The #1 Online Marketing Myth
When someone said, “marketing is a numbers game”, a lot of wannabe entrepreneurs figured that if this is true, then spamming is the way to success. Of course, they don’t think about themselves as spammers; they just send a lot of emails to people they know nothing about and post mediocre articles to A LOT of Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups. They do this because:

  1. “It’s free” (Sure, as long as you think your time is worth nothing)
  2. “If only 1% of 1% of the people who see this buy my crappy product, I’ll make $10,000 a day working from home in my underwear!” (No, it doesn’t work like that. If you spam a million people who don’t trust you, not even one of them will buy your product. And even if one does, are you aware that you’re burning bridges left and right?)

If you don’t believe me, try these two things and see what works better:

  1. The spammy way: Email 200 people the exact same message (it’ll take you about two hours to do this)
  2. Spend an hour learning about 10 companies and another hour sending them personalized messages that show that you care.

Pick an Angle
Here’s another myth: “the more people I target, the more products I’ll sell.” False. Trying to be all things to all people is the number one mistake entrepreneurs make. I’ve done with my own business until I finally figured it out. I was doing web design, SEO, social media, conversion rate optimization and affiliate marketing. My ideal client was “any company that can afford us”. So much for defining a target audience.
Since we started focusing on SEO for B2B companies, we tripled our revenue. This is why this happened:

  • We became the experts in a niche. If you’re a B2B company that needs SEO, we’ll be much more appealing to you than a company that does everything for everyone. If you break your ankle, who would you like to perform the surgery: an ankle surgeon or a general physician? I know a guy who is a lawyer AND a “social media expert”. I wouldn’t trust him managing my social media accounts or my legal issues. Would you?
  • When we focused on one thing, we could optimize our processes, lower our costs and get rid of pain-in-the-neck projects that were very time draining and not at all profitable. This gave us a lot of time to go after new clients.

It’s OK if you branch out AFTER you’ve picked your angle. For example, Voodoo Doughnuts is a donut store in Portland that is famous for having oddly-shaped donuts. That’s what they became famous for, and then they started selling coffee and other products. But if they had positioned themselves as a coffee shop, they would have been just another coffee shop in town.
Unless you do data entry or some sort of mundane work, working more doesn’t mean more progress. As an entrepreneur you need free time for a few very important things:

  • Come up with new ideas.
  • Separate yourself from your daily operations so you can see more clearly what processes need to be optimized.
  • Rest so you have more energy for the crucial moments that define your company success.

I’ll give you an example. Seven years ago I was trying to get more clients for our agency. I was calling people 10 hours a day with no success. I was really frustrated and decided to take a vacation. After a few days of not thinking about work I had a great idea: instead of calling people who have never heard about us, I was going to call a lady I knew who had the power to refer dozens of clients to us. The next few days I worked two hours a day instead of ten learning as much as I could about her. I wanted to make sure I would be extremely prepared when I called her. I came up with a list of potential objections and I rehearsed what I would say in each case.
The call went great, I got an appointment and she agreed to send us one client. We ranked them #1 on Google for all their keywords and helped them make $2M in 18 months. They were so happy that the lady who referred them to us started sending us four clients a month.
Work less, think more. A tired brain can’t help you succeed.
You Can Give Excuses or You Can Get to Work
Do these sound familiar?

  • I can’t start a business because I don’t have money.
  • I have a family, so I can’t afford to start my own business.
  • Start a business now? No way, the economy sucks!

Well, there are people starting businesses with no money every day; some bootstrap and some get funding. There are people with families who start their own businesses. And there are people making millions in a bad economy. Excuses exist to keep you in your comfort zone. You can be comfortable or you can grow; it’s your call.
Speak Up
Do you complain to your spouse about how much you hate your job? Do you complain to your friends about how much of a pain in the butt your spouse is? Do you not say anything when someone cuts you in line or talks at the movies? Speak up! Start telling people how you really feel and what you expect them to do. Don’t just put up with the crap other people give you. In order to get what you want, you have to start telling people what you want.
Do Riskier Stuff if You Want to Minimize Risk
Pretty much every first-time entrepreneur makes the same mistake. They want to do what’s proven. They’re like, “hey, Zappos has a successful business selling shoes, so I can make some money selling shoes, too, if I do what they do. All I need is 1% of the market share!” Being a Zappos copycat won’t make you Zappos. It’ll make you a fraud.
A lot of first-time entrepreneurs have boring businesses. They do the exact same thing everyone else is doing. I’ve done this myself. No wonder why I had such a hard time remaining profitable with my previous businesses. The more risk you take, the higher your chances of success are. Here are a few example of companies that did things differently and made it big:

  • Google gives away free software, from web browsers to Analytics, from Calendars to a free phone number. They make money by selling you ads.
  • Groupon started offering one great local deal a day. Simple concept. And then thousands of Groupon-wannabes tried to copy them with no success.
  • Jones Soda lets you upload your picture online and they print their soda labels with your picture on them.

If you play it safe and do what works for others, you’re screwed! Go crazy instead; that’s how you get people to talk about you.
Overnight Success Is Bullshit
We all hear the stories of startup founders who sell for millions (or billions). And we think they got it so easy. Of course they didn’t. Listen to some of the most successful entrepreneurs stories and you’ll see a bunch of people eating Ramen noodles and sleeping in couches for months. You’ll see that their first launches failed miserably and they had to pivot their products several times until they finally came up with something the market wanted.
When you start a business you need to have realistic expectations. It’ll be much harder than you think. It’ll be more expensive and it’ll take longer. But, if you’re willing to work hard and commit to it, you’ll eventually make it.
Question Everything
I never just accept the most common ways of doing things. This doesn’t mean I always do the opposite of what other people do. But I do ask myself if the way everyone else is doing something is the best way there is. Most of the times, it isn’t. Or at least, it’s not the best way for me.
Here are a few examples:

  • I dropped out of school because I could learn faster, better and more interesting things on my own. For the past 10 years I’ve been studying business and marketing, and have started four successful companies (three of which I sold). I’m not saying that college is worthless; it just wasn’t the most effective way for me to learn business concepts.
  • Every year I travel for six months. I do this because it helps me clear my mind, and when I have a clear mind I come up with great marketing ideas to promote our clients. By the way, these is where I’m writing this blog post now (Santorini Island, Greece):
  • Although my parents begged me to get a job and work hard to get promoted, I knew two things: I wanted to make a lot of money and I wanted to have free time to do whatever I wanted. And, I knew I couldn’t get either with a job. That’s why I chose entrepreneurship.

This is the road I’ve taken, which doesn’t mean it’s the right road for you. But I encourage you to challenge the status quo and come up with your own ways to do things.
Quit Being a Control Freak
I have news for you: you can’t make it big if you want to do everything yourself. You need to delegate. Yeah, I know: nobody can do things as well as you do, but who cares? Not everything needs to be perfect. In fact, 99% of your customers won’t even notice the little details that you’re hung up on. Just because you’re the best at preparing spreadsheets, it doesn’t mean that you should be doing that. You should be spending your time in the highest-revenue activities in your business. Ask yourself, “what’s the one thing I can do to grow this business?” Do that and have other people do the rest of the stuff. If you want to grow, you need to let go.
Now, let me ask you: What’s one good business lesson YOU learned in 2011?