you can now create for almost nothing with current tools and technology. Minimum viable products (MVPs) are recommended for validating the market, with iterative enhancement to quickly meet market feedback.
- Incorporating a business entity early through online services. Before you bring on partners, develop intellectual property, raise capital, or generate revenues, you need to establish an official business entity. These days you can create a C-corporation online quickly at a low cost, which will serve you well, without waiting for an outside attorney.
- Establishing your brand with interactive social media. Building your public image and presence should start even before product development, through your website, logo, and blogging. Early customer feedback will position your solution, and help you make pivots before critical time and money are lost. The cost of social media done well is low.
- Using new tools for recruiting key players and advisors. Networking no longer is primarily a face-to-face serial activity. Online “dating” assistance, including Founder Dating Playbook, StartupWeekend, and CoFoundersLab, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook, give access to the people and skills you need, without the time and cost of travel and small talk.
- Rounding out the team with employees and freelancers. With the Internet and modern video communication tools, including Skype and Google Hangout, you can find the people you need, from anywhere in the world, and sign them up quickly. Successful startup teams today have a mix of remote employees, freelancers, and contractors.
- Fundraising through online platforms and crowdfunding. Professional investors now look for startups through popular online platforms, including Gust and InvestorHunt. Non-professional investors now use crowdfunding sites, like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, for similar access. Angel groups, accelerators, and incubators are pervasive. Use them.
- Measuring progress with big data and analytics. You don’t have to be a heavily funded later stage startup to get access to “big data,” customer analytics, and metrics dashboards. Remember that early and consistent measurement is the first step leading to better control and quicker improvements. Set milestones and manage to those targets.
While these tips, and many others from experts like David Rose, may seem like common sense, it has been my experience as a startup advisor that perhaps two thirds of the startups I see are built initially on creaky foundations. Later cleanup can double your costs and risks. It’s a lot more fun to do it right the first time, making it easier for you, and tougher on your competition.
Startup Professionals Musings