Entrepreneurs: Be Different

[NOTE: This post continues a series exploring the topic of entrepreneurship. While my focus has and will continue to be on Facebook ads, I have plenty to share about what I’ve learned while building my business.]

As I pause to look back at more than five years on my own as an entrepreneur, I’m struck by how clear things appear now. How naive I once was.

It’s not that I know it all now, by any means. Far from that. But as I reflect, there are common themes to how and why my business took off — and why others do as well.

Being “different” is ultimately about listening to your conscience. It’s about being brave enough to be yourself. It’s about being willing to do something in a particular way, even if it’s always been done another way.

Understand that a portion of this relates specifically to my niche, social entrepreneurship or info marketing. I honestly have no idea what it’s called, but the type of business that relies on content, digital products and online memberships.

No matter what your field, much of this should remain applicable. Here are the seven primary reasons I’ve been able to find success while having no experience starting a business.

Teach

People are looking for answers. Whether it’s free content, a subscription or a paid product, your ability to teach can be the source of your success.

My most popular blog posts are those that detail how to do something. The most successful posts are those that break down complicated problems in a basic way.

When you teach with content, try to think of it from the most basic perspective. What does your audience already know? What do they need to know? What might be a source of confusion? How can this be simplified?

If you are looking to start a similar business based on teaching and education, I’d recommend the following approach…

First, create a list of every possible question a potential reader or customer may have about your topic.

Second, group those questions into categories of subject matter.

Every single one of those questions is a potential blog post.

The categories with a moderate number of questions within them are potential ebooks, webinars or video series.

The categories with the greatest number of questions within them are potential training programs.

This should be a dynamic list that is constantly growing and being updated. But it’s your future content plan.

Don’t Hold Back

One of the first questions I get when talking about planning out content like I do above is, “But what about crossover between free content and paid? Should I hold back?”

My answer: Absolutely not. Do not hold back. Provide so much free content that people are overwhelmed with the value and amazed that you don’t charge for it.

Technically, someone may be able to find nearly everything I cover within free webinars and even paid training programs within these pages. But that content is everywhere, scattered about.

A webinar or ebook brings it all together within one simplified, easy-to-follow guide. Particularly in the case of a single webinar, it may also be condensed and more top-level.

A training program provides structure to solving a problem. I write about the Facebook pixel throughout these pages. But if you want to master it, you may struggle to find the answers you need. My 4-week training program on the Facebook pixel exhausts everything you need to know about that topic in four step-by-step lessons.

Understand that I’m not duplicating content from a blog post to a free webinar or to a training program. I take different angles and a fresh approach in each case.

But the main thing is that I never write content, feeling that I can’t go deeper in fear that it’s something I may cover within a webinar or paid product.

Share Experiments and Results

Teach first. But I’ve found I get the most positive response when I share my own experiments and results.

Because teaching isn’t just about telling people how to do something. It’s telling them how you do it, and the kinds of results that you’ve seen.

I often like to share exactly how I create something and the results I get — sometimes good and sometimes bad. Don’t feel the need to cherry pick your results, focusing only on the good. Lessons are also learned when something doesn’t work the way you think it should.

Be Real

We’ve heard it over and over, particularly in the new socialized world of business: Be human. Be authentic. Be real.

It may be cliche at this point, but dammit… It’s true.

Granted, that “realness” may be more important for some businesses than others. But people appreciate when there are other people on the other end.

I often see businesses or websites built around a logo, lacking any human touch. No names or faces or stories. This impacts the ability to make a connection with that brand, and it also impacts trust.

Beyond having a personality in your writing, this is also where video, audio (podcasts) and webinars can help. They give your brand a heartbeat.

Take a Stand

I’ll often hear people recommend being controversial because it attracts attention. That’s contrived.

Don’t be controversial for the sake of being controversial. But feel free to take a stand when you feel your opinion isn’t the dominant voice.

Particularly in this info marketing world, I’m continuously confronted with strategies that make me feel uncomfortable. They are strategies that have long been recommended and implemented.

Just know that while the voice of opposition is quiet, that doesn’t mean you lack support. So many people feel just like you, but they aren’t confident enough to say anything. Because they, too, feel alone.

I don’t write rants quite as often as I once did, but those posts where the scariest to publish. I’d hesitate, fearing the potential backlash. Instead, I received personal thank you messages from those who have been wanting to say the same thing.

By taking a stand, you separate yourself from the rest. You begin to formulate a voice that may draw in potential customers.

Fill a Void

What is no one talking about?

What answers are difficult to find?

What solution to a problem doesn’t currently exist?

What resource is missing?

What content, product or service can you provide that isn’t currently available in the way that you can provide?

Think about ways that you can make the world better.

Be Different

All of this ultimately leads us here…

This was the most difficult for me when I got started more than five years ago. All I wanted to know was how others were doing it. How did they use their websites? What theme did they use? How did they title blog posts? What did they write about? How did they build their email list? What did they share on social media?

When I took that approach, I looked and sounded like everyone else. I blended into the background. Nothing I did was noticed.

Stop doing this. It’s okay to have inspiration. But don’t follow every step that someone else has already taken.

Don’t make your website look just like mine. Don’t use templates to make your landing pages look like 1,000 others. Don’t create the same, recycled, crappy blog titles that we’ve seen over and over again.

You will never emerge from the crowd if you don’t take risks. You will never separate yourself by looking and sounding like everyone else.

Be your imperfect self. Stand up for what you believe in. Write the way you think and talk, not the way others do.

Be unique, not because you’re intentionally being different, but because you’re not afraid to be yourself.

Build your business into something you’ll be proud of. Not a “start your own business in 30 days” template.

Your Turn

What else would you add here?

Let me know in the comments below!

Free Webinar for Entrepreneurs

I host a free webinar for entrepreneurs that focuses on lessons I learned while starting my business. You can learn more about the details of the webinar here, or simply register below…