While not an entrepreneur myself, I have an entrepreneurial spirit and a true admiration, love and respect for what entrepreneurs do. The creativity and problem-solving required to launch a business is so appealing that I’ve often had fantasies of running my own show, but truthfully, I’m exhausted just thinking about it for a second! With two small kiddos of my own, I give huge props to all you momtrepreneurs out there. I marvel at your ability to find the time to juggle all the demands of a full home life with a business life that’s ever-present and never sleeps. (High five.)
Instead, I’ve channeled my entrepreneurial spirit into running marketing and ecommerce for women’s fashion brand NYDJ, a brand made famous for the most flattering jeans you’ll find and a design philosophy centered on fit, comfort, and style. So, to live vicariously through you (while still getting my shut-eye), the team at heymama invited me to share some marketing growth strategies for momtrepreneurs. I tried to keep them general enough to apply to the variety of businesses represented in this dynamic, bad-ass mama community, so hopefully one of these little tips will resonate.
1) Always be selling
Yes, it’s true that when your name is on the door, you always need to be on the ready, with business card in hand to pitch to a prospective partner, and iPhone in the other to capture content for your social communications. But, it’s more than just selling yourself and your brand. What I really mean here is to pretend that you are always on the verge of selling your business. Whether you are fundraising or not, imagine that tomorrow is the day that you have an important meeting with that big VC target. Why? Because the documents that you’d need to pitch an investor contain the fundamentals of your business, and preparing these materials (and updating them frequently over time) will bring you closer to your numbers and give you the clarity of vision needed to fully execute your business strategy.
Your pitch book may contain things like your reason for being (an elevator pitch, your brand purpose, positioning statement), brand essence (brand DNA, creative messaging, target customer), business ops (product/manufacturing, retailers, growth opportunity), financials, and your strategic goals for year 1, 3, 5. If you know this book back to front, you’ll be better equipped to chart your strategic roadmap and stay on course. And if you have employees or critical partners, certain parts of the book (the ones that aren’t super-confidential) will help them see your vision and save you time in getting on the same page. It also will help keep you motivated as you measure your efforts against your goals. Not to mention, you’ll have a turnkey presentation when that VC meeting pops up!
2) Really, really get to know digital marketing
While some people become overnight sensations off of an Instagram feed or a cool blog, for the vast majority of us, it doesn’t pan out the same way. If you are selling a product or service, you must (underline, must) have a website, and therefore you must have a digital marketing plan. Don’t believe the “build it and they will come” fallacy, that having a website equals commercial success. You need to spend some time thinking about how to drive traffic, especially in a crowded and ever-changing digital universe. And then you need to allocate some budget to driving said traffic. You wouldn’t open a beautiful, new store in a fancy mall and then not put your name on the directory, would you?
The basics of digital marketing center around SEM, SEO, email, retargeting, display, social, and content, and within all of these basic premises are a million tactics, approaches, and vendors who help drive traffic and conversion. It’s enough to make your head spin. My advice is to really become a student of these disciplines, and/or outsource to someone who lives and breathes it. And even if you go the outsourcing route, you should at least familiarize yourself with Google analytics reports that give you the rich, data insights about your traffic patterns, conversions, and key KPIs that impact your business. It’s true what people say…running a website is like running a magazine…but it’s more than just content; there’s an editorial and a business arm. Be prepared to think about the duality of capturing brand building and relevant content that best positions your brand while balancing the operations and driving the revenue side. Make sure you know enough about both sides to keep you dangerous (aka smart and relevant) and spend wisely to fund your growth.
3) Have a board of directors
No matter what stage your business is in, I recommend having a board of directors, a group of 3-5 people who can be the official (or unofficial) mentors and stakeholders of your business. They should be a group who bring different things to the table and come from various sectors of commerce that have relevance to your business in some way. For example, your lawyer brother-in-law who can give you pro-bono advice, your app developer friend from college who can connect you to digital vendors, or your first boss/mentor who knows just about everything. Networking is so critically important to the entrepreneur, and having a few ambassadors on your side will help you amplify your efforts and increase your connections.
In the early stage, your board would consist of close connections and friends who are interested in your success. They could help you network and introduce you to strategic partners, help you brainstorm areas of growth, chat you up around town, or be a sounding board for a particularly perplexing situation. Depending on your business’ scale, the group could be compensated by dinner and wine, or at the more evolved end…free product, a stipend and/or equity. Major-league execs serve on boards for hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, but you may be able to find a trustworthy and helpful crew to start that would do it for the occasional freebie. As a mom and a member of the heymama posse, I’m sure you can appreciate the value of a community of trusted advisors that has your back!
4) Be honest with yourself
Maybe you’re a gifted writer, a tech genius, or a product development maven. But sometimes being an entrepreneur means that you have to be CFO, CEO, HR and the janitor all at the same time (not to mention your other job…Mom!). While you can multi-task and make magic, you simply cannot be everywhere at once, or turn a 24 hour day into 25.
It’s therefore important that you learn the fine art of delegation because 1) somebody may be able to do it better, and 2) you may be an obstacle in your own process, and being spread so thin may mean that nothing (big or small) gets done unless you touch it. Sometimes funding the outside assistance seems impossible in the short run, but it can truly prohibit your growth in the long run. Be honest with yourself, think about your limitations in time or experience, and investigate whether funding outside influence can compliment your areas of strength and fuel your success.
5) Be kind to yourself
OK, this tip may seem soft and squishy. But the ones with the gooey center are the most delicious. First, set specific and measurable goals for the month, the season, and the year. Hold yourself to them and strive to exceed those goals.
And then…breathe. Accept the imperfections of the journey and enjoy learning from the wild ride. Have a backup plan…but don’t let go of the dream! Good luck, mamas!