1 Question Every Entrepreneur Needs To Ask

Zero To €100k Revenue In 12 Months — Month 4

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This is post 5 of 12 in the series exploring how I bootstrapped my business from zero to €100k revenue in 12 months. In my previous articles, we covered pre-launch and how I launched my startup without a product

After 100 days of hard work and hustle, everything suddenly changed for my business. The phone started ringing constantly with new customers and our inbox was packed with new business enquiries. The source? The one marketing channel that I had completely ignored.

For the first 3 months, the entire focus of my marketing efforts had been digital. I invested time building a stylish website and constantly honing my Facebook advertising creative. Early results had been good, and customers were coming at a steady pace.

Say Yes To Opportunity

If you haven’t read my previous post, it covers how I created a meetup event to generate new leads for HostButlers, my Airbnb management service. As with most new businesses, luck plays a massive role in any success. I had invited a well known Irish travel blogger, Janet Newenham to speak at the event. As we discussed the event and her travel plans over a beer, she was fascinated by the HostButlers story. Janet is also a freelance journalist and pitched our story to the Irish Times, a large, well respected broadsheet newspaper here in Ireland. The article would change everything.



I did an interview with Janet and to be honest, I didn’t really expect much to come from it. Two weeks later, Janet popped me a message on Twitter to say the article was appearing the following day. I guessed it would be short 100–200 word piece at the bottom of the travel section.

Next morning, I drove along the icy Dublin mountain roads to my nearest shop and picked up a copy. On the front page of the paper, was a preview piece about HostButlers with a full page spread inside the business section with a large colour photo. It was simply too perfect. You can read the full article here.

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Instant Results

The results were immediate. Within an hour, my phone started ringing with offers of partnerships with tour operators in Dublin and customers who were eager to try out this new service they didn’t know even existed. That is the key phrase to remember. I had reached an entirely new demographic who I had never even tried to target.

I learned three things from that article.

  1. The important role traditional media still plays in customer behaviour.

  2. My personal biases were clouding my judgement on who my customer really was.

  3. The importance of tracking where every single customer was hearing about my business. It helped me create a simple trick that helped shaped all my marketing efforts.

That morning changed the entire trajectory of my business and the question I will reveal to you now will change your business forever.

Where Did You Hear About Us?

This is the single most important question you must ask every single person who contacts your business. As a startup, you must know where your marketing spend is working and what money you are wasting on channels that simply don’t work. Each business is different so experimentation is the key here.

This advice will seem too simple to be earth shattering. When was the last time you asked your customers or the last time you were asked by a business how you found them?

I ask every single new enquiry where they heard about us and 2 years later, I still get people saying, “Oh, I think I read about you in the paper” or “I Googled you and the article about you in the Irish Times came up”.

I doubled down my efforts to gain traditional media coverage and within 6 months, I was featured in print, TV and radio. Each time after I would appear, my inbox would get a fresh flow of enquiries and proposals.


Beware Your Biases

Human biases impact everything we do on a daily basis. This is something we are born with and something that is hard-wired into our brains. We make assumptions and attribute norms to situations to make daily life easier.

However, this can be toxic to your business. As entrepreneurs, we make assumptions about our customers and their behaviours based on our personal behaviours and habits. Don’t beat yourself up over it, it is human nature.

I had assumed that my customers were digitally savvy, active on social media and wouldn’t dream of getting their information from traditional media such as print, newspaper or TV.

Don’t misunderstand me. I still run Facebook ads and engage on my social channels. It’s not an all or nothing choice between traditional and modern, but I realised that you constantly need to experiment and say yes to things you normally would have spurned.

Key Tip: Challenge your biases daily. Talk to people with absolutely no connection or experience of your business and industry.

Power of Credibility

When you start your business, unless you have a pedigree in your chosen field or a track record of success, people are going to be sceptical about you. Another benefit of getting featured in traditional media is that people are familiar with their brands and they are trusted.

If you are profiled in a major media outlet, there is a power of association that comes with it. Readers assume the outlet has vetted you and that you are the real deal. The power of this cannot be overstated. I can trace the entire upward trajectory of my business back to that single newspaper feature.

Potential customers are going to ask a lot of questions. It will feel invasive and that people don’t trust you but you need to be comfortable answering honest questions. You can read my previous post about how to appear bigger than you are here.

Be prepared to answer the following questions in your first 12 months.

  • How long are you in business?

  • How many staff do you have?

  • Where is your office?

  • How many customers do you have?

Next Week — Month 5

Momentum builds after our media exposure and I need to start scaling fast. I’ll reveal the tips and tricks to scaling a business with very few resources.

Gary Fox