Is Starting A Business Easy?
Isn’t that the Billion Dollar question?!
Well, let's look at some stats first, always a good place to start.
US Small Business Market
There are around 29 million businesses with fewer than 500 employees in the United States, representing 99.7 percent of all US businesses and almost half of total private sector employment.
Canada Small Business Market
According to Industry Canada stats, service-based businesses account for 79% (916,527) of all businesses in Canada, and of those, 98% (898,090) are small businesses, of which 54% (488,979) are micro-enterprises (businesses with 1 to 4 employees)
Australia Small Business Market
Using the employment measure of small business, there were 2,065,523 small businesses in Australia employing less than 19 people, accounting for 97 percent of all Australian businesses by employee size.
OK, so there are a lot of small businesses, no doubt.
But what do the stats say on survival rates?
In the US, of all small businesses started in 2014:
- 80 percent made it to the second year (2015);
- 70 percent made it to the third year (2016);
- 62 percent made it to the fourth year (2017);
- 56 percent made it to the fifth year (2018).
And now the most important question. Why did they fail?
Top 10 causes of small business failure:
- No market need: 42 percent;
- Ran out of cash: 29 percent;
- Not the right team: 23 percent;
- Got outcompeted: 19 percent;
- Pricing / Cost issues: 18 percent;
- User unfriendly product: 17 percent;
- Product without a business model: 17 percent;
- Poor marketing: 14 percent;
- Ignore customers: 14 percent; and
- Product mistimed: 13 percent.
#1 says “NO MARKET NEED”, by a whopping 42%!! Seriously, who starts a business without determining if there is a MARKET NEED? Apparently a lot!!!
So let’s show you what we did BEFORE we started this business.
Our Steps to building this business
Live.Clinic is a software company built by people just like you. We are small business operators and we really were looking to solve problems for ourselves and our clients. Yes, it was a completely selfish plan!
Our clients were struggling with multiple systems, integration issues and rising costs of the systems themselves. They were spending too much time on maintaining these products and managing upgrades. Many were resorting to not using certain ones at all and going old school pen and paper for recording client notes and sales steps.
We chatted with our clients. We sent surveys. We tracked their marketing and sales activities. With their help, we narrowed the list down to 8 key areas that they were struggling with:
- Website creation, maintenance & optimization
- Understanding how to use social platforms
- Creating the right content
- Managing the sales process
- Delivering great prospect and customer experiences
- Creating and enabling new products quickly and easily
- Buying the right Traffic
- Managing employees
This was a large list of struggles. Many of these services we even provided to them and yet they still were struggling. Many of these could be “solved” via a plethora of software tools provided by companies with valuations in the billions!
They, and us, were using Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Calendly, multiple email systems, lead pages, Clickfunnels, Squarespace, WordPress, WooCommerce, Shopify and even HubSpot. They were spending over $800 a month on a variety of these products.
Something didn't sit right...
We asked ourselves…
Why are companies as large as these not able to meet these needs? Actually, they do, in many and varied ways. And that is the problem. These companies provide all kinds of collaborative tools and integrative possibilities, but have created more confusion and loss of focus for the business user.
So we looked more closely at the client marketing and sales journeys. Not what they are today, we know that, we helped build these with all those tools listed above. We looked at what they should be. We asked many many of our clients what they wanted more than anything from all of this technology. And the key response was overwhelming - just get me a conversation with a prospect or client. Not an email, a conversation. They said they were “gold” once they could talk to the person. Get me that call please.
The Right Business Conversation
But not just any call with any person. We narrowed it down with them to not just any conversation, but a qualified conversation. Somebody who knows specific things about them is at a particular point in the buying process and has the means to purchase what we are selling. Now we were getting somewhere. We went deeper.
We asked, “What is a conversation then?”
The answer was, “a 1 to 1 interaction online that has been scheduled and has a purpose and objective to move that person closer to the sale”
Scheduled vs Anytime? Yes, scheduled. They believed that somebody who was willing to schedule a time to talk was more qualified. They believed that by scheduling and asking the prospect to tell them more about themselves PRIOR to the call, the prospect was more qualified. They believed that somebody willing to give an email address and sign into a site was more qualified. They believed that somebody willing to make the TIME to do all of this was more qualified.
This was starting to make sense.
They wanted a conversation online? Did this mean a phone call or video call? The answer was both. The preference was video. Did they want to message with the prospect? Yes, but they really wanted a video call, so the messaging part was to get the call. They saw messaging as lead generation and prospect qualification on the way to the “gold” video call.
Get to a conversation, 1 to 1. But how would they get to that stage and what happens after that call?
Whatever the answer, they wanted to control the customer interactions. We used the term Customer Experience, they liked that.
Creating that Customer Experience
So how about if you have your own platform that provides qualifying content for those just browsing? The content is easily updated by you (not an IT guru) and that content links to the conversation area where the prospect can schedule an appointment with you. All on the same platform. That worked!
The challenge was then to keep those prospects (and now also clients) coming back to your platform, maintaining that authentic Customer Experience.
Why would they come back? Two reasons.
- To review what was discussed in the conversation. So if we allowed both parties to upload and share documents inside the platform, that would increase the value of the conversation AND allow both parties to review what was said later.
- To view or listen to the actual recording of what was discussed. Easy, just log back in and everything about your relationship is being stored there now. No more emails to search for or files to find in google drive or your other pc.
And then the all-important requirement. I want to be able to take payment for my products and services inside the same single area. Oh yeah, and also create them myself, on the fly. That made sense. Conversations lead to Sales. Can we add a payment system? Yes, we can!
We asked what else they needed. The answer was probably a lot, so whatever we create better have legs! Got it!
So we summarised. They were looking to have a single platform for both the business and the client where
- The business can focus on getting to that all-important conversation
- The client can have a single point of contact with the business to have conversations, share notes and documents and pay for services
- Things would change and whatever we created needed to change too
Based on these discussions, the 10,000-foot view required the following:
- A Web page builder
- An Appointment Calendar
- A Video, Phone & Messaging communication tools, and
- A Payment system
All inside a single login and platform.
Now came the more important question. Was this requirement a more broad want and need? What were the challenges facing small business operators like ours, according to Industry research groups, Government Think Tanks and, of course, Google.
We did the RESEARCH.
Our clients are a subset of the larger group of “small business operators”. That is where we focused. We found lots of data on small business challenges.
The top 6 we focused on were provided in a Forbes publication:
- Business web presence, such as being listed in online directories, having a website that may or may not be mobile responsive, and existence of a mobile app
- Use of social media for commercial purposes, such as customer engagement, sales, and marketing
- Data analytics used to examine characteristics of customers, to inform business decisions such as online marketing strategies or products offered
- The ability for customers to make bookings and purchases through online channels, such as enabling payments through the business’ website or use of third-party e-commerce platforms
- Use of various types of online advertising, from ad banners on websites or social media, search engine marketing and optimization Strategies
- Digital technologies and tools utilized internally in order to improve business processes or worker productivity (e.g. cloud-based software, video conferencing, corporate social networks).
We sought confirmation. We found it. The challenges that we uncovered in our own research were also relevant to the larger population of small businesses. The question was could we deliver something “DIFFERENT” to meet one or more of these challenges.
The answer was and is...YES!
We focused on the Customer Experience and getting to that qualified Conversation. We built a platform that meets challenges 1, 4 and 6 specifically. We have also created a Services membership that addresses challenges 2, 3 and 5.
Part 2 of Starting a Business
We identified a need within our existing client group. We flushed out that need, from the roots up. We then sought validation of that need in the larger small business market and found it. But we couldn’t just start writing code now? Could we? Of course not, there was more work to be done, and we did it.
What is the size of that need that we have found? Is there a market to sustain us? What do our potential clients look like? Who is our Perfect Pocket of People? How many are there? Where do we find them? What is the ROI for them? Can they make a change and see what we see for their future? How much education is required PRIOR to the sale?
These and many more questions will be answered in Part 2 of this blog - Why we Built This. Stay Tuned and thanks for your time