If I was starting my business from scratch, here’s what I’d do

Too many founders, creatives and consultants hemorrhage money, misuse time and waste energy in pursuit of the trappings of entrepreneurship (perceived status, freedom and control).

And when those expectations aren’t met within an often-arbitrary timeline, it can lead to discouragement, feelings of inadequacy, and ultimately abandoning your big idea altogether.

I’m too familiar with this notion. In my two years as an entrepreneur, I’ve experienced the euphoric highs and crushing lows that starting and sustaining a business can deliver.

Through it all, I’ve stayed the course. (Thanks to a loyal support squad, a willingness to invest in my personal and professional development and an audacious belief in my vision). Along the way, I’ve picked up some valuable wisdom.

And while I don’t regret any second of my journey, if I were doing it all over again I’d focus on a few key details to maximize the return on my investment.

Keep reading to discover them—then discover the three things I would do the same way again.

(1) I would launch a private community from day one.

You’re facing fierce competition for your audience’s attention, especially on social media. The temptation is to (1) rely on gimmicks, clickbait or trendy tactics to get noticed or (2) hope and pray people will be in the right place at the right time to discover your big idea.

There are obvious issues with both of these approaches. For the first, each act of bait-and-switch deception, erodes the hard-earned (and even harder-to-regain) trust of your visitors, subscribers and customers. Also: Running a business is too expensive to cross your fingers and wishing for your perfect scenarios to go according to plan.

Instead, give your audience a private place to hang out. Somewhere to connect with other like-minded peeps. And to share ideas. And get access to your expertise. And provide feedback on current and upcoming projects.

Facebook and Slack groups are the common and inexpensive solution. But I’m also a fan of membership communities that provide an exclusive hybrid experience where members can not only create connection through forums and one-on-one messaging, but also get access to resources that aren’t available anywhere else.

Had I invested in community from the beginning, I would have spent less money on traffic for my launches and campaigns because I could have already had an engaged group of prospects to promote my products and services to.

Heads up: Speaking of private communities, By Michael Todd is launching one soon. It’s called The Recovering Perfectionist’s Society. Go here to be the first to know when TRPS goes live.

(2) I would begin every project with a hypothesis, not a goal.

It sounds reasonable enough: Set a measurable goal before you develop a product or service or launch a campaign or promotion.

If you meet or exceed it, then the project was successful! If you don’t, then that means it’s a failure.

Too bad business isn’t always that black and white. There are too many shades of gray that demand you narrow your focus to really see why something worked or didn’t work.

Here’s what I would do instead: Begin with a hypothesis or a theory that can be confirmed or disproven.

That way you can set ambitious and responsible goals that are rooted in data not just pie-in-the-sky goals that some guru told you were important.

Examples of hypotheses include:

  • More subscribers will convert to customers if I send sales emails at 3 PM instead of 11 AM, more subscribers will convert to customers.
  • My bounce rate will decrease if I remove the floating pop-up on my homepage
  • My average sale price will double if I add two upsells to my evergreen funnel

The goals are the same: To increase customers, time on site and revenue. But when you involve a hypothesis, there’s an actual data point you can connect the result to (email send times, landing pages with vs. without pop-ups and revenue as it relates to the number of offers a customer receives, etc.).

Be warned: You will be wrong. The data is often smarter than your brain. So acknowledge it when your ego would suggest you ignore it. And adjust accordingly.

(3) I would introduce a productized service as a premium alternative.

When I started my business, I had one offer. And it was for a done-for-you premium service that started in the four-figure price range.

But the problem with this was the feast-or-famine reality I lived with for an entire year. It went something like this: If I secured a project, I was picking up the tab at brunch. If not, it was a struggle to scrounge up enough change for a single subway ride.

I seriously couldn’t crack the code on why some months were profitable but most left me in the red. And maybe like you, I thought I just needed to “hustle” more. To “do the work.” To “trust that process.” And whatever other lame-ass empty clichés some random is posting to Twitter right now.

So what did I do? I doubled-down on all the shit that already had me on the verge of serious burnout. I attended more networking events. I wrote more blog posts. I cold-emailed more potential leads. Still no uptick in client bookings.

What would I do now though? I’d turn that premium offer into a productized service.

Productized services sound fancier than they actually are.

Here’s how it works: You take your premium service and package it into a predictable, process-driven model you can offer at scale.

So in my case: My premium offer is planning and writing sales experiences for individuals, teams and organizations. If that’s too much a financial or trust commitment for someone to make, they can invest in the customizable strategy to execute internally.

This way it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. No more feast or famine. Way more consistent revenue.

(4) I would realize the profit potential of a digital product suite.

If the health of your business relies on you exchanging your time for someone else’s money, prepare to make several trips to the Entrepreneur Emergency Room.

It’s a death trap. Because it means the only you can create revenue is if you’re actually working.

And even if you’re attracting four-, five- and six-figure projects, you won’t have time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. That’s no fun.

I spent the early months of my business wearing invisible chains to a desk churning out content and copy for campaigns while my friends traveled, explored all that New York City has to offer and binge-watched the latest Netflix viral sensation.

What I didn’t know then is that passive income was the key to unlock those invisible chains. And to create passive income, I needed a digital product suite.

Now I sell premium resources like online courses and digital downloads on demand to help founders, creatives and consultants start new businesses, launch products or services, or grow their existing brands. (I also use digital products as freebies to grow my email list and for open-ended or “evergreen” offers to new subscribers.) It’s the ultimate win-win: Customers get to learn and implement at their own pace; I can create one product once and offer it forever.

The only bummer? I didn’t know to do so sooner.

You can develop your own digital product suite too. Create a set of branded templates (or invest in a designer to create ‘em for you!). Then plug your systems, processes and techniques into actionable checklists, guides, trainings and more. Upload them to a digital storefront like Podia, set your price and you’re good to go.

Disclaimer: If you choose to sign up, I’ll get a commission from Podia. But I don’t promote other people’s products if I don’t love them as much as my own.

(5) I would give people more chances to achieve their desired outcome.

There are several forces of resistance you’ll probably face from prospects before they dash off their credit card details or PayPal info. I call these forces Little Giants because they’re those popular opinions or tightly held beliefs that disempower prospects to take action towards their desired outcome.

A couple of LGs you’ll no-doubt run into:

  • I don’t have enough time.
  • I don’t have enough money.
  • It won’t work for me.
  • I don’t believe you.
  • I don’t need it.

And the burden is on you—not the prospect—to conquer those Little Giants (or empower prospects to do so themselves).

Here’s why: People are activated by messages that connect to their Little Giant. So if my Little Giant is time and your message

That’s why you should have a message to conquer every Little Giant. As a result, each prospect can identify with what’s holding them back and see that their breakthrough is on the other side of the buy button.

This mindset shift is major. Because when I started my business, I was afraid of coming off as too sales-y. Like all I was in it for was the money. So I wrote one email or Facebook post or Tweet and left it at that.

What a rookie mistake.

Now I craft a specific message to defeat every Little Giant and send to prospects until they buy or “die” (unsubscribe or unfollow).

Don’t half-ass your sales messages. If you aren’t confident enough to sell, they won’t be confident enough to buy.

Heads up: COPYWRITING By Michael Todd, a done-in-a-day training can show you how to turn unmemorable sales messages into energetic (profit-boosting) sales copy–even if you’re not a writer!

Here’s what I would do the same way again…

Real talk: I’d definitely be out of business if it weren’t for these three decisions:

Develop a signature system

A signature system is your framework, methodology or process that your product or service is built on. It’s what you get when you combine your knowledge, expertise, strategies and techniques into one clear and cohesive package.

Signature systems position you as an expert in your industry. If your community views you as a replaceable, your crash and burn. But your system gives you credibility and keeps you top of mind with your ideal audience.

My signature system is called The Alphabet Framework. It’s a four-step strategy to help individuals, teams and organizations get noticed and paid with their big idea. Each step starts with one of the first four letters of the alphabet: Attract, Build, Convince, Deliver.

Heads up: Want to create your own signature system? I wrote an article to remove the guesswork for you.

Optimize my website to collect email addresses

My website has two goals: (1) switching visitors into subscribers and (2) switching subscribers into customers.

So my entire website focuses on convincing a visitor to exchange their email address for a free piece of valuable content. (I call it a “spark” because it’s the starting point of my entire sales experience.)

Once they’re on my list, I can tag and segment them based on their behavior, interests and role. Which means I can send them the right message at the right time.

I own my website and email list. But platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Periscope are rented property. And the landlords change their algorithms and policies whenever they feel like it and don’t care what we think about it.

Instead of using social media as my main marketing hub, it’s a distribution center for me to share content that drives my audience to my site and email list—the digital real estate I own.

Heads up: If you’re looking to buy your own digital real estate, may I suggest Convertkit? It’s the email marketing software I use every single day at By Michael Todd. I’ve tried several tools, but Convertkit rises to the top because of its simplicity.

Disclaimer: If you choose to sign up, I’ll get a commission from Convertkit. But I don’t promote other people’s products if I don’t love them as much as my own.

Invest in content

I have a background in content creation and storytelling. And that’s served me as an entrepreneur. Because it’s helped me define my own voice in a crowded space. But it’s also given me a way to engage with my audience until they’re ready to buy a product or book a service.

Consider this: For every 100 subscribers that joins your list, only three will be immediately motivated and ready to buy upon exposure to your sales message. Seven will be “open to buying” and 30 will be “interested but not right now.”

Content is what keeps your prospects “warm” or engaged so your business is top of mind when they’re ready to make a decision.

Most weeks, I email my community at least one piece of actionable content they can apply to their business or brand ASAP.

I suggest you do the same too. Here’s how: Choose a platform (written, audio or video) and share everything you know about your area of expertise. Seriously! It’s that simple.

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