Starting a business is a bit easier when you have a solid plan in place! A plan helps to provide a great guide as you begin to build your business. It's an excellent way to define your expectations and understand exactly what you're hoping to accomplish.
Unfortunately, the real world is incredibly hard to predict, which means that your first plan almost always ends up being... terrible. Things don't work out the way you predicted, products take longer to make, and so on.
We found out that our initial plan was completely unrealistic pretty quickly.
The Plans We Made
Before starting Amarlo, I worked in the Software as a Service (SaaS) world. When it comes to marketing, I had seen that most SaaS companies followed an incredibly simple and effective playbook!
Here's the basic idea: create an incredibly valuable free resource, spend money on social media advertising to get that resource into people's hands, and finally, direct those people to the software that will solve all their problems. Sounds easy enough, right?
We thought it'd be enough to create a few lead-generating resources, generate traffic through paid advertising, and end up with new clients who knew we could help their business.
$3,000 and several months later, it failed.
At least, we didn't end up with any new clients. We did generate an email list of over 800 people, received thousands of link clicks, and sent tons of follow-up emails to try and create interest. Still, we received no new clients.
What We Learned
As a bookkeeping company, our first instinct is to always track what we do. As it turns out, tracking the results of our spectacular failure helped us to learn a few key lessons.
We were looking for the wrong people.
We originally wanted to build Amarlo to help creative small business owners (photographers, graphic designers, etc.) keep track of their finances and understand their businesses better. I thought that, by creating valuable resources for these types of business owners, we could easily find new clients!
Instead, what we discovered was that most of the people who downloaded our resources were hobbyists or brand new business owners. While these were incredible people, they simply weren't looking to hire a bookkeeper or advisor to understand their businesses better. They were too early on in their journey to benefit from a service like ours!
We didn't have any other content.
Generating leads using paid marketing is an effective strategy if you're doing it right! But, great marketing isn't just about one particular avenue. Excellent marketing uses a combined effort across multiple channels to delight and inspire people into taking action with your business.
While we were able to bring valuable resources to a small number of people, we simply failed at keeping them engaged with other relevant content. We didn't spend any time trying to create a deeper relationship with people, which ultimately meant our marketing fizzled out.
What Happened Next?
When you feel the sting of failure, it's important to keep pushing on. Eventually, all new business owners make investments in areas that just end up not working out. Whether you hired an employee that wasn't the right fit, try developing a product that just falls flat, or invest in marketing that simply doesn't pay off, you can learn from your mistakes.
My partner, Austin, and I went back to the drawing board and decided that it was time for a new plan. We took a hard look at our first year in business from a financial perspective in order to understand our own financial story and created a new plan of action.
When you take the time to fully understand your mistakes, it's easier to recover and move on with confidence.