“Entrepreneurs are often broke, and that means they’re desperate for a silver bullet to save them.”
In the past few years, I’ve immersed myself in learning as much as I could about online marketing, product and program launches, and important sales and marketing strategies for building my small business. And I’m still learning every day, as the landscape, technology and challenges change daily. Throughout this process, I’ve also met hundreds of entrepreneurs doing the same, and we’ve openly shared our respective war stories on the serious bumps and challenges we walked into blindly, not sensing the dangers that were lurking ahead.
I’ve noticed one disturbing trend: Entrepreneurs more often than not fail to ask for, embrace, or listen to important critique and advice that could have saved them thousands upon thousands of dollars and so much wasted time and energy if they’d listened. In fact, it might have saved their business from complete failure.
Why do we fail to listen to critical advice that would turn our businesses around?
I believe there are six key blocks entrepreneurs face today in asking for—and listening to—critical and beneficial business advice:
1. Entrepreneurs today are often beleaguered, overwhelmed, and exhausted, and they feel that one more piece of advice will simply put them over the edge.
2. Entrepreneurs are besieged every day online with marketing and sales “gurus” claiming to know how to improve their business, so finding the right person who can really help is very hard.
3. Entrepreneurs are often broke, and that means they’re desperate for a silver bullet to save them.
4. Entrepreneurs tend to be highly optimistic and driven, and hold onto the belief that there is a quick and easy way that they can make a million dollars fast (even as they see so many others fail).
5. Entrepreneurs by nature aren’t very good at admitting they need help, or feeling vulnerable enough to ask for it, so they don’t.
6. When entrepreneurs are failing, they tend to have a deep sense of ineptitude and a lack of worthiness, which makes them feel shame and they hide.
I’ve experienced each of these blocks myself, and know that it’s a tough place to find yourself. What’s the answer? I’ve found that if we can learn to openly invite—and walk right into—honest and open critique from people we know and have proven to us that we can trust, then our chances for success are much greater.
Here’s what to do differently:
Ask the people who buy your programs and products exactly what they think
We hear it all the time that we should be talking to our customers and clients, but how many of us do it in a deep and consistent way? The people who can tell you best about what needs to change and how to improve your business are your customers and your product/program members. Ask them via a survey, or phone call or video interview exactly they think about your product, program and service. Send out a survey that presents specific questions about their experience with your program or product, what they liked, what they didn’t, what can improved, and the experiences and benefits they received from working with you or the product. Then, really listen and take empowered, well-considered action to address their points. (Thanks to David Vox for teaching me all about surveys, and introducing me to a great survey tool, Typeform.)
Don’t just go with the cheapest local marketing “expert”
So many entrepreneurs know they need help and consulting support to market their programs, develop strong sales copy, build sales funnels, create “lead generation magnets,” conduct Facebook ads, expand their platform, etc. Sadly, they go with the cheapest form of help that’s in front of them, and that’s usually a mistake. The best advisers and consultants to hire aren’t the cheapest, but are people who have a consistent, proven track record of success in what you need done. If they can’t share specific results, data, statistics and numbers that reflect the successes they’ve had helping others like you, move on. Also, don’t go with a consultant or adviser who isn’t proven in your niche. Find someone who’s rocking it in your own area of specialization.
Think long and hard about when it’s time to launch a new product, or if it’s better to stay “horizontal”
I just listened to marketing expert Amy Porterfield’s great podcast on When is the Right Time to Add Another Product to Your Business and her advice is right on. It’s critical to your success to answer these questions:
• Should I stay with this product I’ve launched and continue to improve it, or move on?
• If my program isn’t selling as I dreamed it would, do I have realistic and appropriate expectations? How did I develop these expectations and projections (are they just “wishes?”)?
• Is my sales funnel what it needs to be for my product, or are my sales and marketing efforts the cause of the problem with my lack-luster program results?
• When I compare my program launch results to that of others in my field, do I have all the data (such as how much money they spent on advertising, the size of their reach and platform, their place in the field as a thought leader, etc.) to make an apples-to-apples comparison?
• Have I truly spent time perfecting and improving this program so that it’s at the highest level it can be, or am I bailing too soon?
• Am I falling prey to the “bright shiny object” syndrome and just getting bored?
• Have a focused on taking real steps to expand my reach, platform, and list, so I’m not launching into a vacuum?
• Finally, am I just feeling anxious and desperate for more money, so I’m going to leap to another direction when it’s the wrong move for my long-term success?
Finding the right counsel, feedback and support for your small business and opening yourself to their critique isn’t easy, but it can be the difference between great success and abject failure. The key is to listen deeply to what your customers and clients say about your business, and take it in. And find top-level supporters who are not only legitimately passionate about helping you succeed, but are willing to stand in the fire with you, if and when the trouble comes.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.
photo courtesy of WOCinTECH Chat