Sometimes, the best advice is what not to do.
When it comes to business, some mistakes are obvious: Don’t pass off the competition’s product as your own. Don’t break tax laws. Don’t hire your deadbeat cousin for a position of leadership.
However, there are other mistakes you may be making without realizing it. These subtle mistakes could be hurting your chances of success, so let’s find out more about them and banish them from our lives!
Mistake No. 1: Waiting for Perfection
Have you ever dragged your feet on starting a new marketing campaign because you weren’t totally sure how effective it would be? Or delayed a product launch because the product wasn’t exactly what you’d imagined in your head?
One giant company in the tech world did just that, missing out on a huge opportunity that could have forever changed the consumer tech industry. Back in 2001, well before the iPad or the iPhone, Microsoft managed to invent the modern tablet PC — and proceeded to do nothing with it! They decided no one would really want a tablet PC, and what’s worse, Microsoft didn’t keep trying to develop it into a marketable product.
After Apple’s iPad became a hit almost a decade later, Microsoft’s answer to the tablet was the Surface, but it was three years late to the party. Arguably, Microsoft has now lost the tablet war, but it could have been a different story if they’d been willing to launch a tablet sooner.
There’s always an urge to wait and try to make things absolutely perfect before you take action. Unfortunately, that’s counterproductive to real business growth and success, because nothing is ever perfect — and more importantly, perfection is a moving target.
More than anything, it’s the moving target of perfection that cripples entrepreneurs today. How many iterations of Windows OS have there been? The answer is nine — nine major versions since its first release in 1985, with smaller updated versions speckled in between. Were the first few releases of Windows perfect? Any business manager from the 80s could answer that: Not even close!
What if Microsoft had spent several more years trying to perfect Windows 1 before releasing it? The company would have missed the proper release “window” for the product, because other technology companies were hard at work competing with them. Some fantastic ideas have an expiration date — and waiting for perfection puts your ideas at risk of falling behind.
If you’re stuck, try to have the mindset of a scientist who’s conducting experiments: Test your products, your marketing strategies, and your ideas after they’re minimally viable in the marketplace. Many of the things you try won’t work, but by continuing to put the effort in to test them, you’ll hit upon the best tactics sooner.
Lastly, set an actual deadline that you have to stick to. Whether your product suffers from feature creep or a lack of focus, hold yourself to the discipline necessary to get things out the door — then keep on improving and iterating from there!
Mistake No. 2: Bragging About Yourself
You’re an amazing person and entrepreneur. Your business is incredible. Your team is the best. But the sobering truth is that your customers don’t really care about any of that, and it’s a mistake to act like they do.
Sure, customers care that you’re trustworthy, and they appreciate that you’re an expert, but only because those facts are indications of how much you can do for them. Nobody cares what you know or how smart you are — they care if you can find a solution to their problems, or bring about the outcomes they want.
When you talk about yourself or your business, make sure you connect how your experience and accolades directly relate to the benefits your customers can expect. For example, if you have media connections, don’t just brag about your friends in high places; explain that you’ve worked hard to build up connections that can help your clients get more valuable publicity.
Aside from people not believing your claims, the biggest hazard in bragging is that it’s really off-putting. People do business with people they know, like, and trust, and bragging undermines those facets of a relationship. The thing is, bragging doesn’t have to be blunt like Kanye West to damage your reputation. Many successful celebrities and business owners try to “humblebrag,” which is a more subtle way of bragging with a complaint.
Here’s an example of humblebragging. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer once tweeted, “They just announced my flight at LaGuardia is number 15 for takeoff. I miss Air Force One!!” Another example would be complaining that your huge mob of fans asking for autographs is making it hard for you to enjoy your filet mignon dinner with your supermodel date.
The point is, you may feel like dropping hints about how much success you’ve enjoyed will help you, but you have to “brag” the right way for it to work. Remember to relate how your accomplishments will help you do a better job for your customers, and whenever possible, use objective statistics, third party endorsements, and case studies to do your “bragging” for you.
Mistake No. 3: Focusing Only on New Customers
If you’re growing a successful business, chances are good that you have repeat customers or recurring revenue of some sort. Otherwise, you’re constantly going back to square one after every sale is completed. That reliable revenue is a big reason why your business is successful, because it allows you to make informed decisions and know that you can move forward with your bases covered.
And yet, when business owners think about what they should focus their efforts on, it’s almost always new customers. This makes sense, of course — new customers represent growth for the company. But your existing customers are the ones who provide the foundation for growth, and believe it or not, they’re a growth opportunity themselves!
Customers are people who have already proven they’re willing to open their wallets and pay you. They have demonstrated that they trust you and find value in what you sell. That’s why customers are the most important group to pay attention to: They represent recurring revenue, upsells, and cross sells.
As if that weren’t enough, satisfied customers give great referrals. Rather than putting everything you have into acquiring new customers, why not redouble your focus on giving current customers such a great experience that they can’t help but talk about it with their friends and colleagues?
More importantly, think about what would happen if you neglected those relationships with current customers. How does it feel when you sign up with a company that seems gung ho to have you as a customer — for about five minutes — only to have them forget about you two seconds later? Nothing’s worse than feeling like you don’t exist. Suddenly the service is bad, they’re nickel-and-diming you constantly, and you feel more like a victim than a valued customer.
You’re not prone to giving companies like that a second thought if you can find another option. But even if it’s the only game in town, you’re not going to tell your friends to sign up. You’ll try to give that business as little money as you can get away with.
There’s a better way to engage with current customers. By focusing on retention and making the customer experience amazing, you can keep turnover low and use word of mouth to build your business faster and more decisively than ever.
As you prepare for business success, keep these pitfalls in mind. It’s all too easy to put off business decisions while you wait for perfection, or to go a little too far in touting your qualifications when you meet with a prospect. It’s easy to rest on your laurels with current customers and hunt after new ones while the ones you have feel underappreciated and go somewhere else.
It’s important to avoid these problems in your own company. Try this: For each of the mistakes we’ve discussed, come up with just one concrete action you can take to improve this area. Then, get a strategy meeting on the calendar and make it happen. It would be a mistake not to!