The second stage in the Life Cycles of Business is the Start-up Stage. The Development Stage ends and this stage begins at the point of launching your business, and generally lasts up to two years for most small businesses. For some, profits can materialize fairly quickly, especially if a strategic business plan is implemented in the first stage, you build your list quickly, there is a good network of joint venture partners and affiliates in place, money is available for marketing, and the value based service and product offers are in high demand and meet a real need in the marketplace.
However, most people do not enter the start-up stage with huge lists of potential clients, highly leveraged partnerships in place, and an abundance of funds for marketing…even if their products and services are exceptional. Even the internet has gone through its own life cycles and, unlike the development stage of internet marketing when competition was low and few regulations were in place, the third stage of online marketing, expansion, means innovation and change is rapid. The sheer numbers of sites you are competing for visibility with means your strategies must be smart and flexible, and response time quick in order to build your list and grow your business.
Ways to Build Your List
The primary focus in the start-up stage is to build your list, engage and develop a relationship with your list, and convert your list into raving fans and loyal customers by offering amazing value and solid products and services. As your products expand and your list grows, so does the cash flow. Money may ebb and flow a bit as you produce and launch new products, test new markets, try new strategies, track your progress, and build relationships with both customers and potential joint venture partners.
Here are some inexpensive ways you can build your list.
- Social Media (a great platform to build your list, deepen relationships and forge partnerships)
- E-book syndication or Kindle publishing
- Guest blogging
- Solo ads
- Forum marketing
- Joint Venture alliances online and offline (attending events is a good strategy for building JV networks)
- Content syndication
- Video marketing
- Tutorials/webinars/teleseminars (a great opportunity to create or re-purpose into products later)
- Mobile marketing
- Speaking and presenting locally (an offline strategy that can expand nationally and even globally)
Start-up Stage Challenges
I see several challenges in the start-up stage that can hinder success and growth.
- Lack of funds for sustained growth Expenses grow while cash flow is often intermittent during the early parts of the start-up stage. Projections may not be achieved right away, so having a budget, tracking costs, sales, and profits, and having a continued source of money to build your list and keep growing is critical. Often the lack of funds sabotages even the best laid plans.
- Failure to Test and Track I was surprised when it was revealed to me how few online business owners track their statistics. Perhaps they’re unsure of both how and what to track, as well as thinking it takes too much time. However, taking even 15 minutes a day to look over the most important information will save both time and money when it comes to list building and conversion in the start-up stage.
- An “I’ll Do It Myself” Mentality This can be a direct result of #1…the lack of funds, but people also tend to micro-manage what could easily and inexpensively be outsourced during this stage. Creating a mind map of what you feel you absolutely must do yourself, what could be leveraged with systems, and what could be outsourced to others is a good place to start. Reviewing that map monthly, as your revenue and list grows and new projects and ideas are implemented, will keep this tendency in check. By allowing yourself to begin the process of “letting go and letting others” be included as you build your list and grow your profits, you will develop the critical leadership and team building skills needed to serve you in the next phase of expansion where a good team is paramount in order to fulfill demand.
Start-up Stage Tips
The length and challenges of the start-up stage mean that the negativity vampires will pop up that create self-doubt, impatience, frustration, and even thoughts of quitting. Having a strong network in place that includes ongoing mentors, coaches, a mastermind group, partnerships, and the support of family and friends will be what encourages you to overcome the challenges, alerts you of key strategy shifts that may need to be implemented, and determines how quickly you move into the next stage.
Are you in the start-up stage right now? What are the things that keep you going? What challenges have come up that you have overcome or could use help with? I’d love to have you share below by leaving a comment.