I’m far from calling myself a successful entrepreneur, but over the past years I’ve learned a couple of things that you can avoid if you’re just starting out. You don’t have to take it from me, but I promise I’ll be super honest about my mistakes because telling the truth is so much more fun and impactful than fake it till you make it.

Here we go.

Mistake 1: Solely relying on Social Media

One of my many mistakes was relying on social media. I thought that 90% of my new clients could come from social media.

Although it is pretty unrealistic for a service-based business, the idea itself and my hopes were not so weird. In 2018 (when I started my first business), social media was being used by 2.65 billion people. If I would’ve sold my premium package (if I had one at that time) to only 0.001% of those people I would still have too much work to handle on my own.

But that isn’t how social media works, is it?

Social media is battling with algorithms. Competing with other brands and people for your audience’ attention.

If using paid advertisement, it’s testing, trial and error, and throwing money down the drain if it isn’t working.

It’s frustrating. It’s tiring. It’s exhausting.

Social media is an everchanging landscape. One day you might have figured out how to beat the algorithm, the next day Facebook has changed something and your organic reach plunders with crazy speed. That’s because social media is a business.

Therefore, you need to realize something:

  1. Social media doesn’t care about you (Disagree? What about the people who work for social media businesses and casinos for the same reason: to keep people hooked to their phones or slot machines).
  2. They just care about your money. They are business and they need to make money to survive. Since their main business is free, there’s something else that brings in the money. For things that are free, the user pays the price, in this case: user data. Your data is valuable and sellable to businesses. Using that data to push ads into the right feeds is a great business model. Hence, why paid advertisement usually works better.
  3. It’s theirs, so they are entitled to change it. Terms and conditions, the price for an ad, algorithms… it’s theirs and they tweak it to either make people more addicted or to make more money or…

I know, this sounds all very negative. I’m not trying to bash social media, I’m just trying to explain that it is a platform. A platform that can be used to reach a lot of people, but if it stops existing (for Dutchies, remember Hyves) it will mean that you lose everything if it’s the only marketing platform you’re using.

Therefore, it’s never a good idea to solely rely on social media to bring in business.

Use a different way to build a long-lasting relationship with (potential) clients. A marketing tactic like newsletter marketing is an example. Marketing without social media is possible, just like it is possible to utilize social media. You just have to figure out the right ways to do it. But don’t use social media per default. Weigh all your options, like you would do with anything in your business.

Mistake 2: Focusing on too many marketing tactics

When I started, I was maintaining:

  • 3 social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. All personal and professional pages. Posting at least 3 times a week.
  • A YouTube channel
  • An Email list
  • A blog
  • A website

Over the years, I added:

  • Hosting workshops
  • Doing webinars
  • Paid advertisement
  • Networking events
  • Free giveaways
  • And I’m probably forgetting some

I’ve created loads of content. Some very helpful and valuable, some not. Having to produce so much content for different channels is way too much to take on as a solopreneur. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and you’ll find out.

It was a mistake to want to do it all. To over-eagerly get my name out there.
Of course, when you want to market yourself, you have to do something. But marketing is not about quantity, it’s about quality.

Defining what marketing tactics you should use, can only be done if you have a strategy in place. This strategy determines your target audience. You’ve probably heard it before, but you do need to know who your target audience is and where to find them. Only then can you narrow down where to put your marketing efforts.

And of course, you are allowed to let your marketing preference influence your decision–at least, in my opinion. If you totally love making videos, then think of YouTube as a tactic, but please don’t if you start shaking only by the thought of it… If you are a good writer, blogging and email marketing might be suitable for you.

Make that match between what you like and where your audience can be found.

The less channels you use, the deeper you can go with your content. Your marketing message should provide value for your target audience, which brings me to mistake 3…

Mistake 3: Describing WHAT you do

Somehow, we are all so super focused on what we do. We love to label things: marketing manager, content creator, business coach, nutritionist. My first version of my website wasn’t bad, but there was a lot of what I did on the website.

Like: I help you determine your purpose, mission and vision.

OK, but what does that mean?

What can I, as a potential client, do with that?

It’s like Seth Godin says it in his book This is Marketing: “People don’t need a white leather wallet, they want one.” It’s all about what that white wallet will do for them. Perhaps they fancy the color and it makes them feel good. Perhaps they just need a place to store their money.

You know that there are tens of others doing the same thing as you do, so telling people what you do and then offer the promotion is not going to drive behavior. It’s not helping people to make a decision.

So what do you need to focus on?

For marketing content? Focus on how you can help people best! You are offering a solution to a problem that your target audience has. Help them as much as you can on a free base. If they really need to go deep and make bigger changes, they’ll realize they need you.

In terms of your website?

A blog can be a perfect place to help people. Lists like “5 tips to achieve bla bla”, or “3 mistakes that fresh entrepreneurs make” 😉 are helpful! When you’re writing your copy, then focus on explaining what benefits your services will give your clients. How it’s going to change them, or their life.

And on top of that:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

Differentiating yourself from others happens by you being you.

There’s only one of you, leverage that.

Your business started to exist for a specific reason. Be outspoken about it. Give your business a brand. An identity. A Why. People will resonate with that and therefore pick you over others.