A solo maker nowadays has to be a marketer, has to know how to make a product and has to know how to bring it to the market. A combination of skills which is rare, as well as powerful and explosive.
All this must be added the part of the product, and depending on the category it is necessary that the entrepreneur is also a programmer, a writer or have unique skills that distinguish him from everybody else.
One also needs to know in detail how to create a website, how to create a Facebook page, how to use Twitter, how to create an email sequence, details about setting up an ad campaign, and generally everything that we could group under the term “webmaster”.
It is not strictly mandatory for an entrepreneur to know all this, but if in a traditional company there are different people dedicated to each of these tasks I have listed, it is also true that this is not what this post is about. The post deals with the creation of a business where no employees exist other than you.
For any task, you can decide to hire external experts as contractors to do the job instead of doing it on your own.
However, this causes the following reflections:
- it’s a distraction because you have to look for trusted people with the right skills at a price you can afford
- you have to pay people for their work
- it becomes an endless tunnel. Technical issues will never end, and you may have to depend for a long time on an outside person who does the job you do not understand because you initially delegated too much and you do not really know how things work
- ask yourself what happens if for a technical part you’ve delegated, suddenly your referring person is no longer available
- many of these jobs should be part of your core business, which only you can manage 100%
In general, if you do not know how to do something, but you need to have it done, you will have to pay someone to do so.
In the next chapters of this post you will have a general overview of everything you need, and from there you can start to get into the details.
I was born programmer and over time I had to develop marketing knowledge for necessity. If you have more soft skills than technical ones, you can do the opposite. There is no need to be great experts, there are many tools available to make perfect websites and landing pages without having to touch a line of code.
But beware: you have to understand that everything you do not know right now - and that it is crucial to the success of your business - must be learned perfectly, to avoid the risk that your product and brand will be perceived as unmanaged, amateurish or unattractive.
Either you do it, or you’ll have to pay money to someone else to do it. So the decision is to invest the time needed to learn the techniques or to spend money to get the benefit of industry professionals.
My recommendation is to learn everything that is needed because the techniques change but the concepts are evergreen, and because you can’t delegate to others things that are the foundation of your business. And even if you decide to delegate, you can’t delegate something too vague. If you understand the subject you will know perfectly what you need, and what is superfluous or not needed at all.
Your own platform
Your platform can have different looks, may be similar to the platforms used by others, or it may be something unique, never seen before. There is no rule saying that the platform must use a particular type of software. It could be a blog, a static site, a forum.
What matters is that your platform meets some key features:
- You must have complete freedom over it
- You have to be able to contact your users whenever you want
- You must be able to extract all the data from this platform as and whenever you want
- you do not have to be at the mercy of others’ decisions
Over the last 20 years, many things have changed, but there are some constants that have not changed and we can assume they will not change for a long time.
I would like to focus on two things in particular: your website and your email list.
Your site is the operational center. Your platform, your headquarters. Everything should bring you to your site. Your Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter, your guest posts on other blogs, and the content you stream, all are tools to advertise the content of your site.
The website can be made with any technology you want, it does not matter, provided that
- it’s on a domain of your property
- you can change each detail as desired
I would not recommend creating your website on other people platforms like WordPress.com (the “hosted” version of WordPress), Blogspot, Squarespace, Tumblr, Medium.
I’m telling you to avoid managed and hosted services by others because they will limit you in the future, and in the same way as I have previously described on the platforms of others, you will be tied to decisions and changes of others.
For example, if you decide one day to add an eCommerce section to your site, with most of the listed services you can’t, you will need to host your eCommerce on another platform (eg Shopify).
Where should I build my site?
If you are a technical user you already have your own preferences, but if you’re in the early stages, go straight to WordPress.org, which unlike WordPress.com - the commercial counterpart - offers much more freedom but requires more technical knowledge to use it. This is the most common choice and you will always find someone who can help you to use it, and for whatever you need, there will be a plugin to install. While from the point of view of graphics, there is a virtually infinite choice for every kind of site.
Depending on the case, the content of the site, and its organization will vary greatly. I can’t really go too far into the details in this post, so I’ll speak in general terms.
On your site, you will have content of various types. It could be a blog, so a series of posts. You could also have a simple presentation page of yourself, or the description of the products you sell, or even an e-commerce.
Visitors may come from search engines, AdWords or Facebook advertising campaigns, or from other platforms on which you’ve placed a base, like YouTube and Pinterest. I like to think of the website as the main stronghold, and every single platform you use, of strategic locations. You will have, for example, the Facebook and Twitter and AdWords locations, whose task is to make people come to your site, each with its own peculiarities.
On your site, people will come to know you, your business, your products, and it’s crucial to push these people to join your email list.
Your email list
If you are not already familiar with the email list concept, you may be wondering why in the era of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, you still need to use an old style system like email.
In fact, an email is a fundamental tool for any online business.
Sending emails to a list of customers is not a system by which people spam, as you might be thinking, instead, it’s a system where people interested in your content or products can have more information about them, or about new products that you could provide in the future.
Email marketing is one of the most effective systems with which people are converted over time from visitors to customers, but not only: people in your list have explicitly asked to receive more information from you in the future.
This does not mean sending an email after 8 months asking them to buy your new product, but the right way to approach this is to ask yourself how you can help your customers.
Through the list you build over time loyalty customers, you create a relationship, you keep in touch. Your task with the list is to train people on the subject you are talking about, to give you anticipations about the upcoming news, but try to keep the focus on the customer rather than on you, as a person will not be in your list forever, but as long as you will be able to keep your interest high.
How do you get a person to join the list in the first place? With a small gift, called the lead magnet, which can be for example a report, a free ebook, exclusive access to premium content, an email course, or really any gift you can make that can be sent as a file.
The concept is simple, but it is crucial that the gears that make up this mechanism are calibrated to perfection and oiled regularly, nothing can be left to chance if you do not want to be amateurish in the eyes of your customers.
It’s fundamental that you offer people what they want.
The email list is considered by most online business owners as the most important asset of a business, and the only one that really is 100% yours.
The typical use of a list
Let’s make an example. This is the system that most successful blogs use: you reach their site coming from search engines or Facebook, a popup appears (more or less invasive) with the request to enter your email to have a small gift, you’ll get the gift via email and you’ll enter this cycle where you will be offered a variety of products over time.
Usually, entering the list goes into a phase called funnel. The funnel is an automated process of warming, that is, you get “heated” and brought from being a random visitor to becoming a possible customer via a series of emails.
As soon as you sign up you will receive an email, the next day you will receive another, after 3 days another one, all according to a predetermined logic. Typically, these e-mail series terminate after 7-8 emails where a story is told and in the end, you will be offered a product to purchase. If you do not buy right away, emails will continue to flow, and so until the automated sequence ends.
There are many kinds of different sequence types, and usually, people do not invent anything, but rather have well-tested systems (which you can easily recognize once you are trained).
Once this sequence is over, your email is placed in another sequence, or in the general list, which is no longer automated, but who is behind this list will send you an update email from time to time, say once a month, to make sure you don’t forget about them.
In short, the author of the list tries to sell a product but if you do not buy it, you will still remain in the list until you cancel the subscription, because in the future you could decide to buy and become a customer.
What happens if you buy the proposed product? It depends on how the list has been set, but you will generally go into a second funnel, which then proposes another more expensive product, and so on.
I use lists in a lighter way: I have ebooks as lead magnets which I provide if you accept to join my weekly email list, and I generally ask after a couple days if you liked it. If I have an “upsell” like a paid course on the topic, I mention it.
Otherwise, you are going to be added to my weekly newsletter, which is a collection of all the blog posts I write in the last 7 days.
How can you use the email list
Of course, there are several approaches to the list. Let’s see some situations that you could apply in your case.
If you sell ebook
Your users are therefore your readers. You could put a link to your site, where as the lead magnet you use a free ebook, on a topic which you know that the user is interested in. On the list, you could initially make an upsell of other ebooks you’ve already written, and then insert the person into your monthly, bi-weekly or weekly email, where you’ll publish interesting links to the topic, and from time to time promote your new ebooks.
If you sell a product
For an info product, it’s just as written above as a typical example used on blogs. Maybe as the lead magnet, you use one or more chapters, or you have a video or something else related to the subject.
If you have a software product
The list could be made by all the people who bought your software if you sell them directly, and then you have their email, or you may want to sign up for your application. You could use the list to sell updates, inform about the latest releases, cross-promote with other developers and raise awareness on new products you’ll build over time.
More lab tutorials:
- The pros of using a boring stack
- SEO for developers writing blogs
- How I prototype a Web Page
- Van life: water
- Van life: electricity
- On being a generalist
- Product / market fit
- The freedom of a product business