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The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

Some of my favourite excerpts…

It’s a microbusiness revolution—a way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose.

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More than anything else, value relates to emotional needs. Many business owners talk about their work in terms of the features it offers, but it’s much more powerful to talk about the benefits customers receive. A feature is descriptive; a benefit is emotional. Consider the difference in the stories we’ve looked at in the chapter thus far. The V6 Ranch helps people “escape and be someone new.” Isn’t that more powerful than just offering a horse ride? Kelly’s private classes help busy female executives prepare for their day in a quiet setting, a much more meaningful and tailor-made experience than going to the gym with hundreds of other people. We can apply the same thinking to the examples we briefly reviewed in Chapter 1. At its most basic level, we could say that Jaden Hair (founder of Steamy Kitchen) offers recipes on her website, but plenty of websites have recipes. A much stronger benefit, and the one that Jaden puts forward, is that her work helps families spend quality time making and enjoying delicious food. Similarly, Megan Hunt makes dresses, but that’s not the point: She also helps brides share in the anticipation, celebration, and memories of a perfect day. Who wouldn’t pay for that? The list below provides a contrast between features and benefits.*

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In this matrix, you’ll list your ideas in the left-hand column and then score them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Granted, the scoring will be subjective, but since we’re looking for trends, it’s OK to estimate. Score your ideas according to these criteria: Impact: Overall, how much of an impact will this project make on your business and customers? Effort: How much time and work will it take to create the project? (In this case, a lower score indicates more effort, so choose 1 for a project that requires a ton of work and 5 for a project that requires almost no work.) Profitability: Relative to the other ideas, how much money will the project bring in? Vision: How close of a fit is this project with your overall mission and vision? Rank each item on a scale of 1 to 5 and then add them up in the right-hand column. Remember, you’re looking for trends. If you have to cut one project, cut the lowest one; if you can only take on one project, proceed with the highest one.

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Almost everything that is being sold is for either a deep pain or a deep desire. For example, people buy luxury items for respect and status, but on a deeper level they want to be loved. Having something that removes pain may be more effective than realizing a desire. You need to show people how you can help remove or reduce pain.

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Let’s break down the planning process into a very simple exercise: defining the mission statement for your business (or your business idea) in 140 characters or less. That is the maximum amount of text for an update on Twitter and a good natural limit for narrowing down a concept. It may help to think of the first two characteristics of any business: a product or service and the group of people who pay for it. Put the two together and you’ve got a mission statement: We provide [product or service] for [customers]. As described in Chapter 2, it’s usually better to highlight a core benefit of your business instead of a descriptive feature. Accordingly, you can revise the statement a bit to read like this: We help [customers] do/achieve/other verb [primary benefit]. Focusing like this helps you avoid “corporate speak” and drill down to the real purpose of the business as it relates to your customers. Here are a few examples: If you have a dog-walking service, the feature is “I walk dogs.” The benefit is “I help busy owners feel at ease about their dogs when they’re not able to be with them.”

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A good launch is like a Hollywood movie: You first hear about it far in advance, then you hear more about it before the debut, then you watch as crowds of people anxiously queue up for the opening.

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When you’re first getting started with a project, how do you go from martyr to hustler? It’s simple. First things first: Take the time to make something worth talking about—don’t be a charlatan. But then start with everyone you know and ask for their help. Make a list of at least fifty people and divide them into categories (colleagues from a former job, college friends, acquaintances, etc.). As soon as the project is good to go, at least in beta form, touch base by sending them a quick note. Here’s a sample message: Hi [name], I wanted to quickly let you know about a new project I’m working on. It’s called [name of business or project], and the goal is to [main benefit]. We hope to [big goal, improvement, or idea]. Don’t worry, I haven’t added you to any lists and I won’t be spamming you, but if you like the idea and would like to help out, here’s what you can do: [Action Point 1] [Action Point 2] Thanks again for your time. Note that you’re not sending mass messages or sharing anyone’s private info with the world; each message is personal, although the content is largely the same. You’re also not “selling” anyone on the project; you’re just letting people know what you’re up to and inviting them to participate further if they’d like to. The action points can vary, but they should probably relate to joining a contact list (this way you have their permission to touch base with them further) and letting other people know about the project.

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My marketing plan could be called strategic giving. When I launch a new line of dresses each year, I contact two or three influential bloggers and create a custom dress for them, which always brings in tons of new customers when they write about it. But most importantly, I turn my attention toward my clients. Often, I upgrade someone’s shipping to overnight for free, or double someone’s order, or include a copy of my favorite book with a handwritten note. I like to package my products for shipping like a gift to my best friend. This strategy has been a huge contributor to fast growth and popularity in my industry.

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The One-Page Promotion Plan Goal: To actively and effectively recruit new prospects to your business without getting overwhelmed. DAILY Maintain a regular social media presence without getting sidetracked or overwhelmed. Post one to three helpful items, respond to questions, and touch base with anyone who needs help. Monitor one or two key metrics (no more!). Read more about this in Chapter 13. WEEKLY Ask for help or joint promotions from colleagues and make sure you are being helpful to them as well. Maintain regular communication with prospects and customers. AT LEAST MONTHLY Connect with existing customers to make sure they are happy. (Ask: “Is there anything else I can do for you?”) Prepare for an upcoming event, contest, or product launch (see Chapter 8). ONCE IN A WHILE Perform your own business audit (see Chapter 12) to find missing opportunities that can be turned into active projects. Ensure that you are regularly working toward building something significant, not just reacting to things as they appear.

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But if you’re worried about spending all day on a social networking site, you can avoid doing that by sticking to a series of quick check-ins. I maintain a text file of information and links to share, and a couple of times a day I go online and post something.

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Remember that the goal of business is profit. It’s not being liked, or having a huge social media presence, or having amazing products that nobody buys. It is not having a beautiful website, or perfectly crafted email newsletters, or an incredibly popular blog. In larger businesses, this is called accountability to shareholders. Business is not a popularity contest. The CEO doesn’t get away with saying, “But look at all these people who like us on Facebook!” Shareholders will not accept that. You are the majority shareholder in your business, and you have to protect your investment. You have to make sure that your recurring activities are as directly tied to making money as possible. There’s nothing wrong with having a hobby, but if you want to call it a business, you have to make money.

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Regardless of your growth strategy, you’ll want to pay attention to the health of your business. The best way to do this is with a two-pronged strategy: Step 1: Select one or two metrics and be aware of them at any given time, focusing on sales, cash flow, or incoming leads. Step 2: Leave everything else for a biweekly or monthly review where you delve into the overall business more carefully.

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The metrics you want to track will vary with the kind of business. Here are a few of the most common examples. Sales per day: How much money is coming in? Visitors or leads per day: How many people are stopping by to take a look or signing up for more information? Average order price: How much are people spending when they order? Sales conversion rate: What percentage of visitors or leads become customers? Net promoter score: What percentage of customers would refer your business to someone else?

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Some businesses choose more specific metrics. Brandy Agerbeck, the graphic facilitator we met in Chapter 7, earns her living through corporate and non-profit bookings. Every year she needs a certain amount of bookings, so she keeps a set of index cards to track this number. When the index cards fill up, she knows she’s good for a while and can focus on other things.

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Before we close it out, let’s look back at the key lessons of this book. First and most important, the quest for personal freedom lies in the pursuit of value for others. Get this right from the beginning and the rest will be much easier. Always ask, “How can I help people more?”

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