No money and little time? How to launch a great business anyway, according to marketing guru Seth Godin

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Entrepreneurs starting a business from scratch are faced with a range of seemingly overwhelming challenges, and the end goal can often appear starkly divorced from the current reality.

These challenges are amplified entrepreneurs are operating on a limited budget or when dealing with deadlines, in turn creating additional stress.

So, what does marketing guru Seth Godin do when under the pump and faced with budget and time restrictions?

Digital marketer Louis Grenier put the question to Godin as part of his Everyone Hates Marketers podcast.

“I chose to challenge him to take him out of his comfort zone and see if he still ‘got it’,” Grenier writes at Medium.

Grenier asked Godin to come up with a business idea on the fly, explain exactly how he would launch the business and describe how he would find his first customers.

The catch was he couldn’t use his name to promote it, only had a budget of US$1000 (A$1300) and had 90 days to be successful.

This is how Godin would approach it.

Marketing with, rather than at, people is a priority

Marketing has changed in the digital age, and the emphasis should be on marketing with people rather than at them.

Grenier notes Godin says this means people need to be involved in the process, and should not simply be viewed as numbers.

“The first step towards … launching a new business according to Seth Godin is to change your mindset,” Grenier writes.

“You can’t come up with a product or service and then decide to market it.”

Narrow your focus

Don’t overextend yourself when starting out. Grand ambitions are good, however take it one step at a time.

As part of the process, focus on a very specific target market.

“You probably have an idea of a product or service you want to offer; now it’s time to select the bullseye: who are the people who will benefit the most from using your product or service?” Grenier writes.

Grenier says that Godin’s business idea was a concierge service to help tourists find an Airbnb in Paris, narrowed down to specifically help Californian families.

“This is much more specific, and, all of a sudden, the problems they face and the solutions we can offer become much more specific, too,” he writes.

“Californian families want high-speed internet to talk with their relatives who stayed in San Diego. They want to see the Eiffel Tower from their balcony, just like in the movies. They want to taste the best croissants Paris has to offer since they can’t find any in San Diego.”

Ooze confidence

Confidence can be contagious.

As part of Godin’s idea for a concierge service, he proposed to select the best 50 Airbnbs in Paris, creating “an amazing 50-page guide of where our potential customers should stay when going to Paris”, and make it available for free.

He would then contact people fitting the profile of his ideal audience to ask whether they got value from the guide. If they did, Godin says they would likely share it. If they didn’t, he would improve it.

“Here’s the catch: he would leave his email address at the bottom of the guide, and expect readers to contact with questions,” Grenier writes. “He’d give great free advice, engaging with 100 to 1000 people a day back and forth, back and forth, until he’d [be] the indispensable middle man.

“Airbnb owners would pay him to write a review about their place, while American families will reach out to find the best Airbnb apartment in the city centre of Paris for less than $250 a night.”

Grenier notes that “to be trusted you must first give value for free”.

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