Introduction to Brand Strategy

I was putting together a lesson on branding, but this article from HubSpot says it so much better than I can.  The article talks about some big, well-established brands.  Your small business may not have the budget they do, but good branding doesn’t have to be expensive.  Good graphic design usually is, but the rest is about intention and follow-through.

small business marketing

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Learn the essential components of an effective brand strategy so you can set up one for your company.

Source: Introduction to Brand Strategy: 7 Essentials for a Strong Company Brand

Test Your Business Idea

What Is Business Idea Validation?modified-1744952_640

It was only a couple of years ago that I stumbled on the notion of product validation, or minimum viable product.  In the tech space it means testing your product idea before you go to the time and expense of building your product.  It’s a (comparatively) low-cost way to ask, “does anyone want this?” besides asking your mom what she thinks.

Not Just for Tech

The simpler your business idea, the simpler the validation process.  Starting simple is good.

I am sharing a couple of posts that will lead you to some great blogs on business start-ups and earning online.

From Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income

Don’t waste time and money building a product that isn’t going to sell. Here are some product idea validation strategies you can use today.

Source: 6 Ways to Validate a Product Idea Before You Waste Your Time and Money

Validation Should Be Low-Cost (or Free!)

Kurt Frankenberg at Shoestring 101 has a couple of posts about validating your business idea on Craigslist, on Fiverr, and on the three most overlooked social sites that are right to the point.

Get Off Your Tuffet

This no-frills, down and dirty advice is just the opposite of what most of us want to hear.  And by most of us, I mean me.

I’m what’s known as an information seeker.  I think I can study something to death and it will magically happen.  It’s one of the things that has made me a good teacher, but waiting until you think you know enough can be paralyzing.

These validation methods are simple enough for anyone to try without needing a lot of technical expertise.  And they’re a good test of hustle, the one indispensable ingredient for any business.

Check out these links, plus my article on testing your idea, all completely opposite the usual BS of writing a business plan.

Burn Your Business Plan

Write a business plan.  Or not.

start a business after 50

Every time I see the recommendation to entrepreneurs to write a business plan, I am overcome with weariness.  Business plans suck all the energy and enthusiasm out of your idea and require weeks (if not months) of work–time that would be better spent testing and refining a possible product.  They may be based on solid research, but without first-hand market feedback, a business plan is a work of fiction.  And it doesn’t really tell you if your idea is any good.

In the words of lean start-up guru Ash Maurya, “Life’s too short to build something nobody wants.”

Do This Instead

Unless you need a business plan to present to bankers or investors, there is a better use of your time, one that is a more direct way to refine your business idea.  By borrowing the fast prototyping model from the tech industry, you will gain first-hand market knowledge that is invaluable.

The process is described in the following series of short videos from Business Town:

Turning Your Idea Into a Business :  Get focussed by boiling your idea down to one sentence that says what you do, how you do it, and for whom you do it.

Cheap and Fast Market Validation Tools  Thanks to the interwebs, you can inexpensively test a product idea.

The Prototype Development Cycle:  If you want to sell a product, you need to have something to show people.  Here are some ideas how to achieve that.

How to Prototype a Service:  No product?  No problem!  Tips for creating a professional appearance for your business, even if you’re just starting out.

Small Business Ideas for Retirees

Over 50 and thinking of starting a small business?  I bet you’ve been googling, “what business should I start?”  I’ve tried it, and as a result I’m not a fan of lists that tout the “Top Ten Businesses You Should Start NOW.”   I think they’re too general, and written by journalists, not people who have actually started businesses.

Small business people using laption

Small business using laptop,

But I liked this list from Business News Daily  aimed at over-50’s.  It has realistic advice about using your existing skills and experience. 

Be Creative?!? Please…
I don’t love the final tidbit to “be creative.”  Otherwise, I think it encourages retirees to claim their expertise and knowledge.

One Caveat
It’s good advice, although I don’t know the alleged experts they mention, nor the books written by them.

Another Viewpoint

Here’s a list of suggestions from readers, from Retired Brains (I love the name!).  They are real life, easy-to-start businesses that draw on real-life skills and experience.

Answer These Three Questions

A recent blog post by Leigh Johnson, of She Loves Life Over 50, caught my eye.  Johnson has a career in recruitment, and has learned to read people pretty well.  Johnson suggests answering three questions when considering a job.  I think the advice applies equally well to starting a business.

  1. What energizes you?  Choose a business that will optimize your time doing these things.
  2. What is effortless for you?  This can be the gift you use to provide exceptional service.
  3. What do you need to be most effective?  This can be anything from dedicated studio space to a mastermind group to outsourcing the onerous chores that free up your energy and creativity.

Read her post here.


Business Myths Deflated

I’ve enjoyed Bob Adams’ BusinessTown site for years–I thought it full of well-written, practical business advice.  The site now features lots of videos by both Adams and industry experts.

Here’s one I really like, that applies to anyone contemplating a business start-up.  Adams’ style is so rapid-fire that he may be off-putting for some, but the information is solid, and he speaks from a long career as an entrepreneur.

5 Myths about Starting Your Own Business


Starting a Business: The Only Two Things Your Really Must Do

You don’t need a business plan, or twelve social media platforms, or a loan.  Not really.  All you really need to remember are two things:

I.  Meet a need or solve a problem (for people who can pay you).

That’s why customers are willing to part with their hard-earned money—you’re solving a problem for them, or meeting a need.  Notice that I didn’t say do what you love to do and people will, of course, pay you.  Your customers don’t care about what you love.  They care about themselves.  We’re all like that.

You’ve all seen the exercises where you list your skills, experiences, dreams, messages channeled from your spirit guides, etc. and then massage all that into a business Idea.  That’s great, but I think a better way is to look at those lists and ask yourself how you can help others.  Asking yourself how and where you can serve may smack of joining a religious order, but that mindset will take you a long way when we get around to talking about customer service.

Problems are self-explanatory, but needs seem a little harder to define.  Some people need a Ferrari.  That’s because needs go beyond food, shelter and clothing.  We have needs for belonging, status, love, enjoyment, entertainment.  Meeting any one of these needs can be a business.

Also notice I said, “customers.”  These have to be people who can pay you.  A food bank solves a problem, but the people going there aren’t customers.  Your customers don’t have to be billionaires, but they do need to have some money to spend, and there have to be enough of them.  Define your customer.

And while you’re looking, look for your niche—something you can specialize in.  Don’t think that just because something is easy for you, it’s easy for everyone.  So easy that no one would pay you for it—those are probably your most valuable skills.

II.  Spend less than you make.

You can be profitable and still go broke—by running out of cash.  Watch your equipment purchases, deposits–anything that requires a cash outlay. 

Yeah, yeah, there’s marketing and operations and the rest.  But if you ignore these two rules, all that other stuff won’t matter.