Total Reading Time: 10 minutes.
Have you ever wondered why certain companies thrive and somehow overnight just catapult off to success, while others seem to just constantly be struggling and making just enough money to survive?
Throughout these years of working as a consultant and being a solopreneur, I’ve started to notice some patterns. These patterns led to a really quick list of 11 things I want to share with you that I find essential every company or brand needs in order to really survive and thrive.
These also relate to the biggest mistakes that I find brands, companies, and individuals making. It isn’t an exhaustive list, but everything in here is definitely something you really need to be aware of if you are in business at all.
#1: Social Proof and Credibility
The first thing that is extremely important is social proof and credibility. So what is social proof? Social proof is when a person or brand has engaged with other respected brands in the marketplace.
So a way for you to get social proof or credibility will be to literally to go out and create strategic partnerships with other companies and associate yourself with these other companies.
For instance, if I see that you are a friend or a colleague of Mark Cuban and you guys show up in the same YouTube video together, immediately (subconsciously) to me that means you’re also an influencer. A great book recommendation is Influence by Robert Cialdini. He is a brilliant, social scientist and psychologist based out of Arizona. This book is pivotal for marketing and influence.
#2: Beautiful, High-End Design
The second thing you need is beautiful, high-end design. I mean that across your brand overall. I believe that for one of my friends, Lewis Howes, this is one of the core things that really launched him into success.
He was doing all the right things by having really high-end beautiful design, that is the first experience people have of you, of your product, your software, your service and there is another sort of subconscious trigger that goes off in people’s minds. This again relates to the book Influence, but really, design is pivotal.
Another friend of mine who really believes this is Carter Thomas, of Blue Cloud Solutions. One of the things he told me that I personally need to do is go get really high end professional photography done and he believes that every brand needs this — anyone who is in content marketing or really putting themselves out there online should do the same.
You need to have really beautiful photos and videos and an overall beautiful design.
#3: A Place to Engage With People
You need a place to engage with people. The mistake that people make is that they try to do this across too many spectrums and too many places.
Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. All of the social media channels. Building an email list. A forum on your website.
You do not need all those things, and in reality, you really only need one in the beginning. Instead of your conversations being siloed in pockets where you are having a one-off conversation with people, you should find a way to bring everyone together.
This can also be done for offline businesses. So if you have an offline business, find a way to bring people together every so often so you can have a conversation with them, but so they can also have a conversation with each other. This way it is not just some one-way information conversation streak.
Make people come together.
#4: Crystal Clear Brand Messaging
You need crystal clear brand messaging. You need to be able to explain why you do what you do —and what you do for them — very clearly.
So why I do what I do?
I am a teacher that is here to inspire people to live self-directed, fulfilled lives. That is my mission. I don’t know where that will lead throughout my entire life, but there is a core vision there. What I do is help people identify their professional craft and create a life as a solopreneur.
You must be able to say this in one sentence right away to people: Why you do what you do and what you do for them.
It is important that it is clear because if it’s not people will easily get confused. They will not know what you do. They will not know what to tell their friends and it’s all going to fall apart.
#5: A Transparent and Authentic Story
You need a transparent and authentic story about your personal life or the company’s culture to share with people. People are attracted to authenticity, while people like Megan Macedo have committed their lives to helping people be okay with their true selves and share their unique story. There is so much BS out there, and so many people take one little success story and make that their whole story without really sharing the truth.
What was that struggle like? What was the path to this success? Who are you really?
If I had a beer with you, or if we went out and got a coffee or tea, what kind of person am I going to see behind the veil? If you are a large company, what is the culture of that company all about? What is your why, as Simon Sinek teaches?
A great example is Zappos, they have incredible values instilled by Tony Hsieh, their CEO. Or look at the social media software company, Buffer, they do an incredible job of sharing their company culture. They publish their salaries for all their employees. They talk about their mission and why they do what they do.
You have to find good examples of this in your industry and emulate them authentically — in your own unique way.
Go look at my about page as an example (no seriously, open this link and do it now). The about page story is an authentic, real example of who I am. It is quite detailed and people usually feel very connected with me after they read it.
#6: Laser Focus on One Thing
The next thing you need is laser focus. That means that you need to be able to get one thing done at a time, and understand that it is very important to only focus on that one thing in order to accomplish anything. In order to successfully navigate your entire mission you must focus on just one thing at a time.
In the book The One Thing, by Gary Keller, he talks about the “big domino” at the front. You have your purpose, you have your mission, you know where you are going and you have all these things that you want to be doing. But what is that one big domino that, if it was accomplished, would allow all the other pieces to fall over?
Do that one thing and focus on it — yes, even when it’s painful to cut everything else out.
For example, let’s say the one thing you really need to be doing is writing one blog post per week, but yet you’re distracted by….
“Should I grow my Snapchat? Should I take up more consulting? Should we hire more employees?”
Those are the distractions. If you focus on your one big thing, the rest of them will fall over. If you do that successfully, you know that it becomes easier to hire people and to move on to the next task in the list.
#7: A Clear Plan for Profit
The next thing you need is a clear plan and strategy for profit. I find that I made this mistake early on as well. We tend to place the numbers game to the side. We are focused on the wrong things and all we need to do here is lay out a financial plan for ourselves.
How are you going to get to profit and how are you going to really create positive cash flow in your business?
Too many businesses are focused on creating the best product or service and they are not thinking about cash flow, especially in Silicon Valley. This is a huge, critical ingredient to surviving and thriving.
#8: Pay Yourself First
The next thing is to pay yourself first.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that you need to invest in yourself. If you are profitable but keep the money in the bottom-line of your business and leave it there, you will always find ways to spend that money.
That money is going to get re-invested, and that is smart. You do want to take your profits and invest them back into your business.
But…it is incredibly important to invest in yourself, so pay yourself first.
This is something many great classic books and multi-millionaire entrepreneurs often talk about. They talk about the importance of paying themselves first, investing in their future, and then taking the remaining and investing it back into the business.
#9: Define a Single KPI
You need a single KPI for the year. This is a measurement, and you need to do this because what you measure can grow.
If you are not measuring your company’s efforts then you will feel scattered, and this goes back to laser focus on that one thing. An example is my friend John Corcoran, who’s key focus and KPI over the last few years has been the number of subscribers on his growing his email list.
If you look at a company like AppSumo, their flagship software SumoMe has one KPI that they are focused on — getting SumoMe installed on one billion websites (fascinating read on this here). So everyday, every month, they are backing into this one single KPI and all their efforts are focused on that one thing of just getting SumoMe installed on more websites. That is how they measure their success.
#10: Iterate and Adapt at Laser Speed
You need to iterate and adapt at laser speed. You need one outcome. The strategies constantly change and they can be optimized, but it is incredibly important that you move quickly. Iteration is another one of those Silicon Valley tech-lingo type phrases, but it simply means:
Know your outcome and where you’re going, but don’t be stuck on how you get there.
Be willing to iterate. Be willing to move and jump and change positions to still get to your one ultimate outcome.
So don’t get stuck on how you do it, but be stuck on where you are going.
#11: Get 1,000 Raving Fans
And finally, you need raving fans, ideally 1,000 of them. Kevin Kelly is the pioneering creator of this idea, and in his article 1,000 True Fans he explains it beautifully. Tim Ferris calls this the only marketing article that you need to read — and I strongly agree. I’ve personally met Kevin and discussed the idea with him. He’s a brilliant man, there is a reason why this article is such a hit.
If you grow your business to 1,000 true, raving fans — you will have met your needs and no longer need to worry about the rest in your company (unless you choose to).
So that is it, these are the 11 things. Take these seriously. I have seen these things across many different businesses, across all types of industries and I really believe that if we can master these 11 things and focus on them it will allow our brands and our companies to thrive.