Over the course of my 20 years in business, I've essentially built 3 companies. Two of them were financial advisory practices, and in one case I completely started over in a new city with a new firm. In 2009 I launched Wired Advisor, a digital marketing company in the financial advisory industry.
I've learned a lot of lessons along the way and have had some great mentors.
I believe that in this social, cloud-based world that we're living in today there is an incredible window of opportunity to build something amazing. Carving out your niche, claiming your space, and applying the 7 rules below can help you succeed and take advantage of this opportunity!
7 Rules for Business Success in a Wired World
1. Invest in yourself
As a financial advisor for much of my career, I had some pretty great mentors who preached about the idea of investing in yourself. I've always been able to justify the investment to look my best…or to look the part. Whether you've “arrived” or not, it's so important to invest in yourself and put your best foot forward with whatever you do. First impressions are everything.
If I had listened to most people during my career as a wealth advisor, I would have never left Corporate America. The truth is that there is no security in the corporate world anymore, and in many cases, there is no ownership. If you want to build equity from your blood, sweat, and tears, you need to build your own company!
To be successful as an entrepreneur, you must first believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself you will have the confidence to invest in yourself.
When I contemplated the potential ROI of leaving assets liquid or even invested in stocks versus investing that capital in my own business growth, I realized that I could quadruple that return by funding my business growth. Do the math, and contemplate your worst case scenario. Ask yourself, “what's the worst thing that can happen if I fail?” I decided my worst case scenario really wasn't that bad. This alleviates fear.
2. Take Care of Your Clients
If you align your interests with your clients' interests, you will always be successful. This requires listening to your clients to understand what their needs and objectives are, and being willing to pivot your business to meet their expectations.
Initially when launching my company I attempted to push the model that I thought would be most valuable, but over time that model has pivoted to better serve the client. If you're unwilling to change what you are doing in midstream, you won't be successful in a wired world. Things just move too fast. Someone who understands these 7 rules will come in and offer a better solution quickly and efficiently!
Businesses that focus on developing and strengthening relationships with clients will create loyalty and referral opportunities that lead to business growth!
3. Embrace and Adopt New Technologies
The cloud has completely changed the business landscape forever. It was once incredibly expensive to have physical servers in house, phone systems, software, call/support centers, and even talented employees! Today, there are some amazing low cost “Software as a Service” platforms that can run your entire business from soup to nuts…in the cloud. My business would not exist without the cloud, and without the courage to be an early adopter of cloud-based software and platforms!
In order to make these platforms work for you, you must either learn them yourself or hire someone who understands how to set up and implement your “cloud” system.
Some of the tools we use are:
- WordPress – Our Content Management System of choice
- WPEngine – Website and blog site hosting (for our sites and client sites)
- Google Apps – Email, calendar, docs
- 37 Signals – Project and client management
- Zendesk – Client service and support
- Meeting Burner – (affiliate link) Online client meetings that require no software installs by the client!
- Grasshopper – Phones
- Infusionsoft – Email nurturing and marketing automation
- Hubspot – (affiliate link) Web analytics and lead monitoring
Additionally, you can get extremely creative with building a powerful team of full time, part time, and contract employees. Sourcing and retaining the right talent will always be a challenge, but if you focus on building relationships and offering career paths, you can build a successful team to support your business.
4. Build a Powerful Content Portfolio
The key to winning business in a wired world is great content. You have to define your target market, understand the pain points and concerns, and use your content to educate, motivate, and inspire them to action!
Your content portfolio should include a blog, social media channels, and an email marketing program.
Your content should be easy to consume on any device (formatting and length is really important).
Your content can be created and published in a media format you are comfortable with: articles/ebooks/white papers, digital books, videos, podcasts, images, slideshow presentations. Go with your strengths here. If you're a good writer, write. If you love being in front of the camera, use video as your medium.
Content requires a commitment and discipline. Ideally you should spend some time writing and publishing everyday for your platform.
Content is what will drive your visibility and attract qualified leads into your business. My company has been built on content. I can essentially estimate the number of leads that will come through based on my business publishing efforts each month, as well as how many of those leads will ultimately become clients. If I'm not publishing, I'm not growing.
If you know these numbers, you will know how to achieve your business growth hurdles!
5. Get Active in Social Media
Real time communications combined with rich online and mobile experiences through social media make it the most killer opportunity that we've ever seen for building influence.
The myth is that social media is simple and free. It's quite the contrary. Social media is somewhat complex (there are tools and rules), and extremely time consuming if you don't engage with intent, focus, and discipline.
The key to driving business with social media is utilizing your unique content (#4) to teach, lead, and inspire your targeted community so that they will ultimately buy from you. However, you should not use social media solely as a distribution channel for your content. There is incredible value in listening, engaging, and empowering your social media connections.
Social media offers virtual, perpetual networking opportunities 24/7 and on the go. Use it to grow your influence, and be human and personable. Be a virtual leader!
6. Have Something to Sell
You can't work for free (forever), and your knowledge does have value. It's up to you to determine the value of what you provide and very important to get clear on the benefits you can and will deliver to clients.
I see so many individuals and firms trying to build a brand on FREE, but this is a very tough road. At the end of the day, the right clients will pay for the right help. This is why it's so important to define who your target clients are and completely understand and solve for their needs and concerns.
I was fortunate to learn early on that price is equivalent to the value of the experience. I worked for one of the most expensive full-service financial institutions in the world where clients paid top rates. People pay for experiences. Experiences are defined by relationships. (Remember #2; Take Care of Your Clients)
Service your prospects as if they were already clients. Show them what it would be like to work with you.
Don't undervalue your worth. There is a perception that if something is priced at a premium, it must be worth it. However, you have to deliver on this if you're going to charge premium prices.
7. Outwork Your Competition
If you haven't seen Oprah's Master Class with Ted Turner, you are missing a real treat. This is a segment that a friend told me about and WOW, there were some great nuggets in the show and I encourage any entrepreneur or business person to watch it. What stood out to me the most is that Ted Turner was the little guy who outworked and thus, outsmarted his competition…the big tv networks that resisted change.
Ted saw and took advantage of this opportunity because he researched, studied, and outworked anyone else in the industry. This parallels much of what is happening today with new savvy, nimble companies displacing big traditional companies!
Positioning your company as an online media resource for your target markets is really the same concept on a smaller scale.
Many people have great ideas, but very few are doers. Commit to executing and outwork everybody else!
I hope you enjoyed these 7 Rules for Business Success in a Wired World. If you did, please let me know your thoughts in the comments and share it with your followers!