I’m a huge fan of not “reinventing the wheel”. So, as we close out 2012, I thought it would be a good time to check in with some of my favorite marketing experts to gather some of their valuable advice. I wanted to find out which lessons they learned the hard way so we could all avoid these same mistakes as we launch into 2013. Here are the questions I asked:
What business lesson do you wish you’d known sooner?
- What lesson would have saved you a lot of time or energy?
- How can other people take advantage of your hard-learned lesson?
What I received back were some extremely insightful and actionable responses. Enjoy their responses below and let me know in the comments which one you’ll be applying in 2013!
Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion
“I think the most important lesson in business I’ve learned is the fact that I do NOT want everyone as a client. In fact, I think the moment a business owner, blogger, etc. detaches themselves from the idea that “everyone is the right fit” and truly focuses on those persons (and products/services) that are a good fit, great things happen.
When it comes down to it, we need to be gutsy and true to ourselves. We must learn to say “no,” even when *it* appears profitable. We must understand where our greatness lies and allow that to be our compass in all decisions we make.”
Srinivas Rao, BlogcastFM
“Learn to say no to things. When you start out it’s tempting to say yes to every single opportunity that might make you money. I’m all for experimentation. But whatI I’ve found with all the people who are at the top of their game is that they are really focused. Scale down the number of projects you have but work on them every single day. This is more effective than a little bit of effort in 100 different things.”
Srini is the host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, where has interviewed over 300 bloggers, authors, and entrepreneurs.
David Frey, Marketing Blogger
“I believe the biggest business lesson that I’ve learned in the past 13 years of being an entrepreneur is that you don’t have a real business unless you have a continuity income business. As an information marketer, consultant and coach, I was always chasing after the next deal. I was only as good as my last product sale. I always woke up on the 1st of every month having to start over.
I finally realized that I didn’t have a “real” business that had “real” value. In other words, if I had to leave my business for six months, I would have come back to a drastically diminished business. That kind of business has very little value.
So I began to build a real business that had a model, which produced continuity residual income. I can’t even tell you how much I made from my first customer under this business model because I’m still making money from that person even today (after 7 years).
Today, I’m financially free. I can go and come as I please. I can vacation for three consecutive months and never skip a beat in my income. In fact, my income actually increases. I travel the world. I build schools for the children in refugee camps in Kenya and I spend more time with my family than at any time in my life. That’s why I started my own business in the first place!”
Danny Iny, FirePole Marketing
“The biggest lesson that I’ve probably learned along the way that I wish I had learned sooner is that being successful in business isn’t about coming up with the right plan, it’s about identifying the right set of assumptions and then planning on how you’re going to validate or pivot based on the fact that those assumptions may have not been correct.
So it’s not about sitting in the room and being the lone genius that comes up with this great idea. It’s about being out there in the world, seeing what’s working, getting inspired, and then recognizing that as brilliant as your inspiration might be, it’s still very, very partial and very incomplete and it may or may not work.
Therefore, it’s not about, “How am I going to do all this stuff that I’ve thought of?,” it’s more a matter of asking how I’m going to test whether the stuff that I’ve thought of is really going to work and adjust my plans and make changes based on that feedback.”
Or listen to Danny tell you himself:
Danny Iny is a prolific blogger and marketing educator at Firepole Marketing. He is the author of Engagement From Scratch (along with co-authors Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, Mitch Joel and others) as well as the Naked Marketing Manifesto.
Laura Rubenstein, Social Buzz Club
“1) Mapping out a strategic plan is critical for saving time and energy in business.
2) Unless you love the trial and error approach as much as I have in the past, you will want to set your long term goals, create appropriate milestones, develop the action plans to achieve each milestone, assign responsibilities, and have an accountability check in each week with your business team to make sure that everyone is on track.”
Or listen to Laura tell you herself:
Laura Rubinstein, Social Media and Marketing Strategist, Master Leadership Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, and co-founder of Social Buzz Club, has optimized marketing plans and developed branding strategies for more than 1,000 businesses, celebrities, speakers and authors.
Ian Brodie, Get More Clients
“#1: I think the thing that would have saved me an absolute ton of time and energy had I learned it earlier is that you don’t have to do everything or be good at everything.
I suppose that like many people I’d always succeeded by being good at everything I did. Not from natural talent mind you, but from hard work. That’s what gave me a successful corporate career. Whatever role I had, I worked hard until I was good at every element of it.
But when you run your own business your role includes everything. Suddenly trying to be good at everything that’s part of your role isn’t the route to success, it’s the route to disaster.
#2: Once you’ve hit that realisation that you don’t have to be great at everything, your biggest challenge to take advantage of that lesson is discipline.
There’s a huge temptation when you hear stories from others about their success with the latest new client winning strategy, or they tell you how they’ve gone back to basics and they’re reaping the rewards or they’re doing this that and the other. You feel you ought to be doing the same and getting the same success.
Or you get yet another guru email telling how everything’s changed and you need to buy their wonderful new course to learn how to trick google, get a flood of traffic from video or some other supposed game-changing tactic.
But keep disciplined. Don’t try to take on every shiny new object you see. Spend 80% of your time doing the things you know work. Keep your business simple and you’ll reap the rewards.”
Note: Edited down from Ian’s full input available here: Why You Can’t Do It All
Ian Brodie helps consultants coaches and other professionals to attract and win more clients through his More Clients blog.
Lee Duncan, Double Your Business Coach
“#1: For me the biggest single improvement came in my business when I began email marketing. Not the promotional, sell,sell,sell type of emails, but conversational emails where I shared information that would be useful to my potential clients.
Most people don’t buy at first contact with your business, but come across you while researching something they may buy. If you don’t follow up with them, many will never come back for another look. If you capture their email address when they visit and keep in touch with them, it gives you a chance to become trusted by them, so that when they’re ready to buy, your business will be first choice.
When I started to use email marketing, my sales doubled.
#2: The great thing about email marketing is that you can get started for free. You’ll need a service called an auto-responder, which stores a database of names and email addresses and then sends out your email messages in a sequence at pre-determined intervals. Or you can just send ad-hoc messages to the list from time to time. There’s an auto responder called MailChimp that’s completely free for your first 2,000 contacts, which is a great place to start. Just make sure you don’t send emails to anybody who hasn’t agreed to receive them.
To get started, just create something of real value for your customers to download in exchange for giving you their email address and put up a signup form on your website to start capturing visitor details. You can add other people to the mailing list manually that you meet at networking events, or who phone into your business or who walk into your store, etc.
And you never know, it might just double your business, like it did for mine.”
Lee Duncan helps the owners of small to medium businesses to double their sales in two years or less and is the author of Double Your Business: How To Break Through The Barriers To Higher Growth, Turnover And Profit by Financial Times Publishing. Find him at LeeDuncan.com.
Which Lesson Will You Apply in 2013
Okay, what did you pick up from the experts here? Which one(s) will you be applying in 2013? Let me know in the comments!