When most people think about financial freedom, wealth, and success, they often associate that with starting a business. And, many people who currently feel stuck in 9-5 jobs are looking at an entrepreneurial solution to help them break out of that “prison” and build the lifestyle that gives them freedom.
Unfortunately, many business start… and then fail within the first 2 years. The statistics vary (and it gets harder and harder to measure because of our “freelance economy”) but I think you’ll agree that there are A LOT of struggling businesses out there.
If you want to start a business, or if you have a business that’s struggling to stay afloat, how do you succeed and grow it?
I’ve said in a different blog post that the best way to start a business is to find a problem that you can solve. And that truth hasn’t changed. But some entrepreneurs will find an additional challenge even if they do that: once you solve the customer’s problem and they go away, you have to find a new customer whose problem you can solve. If you’re not careful, you can end up in a vicious cycle of serving customers, then finding new customers then serving those customers, then finding new customers – you an expend a lot of time, energy, and money on this hamster wheel.
So here’s the solution: build a platform.
What Is A Platform?
A platform is where you can talk about the problem(s) you solve and interact with customers. It’s a place, it’s a topic, and it’s your brand, all rolled into one.
In many ways, my site KentClothier.com is a platform for the things I talk about – this site is the launching point of many of the ways that I help solve other people’s problems.
But that’s just one example; a platform is not just a website. It’s a way of thinking: it might start in your social media, solidify in your website, and then build in your email list.
A platform is bigger than a single site. It’s a way for you to grow an audience and build a relationship with them around a topic — the problem you solve and related topics around it.
I’m going to use a simple example of a local flower shop. You might advertise to get people in the door but once they’ve bought flowers, they’re gone until the next time they need flowers. This is the way a lot of businesses work and it’s also the reason why a lot of them struggle. So instead you decide to build a platform:
- You create a Facebook group about local celebrations, and you talk about birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and other celebrations. You bring in other people to talk about those things too.
- You start a podcast about romance and how to build romance in a relationship.
- Your website gives people a place to order flowers but also to connect other related venues that they might also want on special occasions – such as a local romantic restaurant or a little bed and breakfast for romantic weekend getaways.
- You invite people to subscribe by email to your week tips on romance.
- And you create a smartphone app that people can order flowers at the touch of a button to have it automatically billed to their credit card and the flowers are delivered the same day.
I’m only scratching the surface but do you see the difference between the advertise-to-get-people in the door versus a platform? A platform is built around an idea or a topic as it relates to your brand.
Now think about the business you want to start. What kind of platform can you build to get people talking about your topic?