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Build It Big: 10 Killer Tips to Solve Common Startup Problems

David Mercer
David Mercer

Starting a business comes with plenty of built-in hurdles that can hamper your progress.

It helps to have a bit of insight from someone who’s been in the startup trenches more than once.

So, if you’ve been wondering how to turn an idea into a profitable startup, or what marketing strategy will bring in new customers, these 10 tips will turn your problems into great solutions.

Related Article: 5 Mistakes That Will Sink Your Startup And How to Avoid Them

1. How Do I Turn an Idea Into a Startup?

The most important thing I learned about turning ideas into businesses is that it is absolutely vital that you are able to get the product/service to market as early as possible and test whether or not people will pay for it.

Most inventors like to tinker with their products until it's "perfect," but it often never gets there. Instead, it is far better to have a stream of revenue coming in, with paying customers, than to spend years in development without knowing whether you'll be able to sell it. The biggest factor in deciding whether your idea will succeed is whether you can build a loyal customer base and a good brand/reputation early on.

2. Why Should I Create a Business Plan?

Even if you aren't trying to find investors, or get a loan from a bank, the act of researching and completing a business plan is a worthwhile exercise.

What's nice about putting together a plan is that it helps you to focus on a few key aspects of your new business:

  1. Elevator pitch: Most startups cannot summarize their business and its value offering in under a minute. It's hard to get this right. But if you can't do it, investors and consumers won't understand what you do.
  2. Understand the market: Having a great idea is one thing, but how do you make money out of it?
  3. Planning: Often, during the course of researching a business plan you will come across things you didn't know that may lead to other opportunities or better way to do things.

Writing a business plan is an opportunity to explore your business and its market to find new and better ways to do things without risking too much time and money. Sure, there's a lot to be said for jumping in the deep end and learning to swim. But spending some time on a good business plan can help save a lot of waste time and effort, and gnashing of teeth down the line. 

3. How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

It is really important to 'know who you are pitching to'. More often than not, different people have different interests in your business, so it is important to work out what they need to hear first.

Next, if you can't summarize your business/value offering in one or two sentences (i.e. have a killer elevator pitch) then you're not going to be able to convince other people to buy/invest. It's also an indication that you don't understand your own offering well enough. Finally, you need to understand exactly what you expect to get from the pitch and be able to convince people why they should give it to you.

4. What’s the Best Way Get Inbound Links?

Influencer marketing, combined with high-quality content, has proven an extremely effective way to build high-value links. Producing great content and combining it with strong relationships that give you a platform to distribute that content is arguably the most effective way small businesses can compete with large marketing budgets.

By building relationships with people who have established communities and online platforms, you not only get links to their sites but also from their fans and followers who share that article on their own sites. And, of course, genuine editorial backlinks from people who enjoy your content will always be of greater value than paid links obtained by advertising and promotional marketing.

5. What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing will become extremely important over the course of 2016 as brands wake up to the fact that many people now consume news and content generated by individuals or sites they trust. It relies on finding influential people within a certain niche and reaching out to them to build a relationship or mutually beneficial alliance.

Influencers tend to have a much more focused following based on a mutual interest in a niche topic. This means that you are able to segment their audiences better than with large networks or traditional advertising.

Plus, influencer marketing relies on friendships and mutually beneficial alliances (instead of traditional methods that rely on paid relationships, i.e. paying a celebrity to endorse a product) so it leads to much better exposure and visibility in the long term because the relationship is not built on paid transactions.

Related Article: No Stopping Us: 9 Newbie Mistakes Your Startup Can Avoid

6. How and Why Should I Build Up My Email List?

The best single way to build a list effectively is to offer something compelling to people who see your content. For example, newsletter subscribers may be offered a free trial account to a subscription service. Or, a discount on their first purchase at the store. The logic behind offering something real in return for signing up is simple.

The whole point of your business is to get people to convert, i.e. subscribe to a paid service, or buy something, etc. Offering them something that takes them a step further down the sales funnel, means you are getting a double benefit:

  1. a new newsletter subscriber (who may potentially convert down the line)
  2. a potential customer trying out your service

The type of thing you offer will depend on your business and business model. So long as it has real value for the customer (and a dual benefit for you), it will work nicely.

7. How Do I Create Viral Content?

We have found that targeting influencers with the information they love to share is the best way to produce viral content. Top personalities and publishers are like gatekeepers who need great content to unlock their audience.

Here's a good example:

We monitored the book sales of five of the top marketing personalities using RankTracer Enterprise. From this, we found that Guy Kawasaki's book was outselling the others. We shared the data (complete with sales graphs, sales estimates, and analysis) with him and he was so delighted he told his 1.5 million followers we "made his day". This lead to a huge surge in traffic and, of course, put RankTracer Enterprise on the map.

8. How Can I Maximize Conversions?

We have found that the biggest contributor to conversion rates were, in fact, off-site factors. In other words, finding the right people and giving them the good information before they reach the website.

In terms of cost/benefits, it is far more efficient to improve the quality of traffic entering the top of the funnel than it was to play around with landing pages (of course, these still need to be well designed). Our trick is "improve customer service to ensure a positive experience and then push to get recommendations and referrals".

It works incredibly well.

9. What Should I Demand From a New Business Website?

A website is like your company's voice on the Internet. It both serves as a platform to communicate your message to the public, and to draw in new potential clients and customers.

Unfortunately, a technically good website alone is no longer enough to draw in new business. Gone are the days when a few web pages might generate heaps of valuable organic search traffic from Google. Nowadays it is also important to use a site as a content marketing platform that can both engage readers and spread your brand over social media.

A website needs to be responsive so that it can provide a fantastic user experience to the ever-growing numbers of mobile users.

Fortunately, website builders and other web development tools have done a great job of making the process of designing a new site easy and cheap even for people with little to no experience. All you need is a quick web design beginner guide to set you on the right path.

Related Article: How to Develop an Effective Organizational Structure for Your Startup

10. What Are the Pitfalls of Working From Home?

The most important part of being successful while working at home is to avoid becoming isolated. It's absolutely vital that you spend as much time as possible getting out there and interacting with people both online and offline.

Trying to build a successful home-based business without building up a strong network of connections, fans, followers and influencers is virtually impossible. Online networking, as well as face-to-face networking (i.e. attending conferences, meetups, talks, etc), are both critical parts of growing a successful work from home business.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
David Mercer
David Mercer Member
David is a tech entrepreneur and published author with books translated into over 13 languages worldwide and used as recommended reading at places like MIT. His blog, SME Pals, is a preferred free entrepreneurial resource for great universities like Duke, Emory, Boston, and Cornell and has been featured on major business sites like Entrepreneur and Business Insider.