Priming the pump: The hardest part of new business startups
My good friend and fellow business-starter Bill told me the other day that for him, the hardest part of starting a new business was… getting started. By that he meant doing all the things it takes to “prime the pump” of a new business to get things flowing from a standstill.
I immediately launched into quoting Goethe:
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated.
Begin it, and the work will be completed!
I thought I nailed it. But Bill promptly asked me to get real and suggested I give my ardent readers some actual advice on how to get started, not poetry.
His probing questions inspired me to launch an occasional series of articles called “Priming the Pump,” focused on moving from Zero to Something.
This is my inaugural entry.
7 reasons not to start a new business
My online business exists to help budding entrepreneurs, founders and freelancers start a new business using content marketing.
So, have you started content marketing yet? If not, why not? What part of getting going is giving you pause?
Chances are you’ve got your… um, reasons.
Okay, let’s just call them excuses, because there’s no reason you can’t overcome these hesitations when it comes to content marketing for a new business.
Your favorite (but lame) excuse is likely to be one of these seven.
1. I don’t know enough about my topic to start
Do you feel like you need to be an expert before you start talking about your new business topic? Are you afraid you’ll look foolish and uninformed?
Well, join the club.
The world is full of people who know more than you… and less than you. But your role as a content marketer isn’t to know more than anyone else. Instead it’s to help others learn about your topic, form a basis for trust and develop a potential new business relationship.
One way to do this from the get-go is to “learn out loud:” Start from wherever you’re at in your topic knowledge, then share your learning with others as you explore your interests further.
Share your questions, and the answers you discover.
Share your successes. Share your failures.
Share what keeps you up at night and the passion that gets you up in the morning.
Share your “Ah ha!” moments and your “Huh?” moments.
Share what others have discovered, and what you think about those ideas.
Learning out loud is an authentic, engaging approach to information exchange… also known as content marketing. Your audience will identify with you and your topic. You’ll build credibility.
And that’s a sound foundation for any new business.
2. My product’s not perfect yet
Many people feel they’ve got to create a strong, robust product before starting to market a new business. Horse feathers!
I’m going to spout some quotes again to address this common excuse:
Don’t find customers for your products. Find products for your customers.
Seth Godin, best-selling author
If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Co-Founder
I think the core of these two ideas is that your customers are going to tell you what the perfect product should be, not you.
The only way to get that kind of feedback is to get out there, offer something (even if it’s just an idea) and then listen.
Instead of striving for perfection – and never getting started – use the concept of MVP: Minimally Viable Product.
What’s the absolute least you can offer to begin addressing a business or consumer problem?
From there, what features and functions do your customers ask for most?
The MVP approach gets content marketing conversations started much sooner. It helps you avoid investing heavily in product development, only to have your audience tell you they were looking for something else or aren’t even interested. And it uses interactive marketing to build your new business development plan. Cool!
3. I don’t know what to write about
Even if you have a solid new business topic identified, it can be daunting to know what to put on a blank page when it comes time to write. This is one of the most common questions – and excuses – from content marketing beginners, and it keeps many from starting at all.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but don’t write about your new business solution when you’re Priming the Pump. That doesn’t build trust, a connection or even interest on the part of your audience.
Instead write about the pains, business issues, personal needs and wants for each persona you’re trying to reach. Help them name their pain, understand it and relate it to others who’re feeling the same way.
Organize the knowledge you already have, and build an outline of categories, sub-categories, anecdotes and examples. Then enrich that set of writing topics with your own questions and wonderings, as well as those you hear from customers and prospects.
Finally, write about things that others in your industry have written about, but in your own words and with your own unique perspective.
4. I don’t have time to do content marketing well
It’s true that content marketing can consume a fair amount of time.
But doing it well is a matter of doing the right things in the right order, not the time you spend.
I recommend that you start with focus on your topic definition and value proposition. Then, aim your ideas at the right audience. Once those steps are in place, you’ll have a solid basis to create content, convert viewers to buyers and enhance your campaigns for efficiency.
Follow these five stages in this order, and you’ll do content marketing well. Jump around or skip steps, and your excuse will become reality.
5. I don’t have an email list yet
Which comes first: your content or your list?
The answer is: both.
One of the first things you need to do to get started in content marketing is to build an email list. And the first piece of content you’re going to create is a brief description of your topic.
Doing both of these tasks up front is an example of “doing the right things in the right order.” By describing your topic and asking friends, family and colleagues if they’re interested in learning more about that topic, you can begin to build a qualified email list. And you can do this even before you have a website, a blog or a product.
I did exactly that when I started my Content Marketing Startup business in early 2017. In a few days I had a list of emails for 100 interested people.
To go from 100 to 1000 will take some additional tactics. But successful techniques have been outlined and proven by a number of marketing experts, so it can be done.
6. I’m busy with other things
Sorry, dear reader, but this one’s on you.
If you have a goal to start a new business, there’s only one person standing in your way: yourself.
Busy with other things? Then starting that business isn’t a priority for you.
Already committed to other work? Better look at your own commitment to your new business idea.
Not sure you want to work that hard? Maybe you’re not the new business type.
I know this sounds like a lecture or a sermon. But tough choices, commitment and hard work are the dues entrepreneurs pay to pursue their dreams.
You can do this. You’ve just got to start. (Cue Goethe quote and motivational music.)
7. Others are already writing about my topic
This last one hits home for me, because it almost kept me from getting started.
There are already countless blogs about content marketing including some very good ones (and some very bad ones). The only way I’m going to succeed with mine (and the only way you’ll succeed with marketing your topic) is to do it better!
You don’t have to know more, but you do need to teach better.
You don’t have to have an established audience, but you do need to work hard at getting one.
You don’t need to cover every aspect of a big topic, but you do need to delve into a niche that you can cover deeply.
You don’t need to have the same business model, but you do need to offer value.
Look for ways to differentiate, accentuate, monetize and specialize. Those are the keys to success in a competitive market.
Don’t let excuses crush your new business
The act of starting is perhaps the most critical for your new business. Take a close, honest look at your content marketing excuses to make sure you’ve given your business every chance to succeed.
I’m pulling for you.
This article was originally published here.