Four Insights Creators Should Steal From *Offline* Business Owners
The way they hustle teaches us valuable lessons.
“In December 2020 alone, the USPTO received 92,608 trademark applications, an increase of 172% over December 2019.”
Online businesses have many perks. You can work from anywhere, your potential audience of customers is endless, and the opportunities for big profits due to rock-bottom costs are real.
In creator life or online entrepreneur life, low overhead is an enabler. You don’t have to figure things out right away, and as a result it becomes easy to lollygag, dawdle, meander, twiddle your thumbs, and avoid taking the uncomfortable action steps that actually propel you forward. Urgency often gets lost in the creator economy and creator-adjacent online business models.
You know who does have urgency? The brick-and-mortar business owner. These OG entrepreneurs could teach us a thing or two about bringing our vocational dreams to life.
Here are four scenarios offline entrepreneurs deal with every day that we can strive to emulate in our own online efforts.
Think about it. When someone decides to open a gym or studio, the first thing they do is declare they will start the business.
The second thing they do is… go take out a business loan of $100k+ to fund the buildout.
These entrepreneurs make a huge financial bet on themselves early on, and this bet creates constraints. Owners can’t decide three weeks into the buildout that they want to be a café or a restaurant or a library instead. They’re locked in and have to commit to the value proposition they’ve brought to the table.
At first, having fewer options seems like a bad idea. That’s not always the case.
Put yourself in the shoes of a yoga studio owner. Starting today, your rent and utilities are $12,000/month, your payroll is $9,000/month, and both of those items are largely noncontrollable expenses. How would you proceed?
Even if you’re an introvert… the next thing you would probably do is sell your fucking face off, because you’re panicked at being multiple five figures in the hole this month. Again.
You would do whatever it takes and put yourself out there to ensure you hit your numbers. Think about what would happen in your online business if you were to adopt a similar level of urgency.
Offline business owners have constraints — and these constraints actually reduce options and galvanize focus as a result. Creators should aspire to create similar circumstances to increase focus.
They Talk To Strangers All Day Long
Brick-and-mortar businesses answer the phone dozens or even hundreds of times a day.
Some calls are to answer a simple question, such as “Where are you located?” or “What are your hours today?”
Others are Q&As about the product or service that the store offers.
Many of those calls will lead to little or no new revenue. But some will be the catalysts that lead to new lifelong customers and champions of the brand. All of these conversations are valuable.
As an online entrepreneur, you need to spend a substantial percentage of your time getting in front of new people. No one is calling you (yet), so you need to get proactive and start putting yourself out there.
Stop trying to optimize the bejesus out of your day or curate a perfect morning productivity ritual and start having conversations instead. Lots of them. With lots of people.
They Focus On Repetition And Frequency
Offline businesses talk about their product and overall value proposition over and over again.
They look for brand partnerships, referral incentives, and advertising opportunities at every turn. Every dollar counts.
They repeat themselves with vigor online — even in the face of no engagement or demoralizing silence — because they know that (1) most people on social media lurk, and (2) the awareness stage of marketing sometimes requires dozens of touches before someone moves on to the consideration phase.
Offline business owners are uninhibited in shouting their value proposition from the rooftops. If you know your offer or call to action makes a difference in people’s lives… jump up and down about it the way a brick-and-mortar business owner does. (Shameless plug: Consider joining my email list.)
The people who get annoyed by you promoting yourself will never buy from you anyway. Focus on reaching the people who DO want to buy from you — and are willing to pay to solve their problems or make meaningful progress.
Ignore gurus with giant audiences. I ran a successful full-time online business with < 1,000 email subscribers back in my consulting days. It’s probably because I treated my online business like an offline business and was scrappy as hell.
Communicate your message and your value proposition many times over. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel with your messaging; focus on one call to action and communicate it frequently.
They Face Rejection Head-On
When I shared some of these initial lessons on Facebook, one former brick-and-mortar business owner chimed in with something I hadn’t taken into consideration:
Source: Screenshot from the author’s Facebook profile
After all the loans, after all the buildout, after all the visual merchandising and marketing and staff training and recruiting and taxes and inventory management and paperwork –
You still have to stare rejection in the face every single day.
In online entrepreneurship, the rejection is often quieter and more covert. Rather than hearing “no” directly to your face, rejection usually looks more like this:
- No one is reading your articles
- No one is joining your email list
- No one is interacting with you on social media
- No one is buying your courses or booking discovery calls
Many creators and online entrepreneurs are too easily trounced by trolls or negative comments. One rejection or unpleasant interaction sticks with them for days and saps their productivity.
Befriend rejection. Treat it like a learning curve. Rejection hurts at first, but if wading through what doesn’t work is what takes to get to what DOES work, it’s worth it. You’ll become more resilient in other areas of life, too.
In its current iteration, the creator economy has existed for about ten-ish years. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar business owners have been grappling with the fundamentals of business for centuries. We could learn something from what they prioritize.
- Commit in a way that reduces options and sharpens your focus.
- Talk to strangers and meet new people every day.
- Focus on repetition and frequency — especially with your core message.
- Face rejection head on, deal with it, and come out stronger on the other side.
Adopt one or more of these principles in your online business today and there’s a good chance you’ll see the needle move.
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