As an entrepreneur for over 30 years now, I’ve listened to more stories about how to get started as an entrepreneur than I can count. Heck, I’ve even told my fair share of them. (I did get started in the basement of a factory after all.) I’ve learned a lot about recent tech skills while promoting three of my current SaaS products: payroll software, accounting software, and recruiting software.
While many conversations about entrepreneurship focus on passion and designing the life you want to live—all important factors—few serial entrepreneurs go into the hard tech skills that make a new business venture work. I’m going to change that by offering a list of skills I think will help any modern entrepreneur launch a startup that is sure to take flight.
Here are five tech skills today’s entrepreneurs should add to their business utility belt.
Your company needs a website if it’s going to have any real chance of succeeding in the modern business landscape. What’s more, that website needs to be a quality site that is mobile friendly and easy navigate.
If you are not sure what “mobile friendly” or “easy to navigate” mean, then you will want to brush up on Web development 101. We live in an age where people can press a button and tell the digital personal assistant built into their mobile phone to look for a business or product. Whatsmore, the usage of mobile devices to find information is growing exponentially.
Because people are relying on their phones to be their information portal, your website should be optimized to work well on a mobile device. Think about what you have now. Is a customer able to make sense of your website on a potential customer’s phone? Can those potential customers easily navigate the information? Or is it full of indecipherable content to small to read and impossible to click? If it’s the latter, that customer may be lost forever.
If you have a website optimized to work on a phone, you are part of the intimate relationship your potential customer has with the device in their pocket. That’s a powerful bond, and you should leverage it whenever possible. It all starts with a website that works well on a mobile device.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Every modern startup has a business partner they know well, even if they haven’t met them in person. That partner is Google.
Google and other search engines prioritize the information they show in search results based on relevance, domain authority, page authority, and other complex ranking signals. How well your website is “optimized” to meet these variables will dictate how far up a search results page your website will “rank.”
Why is this important? Studies show that results closer to the top are clicked more often, with the top result nabbing approximately 33% of all traffic. Also, highly ranked websites are more likely brought up by a phone’s mobile assistant. I’d normally be the guy to tell you that C’s get degrees, but in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the goal is to graduate at the top of your class.
Boiling it all down, you want your business to rank high when customers search for the products and services you specialize in. Search engine optimization is the process of making that happen.
Beware, however. The SEO process can be a deep dive if you want to develop the tech skills to be an expert at it. In fact, at my company, Patriot Software, we have a full-time employee dedicated to Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a vast field to try and master, but understanding the basics can make a difference when getting your business in the mix for new customers.
User Experience Design
So you know how to build a website, and you understand what ranking means. That’s fantastic. That means people can find your website, and they can use it on the devices they want. However, you’re still not their preferred option? Why is that?
It may be because your website is difficult to use or counterintuitive. Perhaps on one page you place a button in the top left-hand corner. On another page. it’s moved someplace else. Or you use different icons for the same thing or have an awkward navigation process.
As stated earlier, customers go to the Internet to make a transaction, find information, or navigate to a location. They are there to learn something. However, to convert people from learning mode to buying mode, they must figure out how your website works. You’re asking them to use your website instead of someone else’s, but someone else’s may be easier to learn, navigate, and purchase through. There is a similar product, but less for them to figure out; thus, they have a better experience. The end result: They’ll go back to the good experience and avoid the bad one.
There is no static, standardized way to use the Internet or make a perfect user experience. That’s because what constitutes good user experience is largely based on what would be considered a typical web-browsing experience. Most people expect a search bar to appear in the upper-right corner, and navigation to appear on a middle bar at the top of a screen. Ask yourself, does your website do what customers expect a website to do? Or, are you asking your customers to learn a completely different way to interact with your website?
Again, this has everything to do with how modern customers interact with the information and marketing put out by modern startups. A lot of the emails businesses send to customers is spam. Regardless, it remains one of the best marketing tools in a small business’s arsenal. Emails represent direct contact with a customer. Email marketing is a chance to circumvent the filters in other venues and put an offer directly in front of a buyer. I say a chance because there are a lot of ways to do it wrong.
In all marketing efforts, knowing your customer is crucial. And, because this is a digital marketing effort, you need to know how your customer interacts with the emails you’ll send them. Many customers interact with emails on their phone because they always have their phone with them. It is in your best interest to figure out how to conduct a market analysis, and learn how they interact with your company. Believe it or not, customers treat emails that pop up on the instant-gratification supercomputer in their pocket differently than they do a screen full of emails. When potential customers see a screen of unanswered emails, they are more likely to see your email as spam. When they see your email pop up on their blank screen, they’re more likely to follow it down the marketing rabbit hole because of their built-in need for phone alert stimulus.
Spend some time learning email marketing tips, making lists, and tailoring messages and subject lines. And, if you haven’t considered it yet, make a newsletter that consolidates all your important news and offers it in one place. If you offer useful information to a customer, they’re more likely to keep you off their blocked list. And similar to web design, SEO, and user experience design, you’ll need the technical skills to make your emails mobile friendly for your customers.
Social Media Marketing
You probably already use social media for personal purposes, which means you already have an idea of the basics. However, social media marketing is a little different than other digital marketing efforts. Essentially, you don’t want to be the jerk at the party.
When I was a young entrepreneur, I would go to parties and try to bend every conversation back to my business. I wanted to make sales, after all. Having all these people in one place practically screamed sales to me! While other people were telling jokes and making friends, I was trying to pass out business cards. What kind of jerk does such a thing?
Social Media is where people go to be social, make relationships, and follow interests. Their main priority is not to buy things. If you go into the social media space pushing your product on people, don’t expect to be successful. Instead, think about social media as a chance to engage and have an ongoing relationship with your potential customer. If they like you and what you’re doing, they’ll think of you when they need your service, or, better still, they’ll share what you’re doing with their friends.
Putting it Together
When you combine all these tech skills with traditional marketing and PR efforts, you end up with something called “integrated marketing.” Most entrepreneurs are doing integrated marketing, not as a strategy, but because they have to! It’s the result of doing it all yourself.