The following post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga.
Small businesses venturing forth into the online sphere often struggle.
The reasons are manifold.
Most often, though, they’re related to the dominance of the industry giants. These behemoths’ omnipresence on social media and search engine results makes it seemingly impossible for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to gain real traction.
What makes matters worse is that most small businesses can’t afford the enterprise-grade tools that could help them overcome the entry barriers.
Syed Balkhi proposes ways out of this tricky spot - with solutions grounded in personal experience.
Building an 8-Figure Online Business From Scratch
Today, Balkhi is the CEO of Awesome Motive, which has built a wide portfolio of WordPress solutions, used by over 17 million websites worldwide.
Among these are ubiquitous tools like the contact form solution WPForms and the MonsterInsights analytics plugin.
In addition, he also runs WPBeginner. This site is the single largest open-access WordPress knowledge base in the world, attracting over two million monthly visitors.
But Balkhi’s success was by no means pre-programmed. His family immigrated to the US from Pakistan when he was 12. From there, he faced an uphill battle to overcome language barriers and economic hardship.
“At first, I started hustling online to help out my family,” Balkhi recalls. “My father was working three minimum wage jobs at the time to make ends meet.”
He found his way forward with perseverance and resourcefulness. Over the past 18 years, Balkhi has harnessed these characteristics to build a series of small online businesses into successful online powerhouses.
In the process, he has learned invaluable lessons, and developed strategies to help any small business get off the ground.
Here are his most important tips.
Focus on Success Gaps
When deciding what avenues of business to pursue, Balkhi says, the most important thing is to focus on success gaps.
“There's a gap that's holding your customers back from reaching success,” he explains. “And if you can fill that gap, they'll stay with you for a long time.”
Many of Balkhi’s most successful ventures began with him listening to customers explain their challenges and needs.
“WPForms, for example, was a result of the annual survey I run on WPBeginner,” Balkhi elaborates. “People said they wanted a contact form. I said: Why? There are so many contact form solutions out there. Then, I started talking to them, and they told me in detail about all the things that were missing in the existing tools. I was wowed - I would never have thought about any of this.”
It’s this focus on the success gaps that made WPForms the fastest-growing contact forms plugin on WordPress. It now has over 4 million active installations.
Know Your Circle of Competence
Another central tenet of Balkhi’s is to know your own circle of competence - and to keep operating within it.
“You have to focus on what you're good at, what you already know,” he explains. “Don’t dabble around. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.”
Balkhi learned this lesson the hard way.
In 2013, he was looking back at an unbroken series of business successes in the tech sphere. Along the way, he’d spent years acquiring expertise and a solid network.
But then, he decided to venture into the personal fitness business.
“I didn't have the same network as I had built up in the tech space, so I couldn't grow this new business fast enough. It started gaining traction, but too late.”
Harness Your Flexibility
Competing with established industry players can be a daunting challenge. However, according to Balkhi, small businesses have a few inherent advantages that they can capitalize on.
Chief among them is their flexibility.
“As somebody who's worked with corporations - large corporations - they're slow. Like a cruise ship,” Balkhi explains. “To turn a big cruise ship, you need a lot of time and direction. Small businesses, on the other hand, are like jet skis. They’re agile.”
“You can move fast, you can maneuver, you don't have to pick the right thing all the time. You can learn from your mistakes and move really quickly,” he goes on. “For a big corporation to start an initiative, it has to get multiple levels of approval, pass security clearances, and there's other corporate politics.”
Send Your Audience to Channels You Control
Another of Balkhi’s central pieces of advice to small businesses concerns customer conversion and retention. He promotes having multiple channels of customer communication - and to be selective about them.
“It's a big mistake small businesses tend to make - they only have one communication channel. They may have a website, and they'd think, now I'm done. Website online, check. But most people who come to your website leave, and never come back. As a matter of fact, over 70% - in most cases 85% - of people that leave your website will never return.”
Instead, Balkhi encourages small businesses to adopt multiple customer communication channels including email marketing, website push notifications, and SMS messaging.
He cautions against relying too much on the walled gardens of social media, however.
“Social media are valuable as leverage to gain users,” Balkhi goes on to explain. “But ultimately you want to lead the users back into communication channels that you control. Because Facebook, for example, can ban your page, or change their algorithm and you lose all your reach.”
If you’re running a small business but struggle to take off, pinpointing the exact reasons can be hard. Fixing them is even harder.
With the insights and strategies Syed Balkhi provides, based on his personal business experience, new avenues to success can open up.
By focusing on your customer’s success gaps and your own circle of competence, harnessing your flexibility advantage as a small business, and channeling your audience to the right communication channels, you can level the playing field and compete with established industry players.
The preceding post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga. Although the piece is not and should not be construed as editorial content, the sponsored content team works to ensure that any and all information contained within is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge and research. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.
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