I recently heard a statistic that continues to astound me: nearly half (49 percent to be precise) of all businesses with less than 10 employees (by far the majority of businesses in the U.S.) don’t have a Web site. I’ve heard the excuses, especially from those considering starting a business. Lots of you think there are already too many sites out there and the online world is too competitive for you to get into.
Well, I think you’re wrong, and I’m not the only one. I recently spoke to Rich Schefren, founder of Strategic Profits, a company that helps people start and grow Internet businesses. Schefren believes that, despite the competitive environment, the “massive change and uncertainty” that also exist can help to “create more entrepreneurial opportunities than practically anything else.”
Lesonsky: So how do you determine which business you should start?
Schefren: Start with the basics. Ask yourself:
- What am I really good at?
- What do I really love to do?
- What needs can I serve, or problems can I solve?
Once you know the answers to these personal questions, look for points that overlap. Armed with this information, turn your attention to the marketplace and determine if there are people already trying to solve the need or problem. You can do that with any keyword research tool. The new Google Adword tool will tell you the expected amount of searches, which is a great way to determine if there’s already a market out there looking for you.
Lesonsky: How do you stand out from the clutter?
Schefren: First, you need to develop killer information that helps your prospects and shows you really are an expert. You need to give this away for free, whether you do it on a blog, or create videos, reports, or anything else. One of the biggest impediments to selling these days is not only standing out but being trusted. And the easiest way to gain trust is to show you really know what you say you know.
Then, become active in the marketplace. Comment on the influential blogs in your space. If you blog, link to posts by others that you think are particularly good. Get engaged in the conversation of the marketplace and build your presence in your community. This way you’ll begin building the stature and the relationships that can bring you the attention of your marketplace.
Lesonsky: Everyone is hopping on the blogging bandwagon. Do you think every entrepreneur should have a blog?
Schefren: Blogs are important, but I don’t think every entrepreneur needs to have a blog just yet. However, if your business is primarily or exclusively online, more and more it’s expected. And in a competitive marketplace, the business without a blog is at a disadvantage if your competitors have them.
Lesonsky: You advise people to become “mavens in their markets,” to be a “friend and advisor” and not just a salesperson. How do you get clients to trust you?
Schefren: In addition to the suggestions I just mentioned, you do that by really understanding the concerns, frustrations, and challenges your prospects have. When you can articulate their problems better than they can, they instantly want to know more. It’s human nature to want to be understood. And when we feel understood, we become open to learning more from the person who knows what we are dealing with.
Lesonsky: Many people like to tell you what they love about being an entrepreneur. But what’s the hardest part?
Schefren: Letting go. Being willing to hand off responsibilities I actually enjoy but can’t make the time for. Ultimately, you have to figure out what your business really needs from you and do those things. Sometimes that means giving up the tasks you enjoy in exchange for the ones you enjoy less but are crucial to the growth of your business.
Lesonsky: What’s the best advice you’ve ever given someone?
Schefren: That’s a tough one. When I think about all the clients I’ve had, I’d say the best advice always seems to revolve around getting more out of what you are already doing. So many entrepreneurs barely scratch the surface of how much more money their businesses could be making if they leveraged their current activities better.
Lesonsky: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
Schefren: When I was a teenager my grandfather told me to always honor our name. At the time it didn’t seem that important, but the longer I’ve been in business, the more I realize the simplicity and power in that statement.
It’s refreshing to see that due to all the new Web 2.0 tools, reputation is becoming increasingly important. I’m sure my grandfather would have never predicted it, but that’s why it’s such great advice. Because it’s absolutely timeless.