Everyone wants a formula, funnel, or three-point outline for how to start, manage, and grow a successful business. And while there’s nothing wrong with a framework, the truth is that there’s nothing simple about building a successful online startup. If it were easy, everyone would be managing their own seven-figure hustle from a beachfront villa.
Instead of looking for the next great hack or shortcut, entrepreneurs should be more inquisitive about the underlying factors of business success. In other words, which foundational principles are necessary regardless of the industry, product, or timing? That’s the real question of value.
The Essential Building Blocks
Building a business isn’t as sexy as it looks in glossy magazine features. There’s a certain grittiness to the process that doesn’t get discussed. But if you want to position your startup well for the future, you need to drill down and focus on the following:
SEO for startups is one of the most important, yet overlooked topics among entrepreneurs and founders. It’s a rich, technical topic, which intimidates many people. But if you want to build an online presence, generate organic traffic, and lubricate your sales funnel, SEO is the answer.
Just how important is SEO? Consider that 75 percent of clicks go to results that are on the first page of Google. More specifically, 33 percent of clicks go to the result in the first position, 15 percent of clicks go to the result in the second position, and 9 percent go to the result in the third position. Without a sustainable SEO strategy, you don’t stand a chance.
Social media is the great equalizer. It’s the platform on which small startups are given a chance to compete with massive corporations and established brands. But you can’t give it lackluster effort and expect to generate results.
In order to put social media to use for your startup, you need to make a commitment to producing quality content and engaging with your followers. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are two-way streets that require mutual engagement. If you’re willing to commit the energy, you’ll eventually harvest loyalty.
The lifeblood of any successful digital marketing campaign is good content. Good content helps with SEO, social media, and every other element of sales and marketing. But you need to create the right content—and that means evergreen content.
“Evergreen content is the kind which never gets old,” marketer Katie Joll explains. “If you’re able to produce some good pieces, you will find they attract traffic for years to come. This means choosing topics which aren’t simply trends, because those will have an expiry.”
You should produce evergreen content regularly. In fact, it’s a good rule of thumb to produce two pieces of evergreen content per week. This will lead to more than 100 pieces of quality content each year.
It’s impossible to build a business without an audience. You need to identify a group of target customers who are facing the very problems that your business is solving. In addition to reaching these individuals and selling to them, you want to turn them into loyal followers who then push your brand out into the world via word of mouth marketing. This is how small startups become global brands.
Never Stop Learning
You don’t know nearly as much as you think.
That may sound like an insensitive or accusatory statement, but it’s true. As much as you’ve learned over the years, there’s still an infinite amount of knowledge that you haven’t accessed. The moment you think you know everything is the moment your business will begin slipping by the wayside. On the other hand, a commitment to continual learning will keep you on track. Just ask entrepreneur Bill Rinehart.
“I’ve founded and led several successful tech companies, but my latest venture is in the travel sector, a space I knew a lot about as a customer but in which I had no professional experience,” Rinehart admits. “My team and I acknowledged our lack of expertise in this new sector and sought counsel from industry veterans, learning what we needed to know to succeed. And it made a huge difference.”
There’s plenty to learn in the business world, but entrepreneurs who emphasize the foundational building blocks outlined in this article tend to see better long-term results. If you’re going to start anywhere, it might as well be here.