What does it take to become a successful online marketer and internet entrepreneur? All too often, we define success in terms of antiquated benchmarks drummed into us by schools, the workplace, and mass media.
The problem is that much of what made sense in the industrial era (i.e. 19th, 20thcentury) has become obsolete in today's increasingly information-based society. Face it, we work, play, and interact differently than we did a hundred, fifty and even five years ago. The rules for business have also radically changed in recent years, thanks in large measure to the internet and social media. It goes without saying that the businesses that leverage the power of the internet and social media will be the businesses that thrive; while the ones who are unwilling to change and adapt will wither away.
Also, today having a work-life balance and social responsibility is becoming increasingly important. We are seeing a trend of companies offering more vacation time, onsite amenities, and even paid days off for community service type activities.
Given the often stark contrast between traditional jobs and online entrepreneurship, why don't we look at some of these differences, and in doing so, briefly outline what it takes to succeed in today's online world? Specifically, let's look at seven things that all successful entrepreneurs do in the digital age.
These skills are good to possess if you are working for a company, and especially useful if you are looking to quit your job and start an online business.
1. Embrace Entrepreneurial Based Training and Education
It's never too early to build up your entrepreneurial DNA. This demands a life-focused attitude towards learning, as opposed to traditional, job-focused training and academics.
Read books, attend live training events and workshops, and be sure to network with other like-minded people with similar goals. In addition to networking at live events, be sure to utilize the world's largest professional networking site, LinkedIn.
Many colleges and universities are offering free access to online classes and programs and there are many sites that offer "Master Classes" on developing new skills and experiences. More and more companies are valuing skills and experience over formal education.
The bottom line is that if you constantly immerse yourself into entrepreneurial information and surround yourself with like-minded people you'll develop your entrepreneurial DNA much quicker.
2. Emphasize Problem-Solving Skills
Remember your first-grade teacher asking you what you wanted to be when you grew up? It was normal for kids (and their parents) to push towards specific occupations (e.g. doctor, lawyer, fireman, police officer, football player, etc.). However, doesn't it make more sense to define what problems you want to solve in life (e.g. a cure for cancer; build electric cars) and the skills you'll need to meet your goals?
As an entrepreneur, it's more useful to think about what problems you want to solve. When you know what problems your customers and your market are dealing with and focus on developing the solutions you'll be on a clear path to success. Note, if you're an employee; a great way to become much more valuable to your employer is to not think about what your job role is; but rather think about the problems your employer is facing and help them solve that problem.
3. Tell Your Personal Story
Although personal stories of failure, redemption, and triumph – authentic and otherwise - rule today's infotainment airwaves, don't shy away from it when building your online relationships. They improve your “know, like, and trust” factor with prospects and subscribers, enhance your reputation, and build up your business credibility.
The second most visited page on a website is typically the "About" page because people want to make a human connection. They want to know more about the people behind the company, website, and products. Leverage the power of story to develop deeper connections with your prospects, customers, and partners.
There is an adage in business that "the more you tell, the more you sell"; and telling your personal story of why you do what you do and why it's your mission and passion can go a long way toward building a bond and trust with your prospects and customers.
4. Exploit the Art of Blogging and Social Media
Writing skills will never go out of style, even as the means and devices used to present ideas in text form evolve. You should be flexible to various types of information-sharing, from the 240-word tweet to the niche-dedicated blog, to other areas in the social media universe. All that letter and report writing in grammar school indeed has intrinsic business value.
More and more people are focusing their marketing budgets on content marketing because it's a powerful way to reach people, attract an audience, tell your story (see above) and ultimately get an outcome you're looking for (sign-up, sale, connection, etc.). Blogging and social media are a great way to reach your audience and increase the bottom line.
5. Learn “Real-Life” Marketing
Marketing is a favorite topic in all the top business schools, but it takes more than book learning and the odd case study to master it. Understand the essentials of personal and business branding, as well as practical branding tools (e.g. .com website with your company name; e-books, instructional videos, newsletters, etc.).
Get out to live event, join networking groups, etc. to connect with "real life" business owners who are in the trenches every day and willing to share what's working and what's not working in their business. Even if it's in another industry you can apply a lot of their strategies and tactics to your own business.
Another opportunity is to listen to business podcasts with entrepreneurs, business owners, and thought leaders.
Finally, a big key to success is to constantly test new things and track what works. Going in with the attitude that 9 out of the 10 new things you try will fail but that one thing that succeeds can be a complete game changer to your business will prepare you for the mental fortitude you need to take your business from where you are to where you want it to be.
6. Work-Life Integration vs Work-Life Balance
In university and in the regular workplace, you are bombarded by thoughts about the so-called work-life balance. For a start-up oriented entrepreneur, this is a foreign concept because it is often impossible to divorce the “job” of building a business from other parts of your life. Therefore, embrace work-life integration like successful online marketers do, with the help of time management strategies and task delegation once you go beyond solopreneurship.
Outsource tasks like social media marketing, hire a virtual assistant, and avoid micro-managing your business as it grows. I personally don't buy into the "24/7 hustle" dogma that so many success gurus taught and believe in the importance of having a very balanced work and life balance.
Eventually, you want to be in a position where you are spending most of your time working on your business rather than in your business. This means you are focusing on bigger picture things like business strategy and innovation and not doing lower level tasks that can be outsourced or done by an employee.
7. You are a 24/7 Network!
Online entrepreneurship lends itself spectacularly to genuine networking for people who do it right. Take advantage of places like LinkedIn to meet like-minded business people who are more successful than you are – or are going through similar growing pains. The internet offers you a tremendous opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with a global audience, get your name and business out there, and manage your reputation on the internet.
Online entrepreneurship demands passion, a will to think out of the box, and ideas that translate into a viable, sustainable business. Take the time to learn from your mistakes, and keep moving towards your long-term objectives.