Fast Service, Slow Audience

The Quick Start Guide to Becoming an Entrepreneur Without Money or Experience

What I’m about to tell you is nothing new, but it’s amazing how people’s eyes still light up when they suddenly “get it.”

Digital marketers in 2020 need an updated version of the “rags to riches” story. They need one that tells the real reason people evolve from being “nobodies,” instead of the fantasy version they sell on Instagram. 

You know, where all you have to do is push a few buttons on a computer and pull out cash? Yeah, me neither.

Here’s another bad twist on the rags-to-riches theme that needs to go – the pauper who performs in front of the prince usually does not immediately get the same experience and business acumen.

Some entrepreneurs have outgrown the childish, button-pushing view of online business. They understand it’s not Santa Clause.

But their glasses are still rose-colored, with the idea they can skip the entry-level work and go straight to being the elder statesman.

That’s why we’re drawing a line between selling a service and building an audience today. There are plenty of people who still get this wrong, and wonder why they can’t build an audience in a couple of weeks.

If you have a service to sell, but you’re not sure how to put it together as an idea, you might benefit from listening to this recent podcast episode.

To some extent, “service” affects whether or not you have “audience.”

With business, we lose sight of what’s very obvious in things like athletics. You can’t just “walk on and play” in the major leagues, and command their kind of audience and compensation. You have to work toward earning it.

Why Service Goes Faster Than Influence

All around you are people who are different from you. Each one has unique needs they find difficult to do by themselves. Not one is an island who can handle everything on their own.

Business legends are usually made by offering solutions to these people. You achieve success by repeatedly giving your market what they want, as opposed to what you *think* they want. You do it with customer obsession … and THEN your audience will grow.

Like an elite athlete, you have to start by playing little league, and performing on the JV squad in high school. Then you make varsity, and become one of the starters. Then you get recruited to play in college, working your way up through divisions and edging out other high performers.

It’s only after you demonstrate your ability at all those levels that you’re eligible to play in the big leagues. NOW you have the audience everyone else wants when they start.

The truth is, if you follow this progression, you really start building that audience from Day One. It just *looks* a lot smaller than a stadium filled with fans. But one day, all of a sudden, there you are: playing on the stadium field. 

For a guide on how to start this process, check out this recent podcast episode.

How to Get On the JV Squad

Even if it doesn’t pay millions right away, earning something always feels better than earning nothing. So get focused on the three simple steps you need to start your business:

  • Identify Your Skills
  • Identify People Who Need Help
  • Start Offering Help

Now, don’t walk off in a huff just yet, we all know there’s more to it than this. But just to illustrate, I’ll tell you my story, and you’ll see if you can spot these three steps in the details.

When I got fired from my restaurant job in 2010 (peace be upon the people who fired me), I went into business carrying a certain set of skills. I knew I could provide marketing skills like direct mail, website design and sales consulting.

What wasn’t so clear was how to find people who wanted those skills. But that changed when I began to notice what most marketing agencies in Hawaii do: they target the tourism industry. As well they should; our main industry is tourism. It’s the Land of Aloha.

However, there are plenty of people who call Hawaii “home,” and permanently so. Many of them own businesses that support local communities – other people who live here full-time. Not everyone here has a return air ticket.

This turned out to be my “ticket.” These businesses were, like any others, constantly trying to get more customers through their doors, or placing orders through their websites. But they lacked permanent marketing staff, or funds to afford agencies – who didn’t want their business anyway.

That gave me the idea of approaching them with a simple, inexpensive and effective tool to increase foot traffic and customer orders – a postcard. They could advertise and offer discounts to customers who brought the card when they made purchases.

I offered a low price, because I knew no one would buy if I charged the same as big Hawaiian marketing agencies.

I went door-to-door with this card, and sold out every space available on it in seven days. It was one of the most exciting times of my life. I felt something all successful entrepreneurs want to feel: I no longer needed an employer, government or anyone else to pay my bills.

I had customers.

You can hear me tell the full story by listening to this recent podcast episode.

Now, remember those steps! I started by (1) identifying my skills, which lay in marketing and web design; (2) identifying people who needed help – underserved local business owners in Hawaii; and (3) offering help, at an entry-level price that suited my “audience size.”

Of course, today, I’m blessed to command substantially higher compensation as the co-owner of Offline Sharks and a digital marketing authority with a much larger audience. But that’s because I was willing to serve, which is still the guiding principle of how we work today.

If you have similar dreams of doing great things in business … this is how they begin.

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About the Author
Tom is the host of What's the Secret podcast and co-founder of Offlinesharks.com

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