A month ago I got an invitation from the local chapter of Startup Grind to speak about 356labs, my story and the presentation world. It was a long, but incredibly interesting and more importantly honest conversation.
Believing that having English-only online presence is more than enough.
This one hurts me so much to share, but I need to.
Before I started 356labs, I was an IT consultant(and a lot of other things which does not matter in the context of this post) who was fortunate enough to speak in more than 20+ countries. And to put things in perspective, I did this before I got 25.
One of the reasons why I was able to speak at the most important events in my world was because of my personal brand. I really care about my online presence and I seriously believe I know how to manage it on a pretty decent level.
That being said, an important point here is that, all of my online identities were in English. And I live in a non English speaking country.
So, you probably guessed it right — when I launched 356labs, everything was in English. Pay close attention to the next sentence, though. We are selling our services to both our local, Bulgarian market and the global one. However, in my mind, there was not even a thought that I am doing a mistake in regards to the local market.
I was constantly telling myself:
If they want to work with us, they will find us through our website(which was in English).
Bad, bad, bad. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
It turned out, they won’t find us through our website because when they search for our services, the decision makers in Bulgaria were not typing in English. Guess what? Because of that, we were not showing up in their Google search results! How cool is that, right?
At the moment I found out about that (by a customer… as you can imagine), I immediately changed my view (even though I didn’t want to and even though I thought that this is their problem and not ours back then!). I started a process of translating our web site and if you go to 356labs.com today, you will see that at the top right corner there is a Bulgarian flag too. We are still not 100% ready with the translation (especially the blog articles — 200+), but we will soon be.
My lesson for you here — don’t be romantic. Just because something worked for you before, doesn’t mean is the best option for your business case now, because small business management can often be arcane. .Reverse engineer the market and act based on that. Yes, you may need to put a lot more work, but… if you want to have a business, there’s a price coming with it.
P.S. That same “language problem” happened with our Facebook Ad campaigns too. Made our creatives and campaigns in Bulgarian — boom. Results.
Starting a business can not be as hard as people say.
… guess what — it really is.
And no, I don’t want to sound like, you know, I am one of those guys that work so much. Noup. Not at all. I just want you to understand that when you are starting a business and you start it alone or with a co-founder(s), there is no one else you can count on. What I mean is that when there is a slight issue or a big problem with:
… it will be you that will have to fix it. This is completely not the case when you work in an organization and you can always forward that problematic e-mail or some task to the people above you. It’s just not.
So my lesson here is one that you have already heard before — get ready to work countless hours because believe it or not, sometimes even straightforward things like purchasing stickers to give away at an event, for example, can take you 2 days of pretty intense communication between you and the printing company(guess why I am using this example?).
Again, as Steve Jobs once said:
Many people say you have to have a lot of passion for what you are doing… and it’s totally true… and the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t any rational person will give up.
Well said, Mr. Jobs. Well said!
Not being able to send an offer quick enough.
In my previous post, I shared just one of the stories around the fact that even if a potential customer gets out of a meeting with you and enthusiastically asks for an offer, that doesn’t mean you got the business.
In this one, however, I want to switch gears a bit and talk about another “extreme”, let’s call it.
At the early days of 356labs, we didn’t have an easy way to send an offer when we were asked by a customer. Why is that, you may ask? Answer is simple — there’s just numerous other things that are bigger priority than that. Thus, whenever we were asked for an offer, we were creating it from scratch. This was just… more reasonable.
To be honest, that “algorithm” worked fine. However, I believe (no data to support it!) that because sometimes it took us more than a week to come up with an offer, there were a few customers that we missed. Or at least our chances of winning some business became even smaller. Why I am thinking that is because when you want to buy something and you hit an obstacle for a week, your “willingness”, let’s call it, to buy that same thing is not the same. There is just a moment when the customer is in the mindset of buying and when you miss it, it is really hard to make him go back there emotionally.
So my lesson from this one is probably something like this — when you send your first 3–5 offers, take a look at their structure and content. Create an adaptable template(PowerPoint can be of great help here because you can export in PDF from it!) or figure out the way(based on your business) that will allow you to come up with offers for the potential customers fast. Don’t let the customer wait for a week in order to get your offer. Just… don’t.