As an entrepreneur and owner of a content and social media marketing agency, I’m mindful of the challenges which operating in this space presents. Beyond the breakneck speed of innovation, constantly changing algorithms, and shifting sands of consumer tastes, being a digital entrepreneur is sheer hard work.
Unfortunately, too many online business owners fall into the quicksands of the digital marketplace. Impatient for fast results and stressed by the ever present danger of not meeting their numbers, they push themselves and their teams too quickly too hard, burning themselves (and their cash) up before they can achieve long-term sustainability.
Here are 10 of the most common mistakes made by entrepreneurs in the digital age.
1. Loving Your Product Too Much
Yes, we appreciate how fabulous your new AI enabled and AR empowered app is. Sure, you’ve managed to register 20 different patents across 50 different markets around the world.
However, all the greatest tech in the world comes to naught if your product does not address a specific customer need or gap in the market.
2. Not Knowing Your Numbers
This often follows 1), and is a result of entrepreneurs becoming too obsessed with building a perfect product or service. In their bid to create the next great digital revolution, they’ve forgotten to take a good hard look at how much it would cost them to build it, or to measure what success means.
3. Failing To Spend On Marketing
One of the biggest fallacies of the digital age is that marketing is cheap (or free) just because many of the online tools and channels are free. While the beauty of digital marketing is that you can use Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and many other platforms without paying, growing an online audience and generating leads requires considerable investments in time, energy and yes, money!
4. Not Knowing Who Your Customers Are
Maybe you’ve just started your business and haven’t got any real paying customers. However, that doesn’t mean that you should just “wing it” and pray that they’ll come. Or that you’ll eventually make it work once you’ve built a got a huge network.
Building a detailed customer profile is one of the first things any entrepreneur needs to do. If you do not nail down who your customers are, or what you can offer them, your attempts to build a 10X or 100X business will surely be in vain.
5. Over Optimizing and Gamifying Everything
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing on digital channels. Especially if you are employing all the “tricks” which Internet marketing gurus tell you to do without a good understanding of your local market and cultural context.
Templates are great in saving time and effort, but please do not treat everything like an algorithm to be mastered or a game to be played (yes, I know that many tech entrepreneurs are hardcore gamers!)
6. Addiction to Entrepreneur Success Stories
There is such a thing as “entrepreneurship porn”, which is the endless slew of airbrushed, honey-coated stories featuring your favourite billionaire struggling through a rough childhood to become a mover and shaker.
Now there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to be the next Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Jack Ma. However, spending all your days and nights dreaming about the pot of gold without taking concrete action can be terribly unproductive.
Which brings me to my next point.
7. Not Having a Schedule
Becoming an entrepreneur does not mean that you give up everything else in order to “hustle.” While we can technically survive on less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night, depriving yourself of sleep, food and rest over the long-term is a formula for health problems and burn out.
Having a schedule also helps you to be more productive and to do the difficult but necessary work when you feel fresh and energetic in the mornings.
8. Chasing Shiny Bright Objects
Artificial Intelligence (AI). Augmented Reality (AR). Blockchain technology. Internet Of Things (iOT).
These are some of the hottest developments in technology out there. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to have some or even all of them in your business model.
Remember that technology is ultimately an enabler of business. Choosing the right tool for the job may sometimes be more cost effective than choosing the latest or sexiest one.
9. Over Valuing Publicity & Virality
Getting your business or brand name out there is a good thing. Doing so at the expense of all other business considerations isn’t.
As the saying goes, timing is everything. Rushing to hit the headlines or to “go viral” when your systems and customer service processes aren’t fully stress tested is a disaster waiting to happen.
Don’t be too anxious in getting the word out. Wait till you’ve ironed out as many possible bugs as you can before doing so.
10. Focusing on Growth At All Costs
Yes, this is a common problem for entrepreneurs who consume too much of 6). Instead of focusing on providing a great way to solve a customer problem or address a market failure profitably, they channel all their funds and energies on growth.
Once they come into contact with some funds (be it their own or VC funds), they immediately go shopping. From hiring the “best talents money can buy” to pumping in as much advertising dollars as they can, they scale everything in the shortest possible time, ignoring what the marketplace tells them.
Walter is the founder and editor of Cooler Insights – a critically thinking content marketing, public relations and personal branding agency. Fuel your business with the latest insights in digital and content marketing, public relations and personal branding.
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