Advice to a First-Time Entrepreneur

A few weeks ago I had a coaching call with an entrepreneur named Ben who’d just launched his first digital product.

He’d created an email course to sell the product and run a few dozen subscribers through the course with no sales.

He was hoping to get my feedback on the email course and sales copy.

When I’m taking a fresh look at a marketing problem like this, one formula I use is this:

Who, Then What, Then How

To flesh out each part a bit more:

WHO is your target audience?
WHAT problem can you solve for them (what is your offer)?
HOW will you reach them?

In that order.

As he told me about his product and sales funnel, I quickly got the sense that something was “off.”

And the more we talked, the more clear it became that Ben was doing this out of order.

He’d skipped over the WHO when creating his product…

And now he was focused on the HOW (“Should I use a popup to collect email addresses? What should my headline say?).

The product in this case was a cool “financial dashboard” built in Excel. The idea was to help small business owners quickly grab data from their accounting system and answer the question, “Where is all the money going?”

Here’s the problem, though:

The topic of Ben’s website is “data science”—mining financial and marketing data to help business owners make smarter decisions.

And in the email course, he’s giving an overview of what data science is.

So for the most part his website does NOT attract small business owners and entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their head around their finances.

Instead his audience is mostly “data geeks.”

These are people who love to crunch numbers and probably work in a corporation doing business finance or marketing.

They have a totally different set of goals and interests than the typical small biz owner.

They’re not worried about meeting payroll or keeping the lease current.

Instead they’d like to look good to their boss and get better at their jobs so they can get a promotion and a raise.

Because Ben didn’t have the WHO straight, the HOW was pretty much irrelevant.

A lot of people get into trouble when they jump right to that last step and start talking about marketing tactics and strategies.

Blogging, building an email list, optimizing their popups, what the headline should say

He could create the best popup and email course ever conceived by the mind of man—and it still wouldn’t make any sales.

But if you’re not crystal clear on the first two questions, you’re just going to spin your wheels and get frustrated.

You’ve gotta figure out the audience first… Then nail down the offer (product or service).

THEN you’re ready to start thinking about marketing tactics.

I can’t tell Ben exactly who his audience should be.

Right now he’s torn between serving small business owners and his colleagues in the data science field.

My suggestion though:

Since Ben has a website already that gets a fair amount of traffic from people interested in digging deeper into data science, he should lean into that and create a product that targets a problem in that field.

But either way, get crystal clear on WHO you’re serving before you spend any more brain cycles wondering about your marketing.

Get that right, and even a mediocre email course will make plenty of sales.