7 Day Startup – The Little Ads Story
So you’ve got a new business idea – fantastic! Now how do you go about building your business?
This is where most people get stuck. They think about the business but then do nothing with it. Before too long, it’s a distant memory or another competitor pops up and makes a fortune with their idea.
In the case of the latter, that happened to me in 2012.
I took six months to launch a business idea and by the time I got my first customer, another competitor had launched and had 30 high paying customers. We got started at the same time, but they launched in 6 weeks and got their foot in the door well before I could.
You might be thinking, only 30 customers, so what! Yeah, I figured you’d think that. The 30 customers were making that business more than $500,000 a year and one month later the owners sold a 50% share of their business for $750,000 to the biggest media agency in the state. That meant my business was no longer viable because I was like a sardine competing against a whale.
Hopefully this shows you, if you have a good idea, you need to get on with it. Dan Norris wrote The 7 Day Startup, which resonated with me as I knew my procrastination lead to failure in the past. It’s a great read if you’re thinking along these lines.
In this post, I thought I’d share exactly how I launched Little Ads in 7 days as well as show you how I think of a business and how it will be structured.
Does it fit and align with my values?
I’ll be the first to say it. You don’t want to start a business that will take you down the wrong path. Been there, done that…
So you’ll need to ask yourself a few qualifying questions each time you have an idea for a business.
These are some of mine;
- Is it easily scalable?
- Is there a large market?
- Does it restrict me to working in one location?
- Can I ultimately sell it for a profit?
- Do I have the ability to put the systems in place?
- Is there a low entry barrier?
- Does it provide recurring income?
- Is it ethical?
- Will I have fun running it?
- Do I believe in it?
I don’t want to build a 1 man business. No thanks. These days, I want to build something that can grow from me, to another, to a small team, to a big team, to an international team.
If there’s one thing I understand today more than ever it’s the power of leverage.
The more I can leverage in a business, the more profit it can make.
I don’t mind serving a few people, but in most cases that I know of you need to be selling big ticket items to make a business like that worthwhile.
The reverse is true. If you can serve a large market, you can sell smaller ticket items at volume and make a good profit.
The larger the market, the more potential a business has to make and ultimately sell for a large profit.
My wife and I would like to live and work abroad. In order to do that, I need my business to run online.
I don’t want to be stuck in a shop front or in a business that requires me to physically show up regularly.
If you’re building a business, ultimately you’d like to be able to sell it for a nice price one day.
Some businesses have very little good will and because they don’t have much repeat business, never sell well (EG: A building company).
Others have a lot of good will and you can sell it for a lot of money (EG: A property management company).
If you think of it this way; If you have a database of recurring customers, you’ll generally sell well.
Systems are the backbone of a business. But also, this is a good identifier for who you will need to ultimately employ.
In my bricks and mortar business, I need people with a high amount of expertise. We consult and strategise and every single thing we do is a totally custom job.
We do have systems for other areas, but some we just can’t put a system in place.
This also increases the costs associated with employment.
Compare this to a factory line where the work is repetitive, but not specialist. That kind of business can keep human resources costs low and you can easily train new staff who start.
Low entry fee
You can start a business online these days for only a few hundred dollars.
Compare that to manufacturing where you’ll need a few hundred thousand dollars.
The lower the entry fee, the lower the risk. I can try something, if it doesn’t work, so what. If it does work, I’ve got a great business for next to nothing.
This is the dream business. A business that charges the customers a recurring monthly fee can be a gold mine (EG: Mobile phone plans).
Each month, customers pay the fee and you just keep doing what you’re doing.
They’re great to grow, have a reliable cash flow and are very attractive to potential buyers.
There are some things I just don’t want to do. This will depend on your own boundaries and beliefs, but if it’s crossing a line, I just won’t bother going any further.
I never want to work in a dull business again. If a business is interesting and enjoyable, I’m much more open to the idea of building it.
Part of the fun for me is building something out and seeing it work. But I also want to like the people I’ll work with and enjoy spending my time with them and the customers.
I don’t ever want to compromise on this one again. Life is simply too short.
Rightly or wrongly I want to believe my business is the nuts.
If I don’t believe we are, or that we can get there, I lose interest pretty fast.
There’s something about believing in what you do that goes a long way. I also don’t think much of people who don’t believe in what they do but do it anyway.
Been sold a Yellow Pages ad recently? How did that make you feel towards the person who was trying to sell it to you?
Getting your offer right
I first had the idea for Little Ads 2 years ago. The more I thought about it, the more I realised it was way too broad an idea to work effectively.
I studied my competition. There were a lot of businesses who were doing similar for less. Did I have an edge? Absolutely! Could I gain market penetration with that edge? With difficulty.
I ended up bringing the initial Little Ads customers into my digital agency instead. They were serviced better there. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about how I could re-visit Little Ads.
After spending time with a lot of small business owners, I came to realise what they needed and what no one else was offering. Little Ads was born out of that information.
Essentially, Little Ads was going to focus on helping businesses with their Facebook advertising.
Our offer is simple and we cover 2 distinct markets – Agencies and Small Business Owners. These guys fall into these categories;
1. Getting Ads Done Cheaply.
A lot of people who use Facebook write terrible ads. They struggle with graphics. They then scratch their heads when they get a poor response.
We’ll do that for other people and we know how to provide a service that is super cheap.
Plus, Agencies can use us too. If they want us to the do the creative for their clients, that’s fine with me.
2. Business owners who struggle with the technology
Some people struggle using Facebook personally, let alone use their advertising system.
This is a no-brainer.
We understand how Facebook works, what works best and it won’t take us any time at all to make a new campaign work for someone else. So what takes us 2 hours to do would take someone else 8 or more.
3. Business owners who need to start outsourcing
There are a lot of smart business owners out there these days that got their hands dirty at one stage or another in Facebook. But it does take time to manage properly.
Those business owners often grow their business to a point where they can no longer keep their finger on the pulse with Facebook.
So they should outsource.
We’ll do it better for them and keep getting good results – all for a small fee.
4. They need to go to the next level
Some business owners dip their toes in the Facebook waters and get a good result. But they know they need to go deeper.
That’s where the technology hurdle comes up again and there’s another steep learning curve.
Our Premium package serves these customers well, going deeper and getting better results.
This is a big piece of the pie right here. If you can get your offers right, you’ll go a long way to winning business.
Thinking of a business name
Man I’ve had some doozies in my time.
My first ever business name was “BRONCO BUILDING CONSULTANTS”.
Yep, that was legendary. My excuse is that I was only in my 20’s.
Thinking of a business name is difficult for a number of reasons;
- These days you’ll need a domain name to match. Most good domain names are already taken.
- It needs to be memorable.
- It needs to be easy to spell (people need to be able to type it into Google).
You also want to consider names that aren’t too specific. If you need to change what you do later, you’ll want the flexibility to do so.
Little Ads actually wasn’t my idea.
It was a clients, who thought of it and then realised it didn’t suit their business after we created the logo for them.
They totally changed the name and we negotiated not to charge them for the creative work if they were OK with us using the name.
The logo work cost me a couple of hundred dollars, then we made a few minor alterations to suit what we wanted it for.
I registered the business name, then I bought the .com domain name through a private sale with a domain squatter.
Domain squatters are basically people that buy domain names and hold them in the hopes you’ll pay a ridiculous price for them. Littleads.com ended up costing me just over $1,000.
Building the website
Building websites used to be a chore. You needed to understand HTML and CSS – and i’ll stop there before I lose too many of you.
These days, you don’t need to understand any of that.
Especially if you know where to go and what to do.
This website as an example, took me 5 hours on a Friday to design.
Little Ads is the same.
Essentially, you want to build a WordPress website. WordPress is a CMS or Content Management System that allows you to add new content to your website easily.
Now, before you go – OK I’LL USE WORDPRESS – you’ll also need to purchase a theme.
Basically, a theme is what acts like the skin on the website. The look and feel. There are thousands of wordpress themes, but if you want one that works the best, and is easiest to use, you’ll want to grab Pagelines DMS theme.
It’s the most customisable WordPress theme available today. For the tech, it’s responsive, drag and drop design FROM THE FRONT END.
It’s a little known secret. You can thank me later for pointing you in the right direction when everyone else tells you to use Genesis, Divi theme, thesis or some other old crap that is redundant and doesn’t even know it yet.
I won’t go through setting up hosting, changing your nameserver settings or anything like that. Just go to YouTube and search for ‘Setting up a wordpress website’ and you’ll find a gazillion tutorials.
Just remember, use Pagelines DMS for your framework and theme and you’re golden.
Taking orders online
I use Infusionsoft, which is a pretty cool tool for marketing automation. They also have an eCommerce solution which absolutely sucks ballz.
There, I said it.
I set up my eCommerce inside Infusionsoft on Friday and vomited a few times in my mouth.
On Saturday I pinged a quick question to Dan Norris at WPCurve via Twitter;
I know Dan uses Infusionsoft too, but it’s good to see he thinks the same thing when it comes to their horrible shopping cart.
Stripe is a great online payment solution. It has low fees and is very popular.
But I hit a small snag – for Stripe to work, you’ll need to make your website SSL – which is basically saying you need a secure website.
For the novice, it means changing the http://littleads.com to https://littleads.com <– Notice the S
So I have to buy an SSL certificate ($40) and roll out the change with my host.
Thanks to the guys at WPEngine, the process only took me an hour or so. I got stuck, but got sent a handy link to fix my database – then it was all done.
The end result?
After all that, it means I now have a new business online – Little Ads.
Business name $75
SSL Certificate $40
Hosting (Zero as I already pay for hosting for my other sites)
Cost so far: $1,565
There are small miscellaneous costs that you would incur if you don’t have website hosting or have to buy the DMS theme, but essentially you could buy a premium domain name and set up your business for less than $2,000.
That’s pretty darn good.
Technically, you could do it for the following;
Logo $5 from Fiverr
Domain $12 from Crazy Domains
Business Name $75
SSL Certificate $40
Website hosting $50 from Bluehost
DMS Theme $90 from Pagelines
That’s only $272
So in one week I’ve launched a new business online. Now comes the fun part in promoting it and building it. But as you can see it’s not a big deal. It’s actually fairly straight forward.
If you were to do this on the cheap for $272 (you can go even cheaper), then at the end of the day it’s not even that big a deal if your business doesn’t make a lot of money. You’ll learn a lot along the way and like me, you can change and build others that you might love.
That’s how I built a business in 7 days. I’d love to hear what you’re up to. Leave a comment below.