I was sitting at the desk overlooking the beach. It could have been Boracy, Bali or Byron Bay.
The website traffic was looking good and the digital marketing funnel was fine tuned. The next email was scheduled, a tweet was shared and a Facebook update posted.
Welcome to digital business.
Business as we know it is being disrupted and disturbed.
Traditional industries that we knew and maybe loved are heading towards dead and buried. The taxi industry is just one. We also know what happened to Kodak and Blockbuster.
Mobile apps that allow us to connect, book and buy while sipping a coffee are just part of this revolution. Discussing and dreaming about startups that become billion dollar unicorns are musings that millennials have while sitting at a wine bar.
This is an exciting time to live but the implications are that we are just at the start of a shift that has a long way to run. This is going to unfold for the next century. Many business and marketing habits don’t quite work like they used to.
Business for humans
The constant movement of the millennials from job to job highlights a mind and culture shift. It’s not about work for work’s sake but creating a life that works for creative humans. Just being a number and cog in the machine doesn’t cut it anymore.
Work that fits with your passions, interest and lifestyle is the next challenge in human self-actualization. Maslow would be proud.
Social media has uncovered what a lot of us struggle with but don’t admit. Success envy. Someone’s success is displayed for all to see. We all want to be the next Apple, Uber or that billion dollar “Unicorn.” For most that is not going to happen.
But success isn’t just about the money. Gary Vaynerchuk touched on what a successful entrepreneur is really about. Doing what you love.
This can be done without giving up your day job or taking big risks.
The digital revolution and the social web has made it easier than any other time in history to create, build an audience and grow cash flow. But it requires re-inventing and adapting to this new eco-system that marches to a different drum.
So what are the practices and habits of a successful digital entrepreneur.
1. Digital entrepreneurs have a flexibility mindset
As we reinvent business and try to change, the foibles of the habitual human become evident.
As John Maynard Keynes said. “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” Now keep in mind this was written in the first part of the 1900’s. The pace of change today has accelerated from the era of cars to the generation of rocket ships.
Being trapped in old habits that aren’t working well anymore stops us innovating in a digital age. You need to let go of the past.
A flexibility mindset is essential.
2. Not afraid of failure
School taught us not to stick our hand up in class to answer a question unless we were right. Failure was seen as a negative. But it needs to be seen as a badge of honor. Many successful start-ups have had to change their business models several times.
Different cultures also have different attitudes to this. But being prepared to get it wrong is in the DNA of successful entrepreneurs and creatives.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
3. Develop digital hustle
“Build it and they will come” is not an option.
Getting your idea out to a noisy world requires hustle. Sales hustle and marketing hustle are part of the mix. But it’s not just about cold calling hustle or big advertising budgets. It’s calls to action across many networks and platforms.
It’s a skill that is sometimes called growth hacking. Growing your business with small budgets but smart and innovative hustle can be done.
4. Build business agility
Having an open mind is one thing but being nimble enough to pivot is another.
Large organizations that have dominated industries for a century have trouble changing direction. Big ships take time to turn. Kodak was not agile.
The successful digital entrepreneur can change that landing page, the product direction….without waiting months for the red tape that strangles many corporations.
5. Understand the importance of digital assets
In the industrial age you were defined by the number and size of your physical assets. More buildings, more land and more stock. In knowledge economies that becomes a burden. It removes flexibility and the ability to change.
Your digital assets are becoming the new treasure trove. Web traffic, email lists and your social networks are part of this mix.
6. Think global
Digital entrepreneurs have a mindset that isn’t restricted by geopolitical borders. They understand that the noise is greater but the niches are larger. Because they are global.
How many cheesemakers live in your town? Not many I would hazard a guess. How many amongst 8 billion people. Let’s think 7 figures.
Small niches yesterday that couldn’t sustain a viable business are now a business opportunity.
Yesterday’s small idea is now today’s big business.
7. Give away their ideas for free
In the past giving away any of your ideas for free was seen as foolish and dangerous.
The risk was perceived as the donation of your “intellectual property” to your competitors. Digital businesses such as Hubspot have proved this myth to be false.
Sharing your ideas builds credibility and trust.
Revealing the idea is one thing but executing it is another. The rude truth is that your ideas are not that new and your competitors already know.
8. Embrace digital marketing
The cold calling that we knew (and loved to hate) is dying out. And not too soon. Impressions were the old metric. Measureable action is the new gold data. The digital and content rich social web has given us other tools and tactics.
But many are trapped in the marketing habits of the past.
Vanity metrics that don’t have any real meaning except that someone maybe saw your brand mentioned.
9. Use the smartest minds
The old model of all your employees being on the payroll and under the same roof has started to disintegrate. Multi-million dollar businesses such as 37 Signals (the creators of the software BaseCamp) and many others have broken that model.
Tools such as Skype, Google Docs and Dropbox have provided the tools for global business. You don’t need your smartest minds to occupy a desk nearby or even your country.
It will also require you to let go of rigid policies that all people need constant supervision. It’s more about a trust economy.
10. Aren’t afraid of co-opetition
Working on your own and being independent is great but there is a problem. It takes time to scale. The social and transparent web reveals your competitors and potential partners. In the past they were hidden and buried.
Business partners that can accelerate your growth are often already dealing with your potential customers. Working with them can transform your revenue.
Co-opetition is the new black of marketing4.
11. Adopt new tools
SAAS (Software As A Service) is an acronym that sounds daunting. But it’s just software that sits on a server that gives access to evolving new tools to everyone without sending out those CD’s in a box. Make a change to the code today and it’s available to everyone tomorrow around the world.
The web has given access to cheap and often free software that was sold for $1 million just a decade ago.
The tools have changed.
It’s smart tools that leverage our time and intelligence. Digital marketing automation, segmentation and artificial intelligence. Use them before your competitors do.
12. Patient profit mindset
Big old fashioned corporates have to make a profit fast or else the new start-up division is shut down. Small digital start-ups just need to survive.
Bootstrapping while doing the day job is often done. Low risk with a big upside.
13. Welcome the velocity of change
The pace of change is mind numbing. The modern entrepreneur needs to understand that what works today may not work tomorrow. You need to think of your business as being in constant beta.
See this velocity as an opportunity to leapfrog your competitors.
14. Continuous lifetime learning
The digital world doesn’t tolerate a stagnant brain. A curious mind is essential. That first degree maybe gets you into the game. But then you need to consume knowledge and learn like a drunken sailor at a bar.
The education system as we know it is also in middle of a re-invention because it is close to broken.
We need to re-think education agility.
The industrial education system of the past was great for developing critical thinking and powering research. But it is poor and slow in getting the latest knowledge into courses. Most marketing courses are still stuck in branding 101.
Successful digital entrepreneurs don’t get trapped in ivory towers but leap into the real world. Try stuff, break rules and learn at lightning speed.
That’s where success happens today.