Starting from Zero: Two Things You Need Start Building a Business Online
What do I do if I don't have a following? If I don't have an email list? If I don't have a website? How do I get started if I'm starting from zero? I get asked these questions all the time. I'm going to tell you the only two things you need to get started building a business online. And I'm going to share with you how I started when I wasn't an expert, and I had no following.
A lot of the gurus out there want to tell you that you should be social media and SEO. But there are only two things that you need to get started building a business online:
1. Identify your market.
2. Build an audience.
If you can identify a market and build an audience in that market, you're going to be just fine. With those two things locked down, you can eventually monetize that and make money.
Building a Business Online from Nothing
When I first started, I didn't know anyone in this industry. I had no following. I had no connections. I didn't have an email list. I didn’t have anything. I really was starting from zero.
Verticals vs. Horizontals When Building a Business Online
So how did I break free from that? First, I identified a market that I wanted to be in. When we're talking about markets, the more vertical you can make them, the better. To explain what I mean let’s take martial arts for example. “Martial arts” is a pretty broad term – that's a big market. Inside that market, there are smaller markets (or verticals) like Karate, Aikido, Jujitsu, and Judo. And the more that you narrow a market down, that’s called going vertical.
The more you widen out, that's going horizontal. And contrary to what a lot of people think, the more vertical you can go in a market, the better off you are. Don’t make the common mistake of trying to go too broad when starting to build a business online.
When you're thinking about a market you would like to go into and sell things, focus on trying to identify the vertical that best fits what you're trying to sell. It’s tougher to come up with a product or an idea, and then they try to sell that. Old-time direct marketers like Claude Hopkins and Eugene Schwartz and Gary Halbert; those guys identified the market first, and then they built products to solve problems in that market.
I followed that same approach over my career. The first market I identified was local businesses. Here in Maui, the truly local businesses was a very vertical market cause we're a tourism-based economy. A lot of local island businesses focus on tourism, but I didn't focus on all the businesses on the island. I focused on a very vertical market, the ones that were trying to serve the local customers.
Now in my online business, the same thing, when I started to put out information, products, and courses, teaching people how to do things I did them on very specific topics. Focusing on a very vertical market of people looking to do the same thing that I was currently doing – start a local agency and help local businesses with their marketing.
When you're looking at the market that you want to get into, look for that vertical that fits. Now, if you already have a skill or offering you want to monetize, you just need to look around for a market with a clear need you can fulfill. If you find a market that you think is great but you get in there and no one is putting out products or effectively monetizing products like yours in that market, don't make the mistake of thinking you found a gold mine. Go to a market where there are people actively spending. It doesn't have to be big – remember, the more vertical, the better – but the market needs to be actively spending money.
RECAP: We want to go vertical with your market, and we also want a market where things are happening. There are people in that marketplace already making money by selling things to the same market that we're going to go after if we are on the right track.
Building an Audience for Your New Online Business
Building an audience to start building a business online is one of those things that there's no real shortcut to. You need to BUILD an audience. Many people get wrapped up in monetization right out of the bat, but what you should be thinking about is how you can build your audience.
If you can build an audience, there are all kinds of ways you can monetize it. The hard part is building the audience, and the sooner you can get started on that, the better. (I’ll say this several times because I want it to stick to you that the time is now – so get started.)
How can you do that with little to no resources? Let me tell you what I did.
The first thing that I sold online, I did by building a very small audience of only 50 people. What I did was start a Facebook group around entrepreneurship, and I put it out on my personal Facebook feed. “Hey, I'm starting this group on entrepreneurship. I'd love people to come in.”
At this point, I'm a nobody. Nobody knows who I am. I've never sold a single thing or product online. Still, I rounded up 50 people who were interested in entrepreneurship to join this Facebook group. Every day I would go in there and post things about entrepreneurship and ask people questions and try to get the group engaged.
With this little audience of 50 people, I went in the group one day and said, “Hey, I do this thing where I send out this direct mail postcard, and I’m doing a live training in the group to teach them how to do it. You get the training, templates, and resources for $150.”
I got three takers, so I made $450. Then I went in and did a webinar for the training and taught them. And that was starting from zero. It got me excited about being able to generate revenue online and doing it to more than just one client at a time.
(By the way, I talked all about how I started in episode number one. If you don't know what I'm talking about in regards to direct mailers, make sure you go back and catch Episode 1 of the What’s the Secret podcast).
What are some other ways you could start today to build an audience?
I think Facebook groups are a great place to begin because you can start a Facebook group on a topic. You could see how many members you can get and ask people about what their problems are to get a pulse of a market and see how interested people are in the topic. You can do a lot of market research from a Facebook group, which is free, so I think Facebook groups are great.
You could also start a YouTube channel. And you don't have to do anything big and fancy.
You can use your phone to record the videos. Just make sure you get good lighting, start a YouTube channel to build up an audience.
You could also start a podcast. This podcast is a way to build an audience and grow my reach. Right now, I'm not really interested in monetizing this podcast. It's just a way for me to build an audience. You can start a podcast relatively inexpensively, too. There are great microphones that are inexpensive and free podcast resort recording software. Building an audience and building a list to start building a business online isn’t the most challenging thing you're ever going to do, but it does take time and effort.
The Sooner You Get Started, The Better Off You’ll Be
The sooner you can get started on building your audience, the better – even if you're not an expert. Here is what you should do now:
[ ] Identify a market that you're interested in.
[ ] Do something to start building an audience in that market.
Whether it's starting a Facebook group, YouTube channel, or podcast or building an email list, just put in the effort now to start building an audience. Even when you don't have anything to sell to your new audience, it will pay off huge down the road.
I'll leave you with this saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second-best time is today.” That's exactly how it works with building your audience and starting to build a business online.
This blog is part of the “What's the Secret” podcast. Subscribe below so you don't miss an episode.