When I rolled up my sleeves and got down to working on my very first startup, I had the entrepreneurial dream all figured out.
I had an original idea I thought was going to bring me glory, put me on the front cover of Forbes listed under ’30 under 30′, and turn me into an overnight success all at the same time.
All I had to do was pitch it to a few people, assemble a team, throw some initial cash, and watch the rocket take off.
Except, mid-way, the fuel ran out…
In six years, I had started six startups.
And, all of them shot to the sky. Only to lose all steam and fizzle out.
It didn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out what went wrong.
Leonardo DiCaprio took 180 minutes in the ‘Wolf of Wallstreet’ to reach the peak, tumble, and rise up again.
It was going to take me a lot more.
In a nutshell, here were my problems:
- I was bored.
- I couldn’t retain my employees.
- I burned through cash and couldn’t convince investors.
Starting your own business takes a lot of time. It’s hustling, day in and day out, 24/7.
You have to deal with failures, setbacks, sometimes your routine becomes mundane, sometimes, you can’t figure out how to build a team.
And, I’d lost enough cash to go back to a day job and hold onto it.
Until I had my epiphany…
You see, I was working full-time as a Digital Marketing Executive at ‘VoIP Terminator’ when the bug to start my own marketing agency bit me.
I loved everything about marketing and SEO.
I had both national and international clients and I was making a buck helping them put their businesses on the top of Google’s search result lists, and by bringing them a healthy amount of leads and traffic.
Soon, I had established my name in the field and my clients were leaving me raving testimonials.
I was good at it. Why not start my own business, I figured.
So, I joined hands with my best friend and together we started Digitally Up.
And, this time, I knew I was going to succeed.
Here’s how I turned my seventh business into a massive success:
We Put Our Name Out There
Early on, I’d decided I wasn’t going to spend a fortune starting out. It was a lesson I’d learned the hard way. We put up a simple Facebook page. I designed a simple logo, we added a description and a few posts, bought a basic WordPress site, and let the world know we were in business.
Our first public shout-out was on a Facebook group called ‘Pakistan Startups’.
There we got our first client, then two more joined the fold after we pitched to family and friends.
Three legitimate clients and we were off.
We Created The Most Irresistible Proposal
If you’re starting a marketing agency, you need to know how to market yourself. A great proposal, a formal contract, and presentation go a long way toward establishing trust and legitimacy.
Here’s what helped us the most: we spent hours researching and building a solid, detailed proposal.
When you design a proposal, you have to do it while keeping your client in mind. What are their fears? What do they want? Why will they trust you? Are you answering every possible question they could have?
We proofread and printed our proposal and took the hard-copy to every meeting. We also made sure the contracts were professionally curated and didn’t look or sound amateurish.
We Made Sure Our Dress-Code Was Impeccable
Humans are visual animals. Looks matter and so does your dressing sense. The first thing someone notices about you is your appearance. And we made sure we gave a stellar first impression.
The moment you start designing your entire pitch around your client’s comfort and satisfaction, closing becomes a piece of cake.
Here was the unsaid rule: always be well-dressed, showcase your passion and leadership, and make the presentation count.
We Mastered The Art of Using Facebook Ads
When we first started out, we ran trials on every social medium to see how we could approach and close clients. One of them was Facebook, and the response blew us away.
Here’s why Facebook worked so well:
We didn’t have to spend much on ad campaigns. A minimal budget brought us enough clients compared to other platforms where acquiring clients was both harder and costly.
Secondly, the closing rate soared through the roofs.
For every 10 leads we got, we closed 8. That brings the conversation rate to an unbelievable 80%.
Our findings: people in Pakistan respond to Facebook ads and once we realized how profitable it was for our business, we ran hundreds of tests to create a blueprint for high-performing ads so we could replicate our success long-term.
Today, Facebook continues to bring us leads in big numbers.
Heading Into The Future
Once Digitally Up was up and running, we didn’t have much time at our hands. We’d entered the world of digital startups and tasted our first success.
The next step was to spread our wings and fly to new heights. But, as it turns out, we didn’t have to leave behind old shores for that.
My CEO, boss, and mentor at that point, Muhammad Usman Khan at VoIP, offered to buy a stake in Digitally Up in exchange for giving us his office space and resources and we agreed.
Digitally Up was growing and we needed all the resources and help we could afford. Needless to say, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken.
Today Digitally Up has both native and international clients. Our base is in Australia and we are also the first Pakistani based digital marketing company to be part of the Forbes Agency Council.
Here’s what you can learn from my story.
Lesson #1: Hard-work has no substitute. Facing problems? Good. Resistance is part of being an entrepreneur. The moment you sign up for the job, you sign up for a hoard of problems. Your job is to stay resilient, weather the hard winds and come up with solutions. Quitting will not help.
Lesson #2: Be really really good at what you do. If you don’t love what you do, or you’re not good at it, you won’t last. Firstly, because you’ll be a part of the herd that constitutes 90% of people, and secondly because your customers will find out and drop you.
Lesson #3: Never stop experimenting. We tested hundreds of prototypes for every facebook ad we ran. We researched and researched and tweaked our proposal enough times to reach something that works.
We still take out enough time every day to learn. If you want to succeed, never stop experimenting. Take notes and make learning a crucial part of your game-plan. You need to know what you’re doing.
The last lesson? No matter how great your pitch is or how hard you’ve worked on a proposal, you’ll always face a client you wouldn’t be able to close. That’s part of the job.
Every entrepreneur faces failure and resistance.
How you deal with it is what matters.