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Early Signs of Online Audience Business Success

Last month was kind of a special month for me.

On around the 15th of April, I celebrated 5 years working with Danny at Firepole Marketing.

Now, 5 years may not sound like a lot – but for a millennial who, pre-Firepole had almost 40 different jobs (most of them sucked), it’s kind of spectacular.

A LOT has changed in the last 5 years. Firepole Marketing went from a 2-person + an assistant (hello!) operation to a team of about 20 of the most brilliant and talented people imaginable. We’ve also gone from a handful of students to thousands in multiple trainings working on a dazzling array of different businesses.

And I’ve been lucky enough to get to see it all.

I’ve seen people be successful beyond their wildest dreams, and I’ve seen people crash and burn. I’ve seen people pick themselves up and start again, and I’ve seen people give up and go home. I’ve seen people start from absolutely nothing, and I’ve seen people start with more resources than we could have dreamed of when we were starting out.

Optimism, pessimism, enthusiasm, despair, doggedness and flightiness – all of these characteristics have been present in not just one, but in many students we’ve worked with over the years.

One question most people start out with is the same.

“Is this actually going to work for me?”

The answer, however, is not an unqualified yes. And to be honest, it takes a little time to learn one way or another if a given training is going to work out for a given person, or even whether they are cut out for an online business at all.

What I have been able to learn in 5 years of some of the most in-depth market research imaginable is that there are some pretty compelling indicators of success that you can see EARLY in the business building process.

It’s pretty likely your business will work for you if you’ve got the following…

Well Channeled Enthusiasm

First I’m going to get a landing page! Then Twitter! Then read this book! Then email a celebrity! Then sell this, and that and then that! To these people and those, and that guy, too!

Confession time – when I get a new idea – this is me. I can get so excited and so enthusiastic about something new that I want to chase every stray thought and do it all now, now, now!

This is one of the reasons I work for an entrepreneur instead of being one myself. Until I can channel that enthusiasm with a laser-like focus to achieve one specific goal at a time – my efforts are always going to bring me less than the work I put into them. (For any students I’m advising, don’t worry – it’s different with someone else’s business!)

Enthusiasm for what you’re doing is essential, of course – you’re not likely to make it if you don’t at least like it – but that enthusiasm needs to be in places where it’s going to do you the most good. Smart choices that lead to positive outcomes that drive your business forward.

But of course – not every smart choice leads to a positive outcome – so let’s talk about the next early indicator of success.

Willingness to be Wrong

Being told you’re wrong sucks.

But entrepreneurs can’t be precious. Accept it right now: you’re going to make bad choices, wrong moves and total goofs, and if you’re really, really lucky – someone will tell you.

You’re going to think (and to be fair – probably have every reason to think!) you’re on the right track – but then no one will open an email, a JV partner will turn you down, you’ll inadvertently offend your Facebook group.

As important as it is to stand up for yourself and your ideas, and move with confidence – you’ve also got to be open to the fact that sometimes, you’re just on the wrong track.

Being told you’re wrong can happen in a lot of ways, and it’s important to pay attention to them, even when you may want to hide your head in the sand a little bit.

You might launch a product that no one in your audience wants.

You might launch a product that lots of people buy – but everyone returns.

You might run a campaign or write a post that falls completely, totally flat.

Being wrong isn’t really a problem – but being wrong in the same way repeatedly is a terrible problem – so do yourself the favor of swallowing your pride, and rethinking your assumptions.

This leads directly into the next sign of success I’ve noticed in new entrepreneurs.

Focus on the Destination, Not the Journey

I know. This is basically anathema to a lot of people – and the journey IS really important. Doing the right work in the right order, and being careful to make the best choices you can – it’s all important. Enjoying the process doesn’t hurt either!

But when it comes to brass tracks, if you’ve got value you want to bring to the world, and really want a sustainable (read: profitable) business – then the path that you take to reach your goals might not look like what you think it will – and that has to be okay.

If you are absolutely, 100% married to the idea that you’ll build your business by doing ONLY this thing, for this person, and you’re not interested in any other ways to achieve your goals – you might get lucky – the first iteration might work – but it might not.

If you care deeply about your business – because creating a living for yourself matters, because making a difference in the world matters, because helping individuals matters – then you need to be flexible enough to keep the end goal in mind.

And if people don’t want to buy your books, offer them workshops. If they don’t want your professional services, teach them how to do it themselves. If they don’t want your digital product, make it physical.

Few businesses look exactly like their owners imagined they would on day one and keeping the end goal, the thing that *really* matters to you in mind, means that the path you take to it can twist and bend around the obstacles to where you want to be.

And the path is sometimes a long one – so getting to the end of it requires the last key indicator of success.

Consistent Momentum

This is the big one.

It’s the hardest to maintain, and probably the most important of everything I’ve talked about.

Truth time: if you don’t prioritize your business, you won’t succeed with it.

To be clear: there’s a difference between making a conscious choice to prioritize something else (family, school, relationships etc) and just letting your deadlines get pushed and things get shuffled around until you’re maybe working at things every now and then but not really.

Things come up, life gets in the way – we’ve all experienced it.

But you’ve got to show up and do the time, every time, on time if you want real results.Click To Tweet

You need to protect the time you spend working on and developing your business like a mama bear protecting her cubs, and on days when you’re uninspired, totally convinced of your eventual failure, or facing what looks like an insurmountable obstacle – you’ve just got to do it anyway.

Really – showing up is half the battle.

So if you have:

  • An un-directed enthusiasm,
  • A conviction of your eternal right-ness,
  • A rock-solid plan for how things *should* go, or
  • A tendency to let things slide

…I’m not saying you can’t build a great business – but this is something you should watch out for and work on.

So – let’s open the floor, which of the early indicators of success do you have? Which do you need to work on? Let us know in the comments – and we’ll help!

About Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is an alumnus of Mirasee and is passionate about online education, small business and making a difference in the world. You can find out what she's up to and how side-hustles will take over the world at PayingforLife.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganTwoCents.

37 comments

  1. pat says:

    Megan, It’s become common to hear or read focus on the journey, so it was startling to read focus on the destination. Thanks

  2. Christy says:

    The power of a solid community is truly awesome. I haven’t seem comments closed in a long time. I do remember when I first started my blog

  3. Don Karp says:

    Congratulations on year #5! Are you doing well with Pay For Life, and how does that fit in with this article? I found it useful and think it could be made into a questionnaire for those who want to pre-determine if a solo online biz is for them. Perhaps a crystal ball might help, too.

    I believe that my future is with an online biz, even though I have some problems with each of your points.

    S. Covey says to begin with the end in mind. But consistent momentum means for me developing small process-oriented goals to get me to the big end one. It’s about habit formation and actually the building of a new identity–not at all easy.

    Currently I am at a very difficult crossroads, shifting after 7 months of work to a different audience. I have trust in my mission/vision/goal, and can do this. It’s very scary and also exciting.

  4. beckyleealexander@yahoo.com says:

    I have all the indicators of success except the most important one. I tend to let things slide now and then. Usually that’s when I need to follow one action with a second one soon after. I’ll sometimes wonder when the right time is and wait too long to follow up, or get too many things needing to be done at the same time.

  5. Phil Dickey says:

    Well, thanks a lot! I really appreciate the perspective. Unfortunately, it seems that all it means is that I’m not cut out for this kind of business. I am so hoping to transition into some kind of web based business, but it looks as if I have a LONG way to go. Four out of four items on your list constantly give me problems. So far, I’m hanging in there, and I will keep reading, at least for now. Next, I have to work on at least ONE of these four things.

  6. Marcy McKay says:

    My blog’s birthday was April 15. How fun we both share that anniversary. You are a GEM, Megan. Your post offered great reminders to us all. Thanks for your support, wisdom and guidance. Plus, congrats on 5 years! m3

  7. Sue Vugler says:

    Excellent post thanks. And some helpful comments by others too. I can certainly see what is going to get in my way if I don’t make some changes and unfortunately I could easily get stuck on 3 of the 4 of the aspects you talk about.

  8. Christine Sang ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Megan, congratulations. This post should be in the startup package for all the ABM’s cause its honest and inspiring at the same time. thanks for all your efforts and successes!

  9. Nhung Nguyen says:

    Hi Megan, congratulations. And thank you for the very first tip – well channeled enthusiasm. I am at the start of building a digital business, very very start, and I feel like I am torn between so many ideas, directions. While I should really concentrate one and do that one well. Easy said than done. Anyway, thank you for a good article.

  10. Virginia says:

    Thanks for a nudge to take some bigger actions. Congratulations on 5 years. Your influence continues to expand – great !

  11. Megan, thank you!! for a great article and timely. One of my clients is just this–soooo overnice to clients and staff that he misses entirely on his systems that made him successful and changes everything (and I really do mean everything) when one client or one staff voices a personal preference. I see this as a symptom, mostly, of no plan. But this client has serious buttons on the 4-letter-word “plan” and I’ve needed ideas for a different angle. Sneaky and sideways but effective. This gives me plenty. Much appreciated.

  12. Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Love this, Megan!

    The early sign I look for is IMPLEMENTATION. When I see someone taking class after class all in a row, I know they’re not taking action on what they’re learning. There isn’t time! And then, it’s going nowhere.

    Often, I’ll see them pop up a year or two later, once again asking the same basic questions they already had answered. People need to learn, implement, learn. Not learn learn learn, in hopes that one day you’ll feel brave enough to implement something.

    1. Megan says:

      Such a good point, Carol – too often learning feels like all the action you need to do – but it’s just the first step. 🙂

      Megan

  13. Hahaha! That over-enthusiatic puppy thing is me all the way. One thing building my business has taught me is to focus it . . . and not to be too expressive (b/c it freaks people out).

    1. Megan says:

      I know that feeling too! If my natural… let’s call it exuberance… was always front and center I don’t think anyone would be able to actually listen to me! Too much jumping around! Good luck focusing!

      Megan

  14. Honestly, as usual, I have all the key indicators of being successful – one day in the future. It hasn’t happened yet, but at least I’m in the middle of correcting what I’ve been doing wrong.

    I ignored advice from professionals, thinking I knew better. I didn’t. My enthusiasm took my fiction writing in several different directions, and I’ve had a hard time speaking to one audience because of it.

    Great article! I hope one day to prove it very right. : )

    1. Megan says:

      I hope you do too, Cassandra!

      It can be a fine line to walk between trusting your gut, and trusting an expert – there is often a very real case for both. 🙂 I like to try and identify my strengths, and rely on experts to help fill in the gaps!

      All the best,

      Megan

  15. Mary Kincaid says:

    Megan, I agree with you on all points. Congratulations on your anniversary. I have spent years struggling in places that I thought were right for me that finally finding a place to channel all the energy and creativity is wonderful. I see the hard work before me but it’s not as frightening as some of the times I had to go and try to accomplish someone else’s ideas. Let’s all rise up and market like we are going over the hill to defeat our enemies. Then we can call our success our own.

    Thanks for this encouragement.

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Mary,

      Love the marching up hill to battle imagery! It can feel like that sometimes, can’t it?

      Keep up the awesome work!

      Megan

  16. Christine Tupe says:

    Ouch on well-channeled enthusiasm. For some reason, I always think that even if a subject is not directly related to what I do, I can still afford to spend tons of time to gather a little bit of information that may or may not help me.

  17. Rohi Shetty says:

    Congrats on completing five years at Firepole, Megan!
    Hmm, I guess I need to work on all the four indicators of success — or to overcome all the four pitfalls of failure.
    I plan to restart ABM again from 1st June.
    I’ll bookmark this post and use it to stay on track.

  18. Tracy Sohl says:

    Thanks for the reminder “It’s about the Destination and not the Journey”. It reminded me of how I succeeded in the past and what I am doing wrong now.

  19. Okay, Megan, here are the absolutely most important words in your post (in my opinion, of course). ;<)
    I quote you: "Truth time: if you don’t prioritize your business, you won’t succeed with it."
    The way each of us can live that mantra is by doing as you advise throughout the post.
    The one I have to constantly guard against is channeling my enthusiasm. I'm "enthusiastically" working on it, though.
    Well done and thanks!

  20. Barbara O'Toole says:

    Megan:

    Thanks for making me laugh!

    Your perspective on “getting easily distracted,” i.e.,”First I’m going to get a landing page! Then Twitter! Then read this book! Then email a celebrity! Then sell this, and that and then that! ” made me smile.

    I much prefer to call it,”well-channeled enthusiasm” from now on!

    Consistency in marketing is what I need to work on most. I LOVE all the creative aspects of marketing. The boring part is the regular communication.

    Interestingly, I enjoy planning also, but when it comes time to implement, I’d rather create another plan!!

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Megan says:

      Ahh – the curse of the never-ending list! 😉

      Consistency is really hard – but you can make it a habit like just about anything else!

      Megan

  21. Lea Misan says:

    Thank you for these key indicators. I find this useful. I have a tendency to let things slide when something else grabs my attention and have been trying to focus on sticking with the thing that needs to be completed first. Finding it a challenge!

  22. Congratulations, Megan! 5 years is a significant amount of time.

    Loved this article. I totally agree that being connected and talking to your audience regularly leads to consistent business growth.

    Thanks,
    Sue

  23. I’d agree that these things are important, but I think the key to success begins earlier. Nothing works unless (a) you have a product or service that people want; (b) your audience knows they want it (or you can add a spin that responds to a known want); and (c) you’re especially credible as a source to supply that product or service.

    For instance, a woman who transitioned from corporate life now coaches women who want to leave corporate life and start a business. She has the perfect background in HR and she’s a wife and mom, so her audience relates to her.

    Of course she’s using marketing to reach her audience and fine-tune her message, but when you’re connected to your market, your marketing happens almost like magic! And if she applies these principles — even less than perfectly — she will do very well.

    1. Megan says:

      Hey Cathy,

      I definitely agree that those are important to have! I think, though, that figuring those things out are very much part of the business building process – especially using the Audience Building method. 🙂

      Megan

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