Hi, I’m Ross and I’m the co-founder & CEO at Hamtun Watches. In 2015 I launched the business with no money to spend and no existing reputation to build off. My first product raised over $220,000 in pre-orders within a month, and the business continues to flourish.
I'm frequently asked how I got the business started, how I grew a huge mailing list, and what I spent doing it (nothing!) On Don't Do An MBA I'll share all of the secrets with you. Follow along and you too should have a popular, sucessful business of your own soon.
Generating website traffic and then selling ads isn't a business. Build real products that people want and then sell them at a profit. It shouldn't be such a controversial idea.
If you follow along with the Don’t Do An MBA programme you’ll learn about
Really though, it all boils down to just 3 stages. Build an audience, convince them that you’ve built a good product, and then sell it to them. Below are a few articles that fit in to these 3 stages and that should give you a great head start. Once you’ve understood that right now all that matters is growing an audience, you’ll be able to start finding the articles that apply to you. Good luck, get going!
Stage 1: Building an audience
Finding a large, engaged audience is the hardest part of building a business. It becomes harder still when you have no marketing budget! You should be starting now, even if you don't have a product to show yet.
I began my marketing and customer growth 18 months before I launched anything, and more than 6 months before I even had renders of my products to show off. I had an idea in my head, but no design and no route to market. All I knew was that I needed people that were interested in the market I planned to go in to.
I've written lots on using a blog to build your audience, and that post remains a great place to start. A blog is almost free to run and allows you to write about your industry in lots of detail. You don't need to be an amazing writer, you just need to write.
Start now, and dedicate your time to it. Your final product doesn't matter if nobody knows about it. For your first 6 months at least, your only output should be blog content.
Stage 1 of Don't Do An MBA covers blogging in detail, but with a focus on people trying to build a blog that will lead to customers for future products. If you're trying to start a general pop culture or TV review blog there will be some relevant guides and advice, but some content won't be aimed at you.
Stage 2: Growing your list and building trust
Once you've started finding your audience, you need to look after them.
It's tempting to focus your efforts on social media, but your mailing list is the most important part of your business. Who knows what mood the Facebook or Twitter board will wake up in tomorrow, and who wants their business dependant on the current trends of Silicon Valley?
Your mailing list is a direct line of communication with your audience, and you own it completely. If a mailing list provider starts messing you around you can just take it elsewhere.
Getting people to join your list is easy compared to convincing them to buy from you, so you need enough people on your list to ensure that your first product release is a success.
Realistically only around 5% of your list is actually going to convert to a paying customer (lots more will probably read your stuff), so you need to keep growing it until your numbers add up.
I've written in detail about growing an engaged email list, so start there. Once you've got the basics, check out my follow-up on using landing pages to improve sign-up conversions and using your existing audience to find customers for you.
Stage 2 of Don't Do An MBA on growth and trust includes guides that will help you build an engaged list of people that want to buy your stuff.
Stage 3: Designing and selling products
If you're selling virtual content (eBooks, online courses, your services etc) then funding a product isn't a problem, and your effort can be entirely focussed on designing and selling it.
Big money comes from selling physical things though so even if your initial aim is to sell virtual products, consider what you could expand in to.
If you can't afford advertising, the chances are you can't afford to fund a production run of a product either. If you want to sell physical products, that's a problem!
Traditionally you were stuck with risk-averse banks or greedy investors for funding. Thankfully times have changed, and if you can convince people you know what you're doing, they will back you via crowdfunding campaigns.
I've got loads of helpful advice on finding international factories and suppliers to work with when you're starting up. I've worked with some amazing suppliers (and some less so...) and have learned the warning signs to watch out for. Once you've got a prototype, running a successful crowdfunding campaign requires a lot of things to go right.
We've all seen those ads for "trending Kickstarter projects" on Facebook. Those campaigns are your competitors, and they are spending thousands on those ads. It's not unusual for a marketing company to ask for 30-40% of total revenue from a campaign which is, frankly, ridiculous.
You don't need to spend those crazy amounts though, if you actually come up with a decent plan in the first place. Spending tens of thousands on advertising is just a reaction to having screwed up either the product or the growth stages.
We'll go through everything you should be doing to give your project a huge first day, focussing on every aspect of the campaign including pricing your campaign to sell, and make sure you're launching at the right time.
Stage 3 of Don't Do An MBA covers product and sales advice and contains loads of guides to ensure your launch goes well.
That's the very basics of how I work. Find people, write content for them, convert them to customers. In reality there is a lot more to it! Now you can start exploring the rest of the site. To get the most value from Don't Do An MBA I suggest you sign up you join the mailing list to receive the most important new content.
So what next?
Before you just dive in to the site and start picking out the stuff that interests you, I suggest you run through the 3 stages that the programme is broken down in to. Each is summarised on a single page, linking out to relevant articles. You can start with stage 1 below, and it'll guide you through the rest.