Entrepreneurs are, by nature, idea lovers. Our passion for our ideas is what keeps us going through failure. It’s what keeps us motivated to work 90 hour weeks for little to no pay. It’s what makes us put up with all the relational, physical, and emotional stress that comes with ‘running our own thing’.
But you cannot live on ideas alone. Instead, you have to follow this formula: Idea+Implementation+Correction+Repetition = sustainability. Sadly, I find that sticking to this formula is difficult for most startup social entrepreneurs. We’re easily distracted, and got into this business because we wanted the adventure and thrill of something new every day. But, success in entrepreneurship often comes from the boringness of repetition. Finding processes that can be measured, automated, and repeated successfully every day are truly what separate the winners from the losers in this game.
I spent my first year in social venturing as an idea hungry entrepreneur. I’d latch on to every new idea with incredible excitement, only to have it fail on me when I got distracted by the next shiny object. Finally I had had it. The messages about creating something that was automatable, repeatable, and measurable had sunk in through a series of punishing defeats with my business. I was determined to pull myself out of the rut by taking one month and focusing exclusively on getting people to attend a free webinar entitled: ’10 Tactics to Rapidly Accelerate Your Launch into Social Entrepreneurship’. This would be my most focused project to date, and I was determined that I would use it to grow my business in a way I never had before. Below is the full accounting of the lessons I learned through that process:
1.) As an entrepreneur, you’re wired to be an idea lover – stop it.
Instead, focus on one area of growth in your business, be sure you can measure the result, and nail the fire out of it. For us, this was our webinar. We knew that if we could get a lot of people to spend an hour and a half with us learning about ‘10 Tactics to Launch in Social Entrepreneurship’ that we’d bring some very active members into Change Nation. Here’s how we put focused intensity on this:
- We set a simple & measurable goal: We hypothesized that by marketing heavily for 3 weeks, we could get 100 people to sign up for our webinar and 50/100 would actually attend.
- We created a ‘squeeze page’: A squeeze page is a simple webpage that forces people to take just ONE ACTION. We used LeadPages.net to create this landing page. Once people hit the page, they were forced to make a decision: sign up for the webinar or bounce.
2.) Focus on just one thing and do it really well.
Over the years, I’ve found that the most successful entrepreneurs boil their advice down to these essential elements: put focused intensity on one thing that you can do really well, create repeatable + automated processes around it, and then repeat – improve – repeat – improve – repeat…
In January, I decided to live out this advice. Promoting our webinar was our one thing. I responded only to the most pressing emails, didn’t take meetings, and stopped writing new posts so I could focus exclusively on getting people to the webinar.
3.) Set monthly goals and be rabidly devoted to reaching them.
In our case, we started planning the webinar Jan. 1 and we wanted 100 sign ups by Jan 31st. In order to do this, we created a very specific set of tactics that we believed would get us there:
- We emailed everyone we knew about the webinar + asked them to share with 2-3 others.
- I literally went through every contact I had ever emailed in my gmail and carefully picked the people that I had enough of a relationship to email. This was time consuming, but worth it, as you can see from this:
That’s our analytics report from LeadPages. I set up a unique squeeze page just to track the traffic from the organic emails I was sending out (i.e. emails I was sending to friends/acquaintances asking them to help spread the word about the webinar). I’ll chat more on the importance of measurement in a moment, but for now, you can see the result of the organic push was excellent. 263 people clicked to the page and we got 64 sign ups from it! Given we had a goal of 100 sign ups total, this one tactic had taken us quite far.
- We paid for traffic to our squeeze page.
- I’m still trying to figure out all the ins and outs of Facebook ads, but I do know they have been a great way for us to really target people we want on our webinars. In the case of this webinar, we ran a simple ad that targeted people who were already fans of social entrepreneurship pages like: Ashoka, Pencils of Promise, and Schwabb Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Here’s a shot of the ad we ran:
Note that the ad has one clear call to action: sign up. (Unfortunately, Facebook defaults to also allow people to ‘like’ the page, which is pretty much worthless to us – so, we just kept the call to action as clear as we could). Here’s the result of the ad, as measured by a unique LeadPage we set up:
As you can see, the paid ad performed a bit worse than our organic outreach (which is almost always the case). But – the paid ad started us on a very important path. Ads are highly repeatable, easy to measure, and easy to track results. By experimenting with this ad, we put another tool in our toolbelt for driving people to the webinar. As you can see, it worked by adding 30 signups to our overall total. If you’re keeping track, that means the ad + organic reach out had put us at 94 sign ups – just 6 shy of our goal. Side note: Facebook allows you to track how much each one of those sign ups costs us – a very important metric. In this particular ad set, we paid about $8.50 per sign up.
- But we weren’t stopping there…
- Remember, we were totally focused on this, so that gave us a lot of time to try all kinds of difference tactics to drive people to the webinar. One of the most effective was announcing our webinar across our social media channels. To do this, we simply wove in a sign up page for the webinar into our normal content like blog posts, Instagram shares, tweets, LinkedIn posts, etc. There again, we created a special landing page to track just this result. (Note: all three landing pages (paid, organic, social) appeared identical to the front end user – it was only on the back end that we had set up a way to track which channel was driving the best results). Here was our result:
As you can see, we didn’t get as many clicks here, but the conversion was huge. At 44%, this number was saying something to use about where we should focus our efforts. Which brings me to our next learning about focused intensity…
4.) If you can’t measure it, don’t freaking do it.
Peter Drucker, one of the greatest business minds of our time, is credited with saying, “what gets measured gets managed.” This is a fundamental truth of business, and yet, very few entrepreneurs actively measure the impact of their efforts. Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of just throwing stuff up and hoping it sticks far too often. But, if you want to succeed, you have to get good at measuring the impact of your effort. Looking to the screenshots above, you’ll see that we had gotten pretty good at measuring how each of our tactics was leading to our desired result of conversions.
More important than measurement, however, is adapting. Once you’ve measured something and found how effective/ineffective it is, it’s time for the second and most important step: double down on what works, ditch the rest. For us, our organic email outreach + connecting with our followers drove the strongest result in terms of webinar sign ups. Next time we do a webinar, we’ll focus even more energy on just those two tactics.
While you chew on that, consider some of the things you may be doing without measuring the result of your efforts:
- Focusing on Facebook likes or Twitter followers? Why? What have they done for you? Can you show me how you’ve monetized a like or follower? If you can’t, you need to find a way to put systems in place that show you exactly what these efforts are yielding for you.
- Are you blogging? Everyone says you should… but what kind of result is this driving for you? In the case of Social Change Nation, all the blogging we do should be driving email sign ups. We measure this with the same kind of squeeze pages as above. Once a blog platform stops performing, we drop it and move to one that has better results.
- Bottom line: if you can’t measure a tangible result for the tactics you’re implementing, you should stop them and focus on things you can measure.
5.) Automated and repeatable processes are an entrepreneurs best friend.
By measuring what works versus what doesn’t, you’re then free to ditch the things that aren’t worth your time so you can focus on the ones that are. In our case, the webinar turned out to be a tremendous success. We had over 130 sign ups and 70 people eventually watched it (between live attendees and those watching a recording). Additionally, each one of those sign ups also joined Change Nation, so they now get regular updates from the world of social entrepreneurship.
This process grew our community by 30% in 30 days. The best part is, the recipe above is a recipe we can repeat over and over again to bring people into Social Change Nation. Sure we’ll constantly improve on the system, but the fundamentals are in place.
6.) Learn, adapt, repeat.
Just as critical as repetition is your ability to learn from and respond to customer feedback. Our webinars now ask attendees for feedback at the end and we work to incorporate that feedback into subsequent webinars. Because we’ve developed processes that are repeatable, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every month. We can just continue making incremental improvements to our webinar process that lead to even greater results.
7.) How does this apply to you?
Even if webinars aren’t in the future of your business there are lessons above that are vital for any aspiring entrepreneur. You are, by your nature, an idea lover. While this is one of your greatest strengths, it can also be your greatest weakness if you allow your success to be crushed under the weight of too many ideas. Keep this obnoxiously simple. Pick one thing, do it well, and focus on repeating the tactics that truly move the needle. For us, we grow when our sign ups to webinars grow. For you, it may be growth in sales, users, or another metric. Pick one, focus on it, and nail the fire out of it.
Missed our first Webinar? Click HERE to sign-up for our next one on 10 Tactics to Rapidly Launch into Social Entrepreneurship!