4 Things to Know When Entering the Expert Economy
There has been a huge surge in entrepreneurship over the past two years. Past generations craved the stability a corporate environment provided, and those who went into business for themselves were often viewed as risk takers. Fast-forward to the past five years when we moved into the gig economy, and people kept those “secure” corporate jobs but also started side gigs. Now, those with the entrepreneurship spirit are leaving the corporate world behind and establishing their own businesses, which offer them the work-life balance they desire. While I won’t argue that starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart, advances in technology have significantly lowered the barrier for people looking to leverage their knowledge and expertise to go into business for themselves. The gig economy has evolved into the expert economy, as companies are searching for highly skilled and experienced workers to address the skills gap within their own workforce.
While professionals have faced numerous challenges since 2020, one bright spot was that they had the opportunity to redefine the 9 to 5 workday and what success looks like for themselves. Earlier this year, a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report revealed that 52.6 percent of respondents believed that the COVID pandemic actually presented new opportunities for entrepreneurship. In fact, 5.4 million new businesses emerged in 2021, and 2022 is shaping up to have just as many, if not more. If you’re considering joining the expert economy, here are four things that will help you build a strong foundation for your business.
1. Know Your Segment Before You Start
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs started by creating their segment rather than trying to one-up the competition. Let’s face it, you can’t be all things to all people in business, which is why knowing who you’re targeting and what you have to offer before you begin positioning is so important. Look around and ask yourself, “What is missing?” Even better, talk to potential customers you’d want to target and ask them. What can you offer that others can’t or simply aren’t going to because they’re focused on other priorities? Identify those unmet needs and then position your business to address that customer segment.
2. Find the Right Tools to Deliver a Rich Customer Experience
Whether you’re a consultant, service provider, or coach, you need technology that will enable you to collect leads, quickly convert prospects, and drive repeat business. Consultative business models require one-to-many marketing coupled with a one-to-one sales process, and two key software tools to consider are customer relationship management (CRM) and sales and marketing automation. CRM can collect and organize contacts automatically through custom lead forms, landing pages, and social media. Sales and marketing automation allows you to deliver timely, personalized communications to move leads through the funnel quickly and close more deals. Together, these tools make you look professional and deliver the quality experience customers have come to expect.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Market Too Much
When you’re initially starting out in business, you may be inclined to look at advertising on social channels, securing booth space at a tradeshow, or sponsorship opportunities at a conference your target audience attends. While advertising has its place, I challenge new entrepreneurs to leverage their subject matter expertise to create podcasts, blogs, and other content for social channels to attract and gather leads. Also, commenting on others’ social media posts to provide additional context or insight into relevant topics can help you showcase your knowledge and engage new audiences.
4. Be Bold with Your Pricing
Accurate pricing can ensure your business will flourish, but all too often small-business owners set the price of their offerings too low. Common ways to avoid this are to price in line with what customers are already paying and to also know how your offering differs from competitors. Make sure you understand the full cost of providing a service or product and focus on high-margin business instead of volume. Pricing is one of the most difficult decisions new entrepreneurs must make, but customers will pay a premium for quality products and services, so don’t undervalue your expertise.
Taking the Plunge
Whether you’ve had a side hustle for a while and decided to double down, you’re fulfilling a lifelong dream of working for yourself, or you were displaced from your corporate job, the expert economy provides ample opportunity for you to pivot. I truly believe there hasn’t been a better time for workers looking to achieve balance in their professional and personal lives than to strike out on their own. If you’re ready to take a leap into entrepreneurship, make sure to know both your target buyer and what they are willing to pay for services—and price accordingly. In addition, make it a priority to invest in software solutions that automate time-consuming tasks like lead capture and follow-up so you can focus on other important aspects of your business and not have to worry that these important tasks are being taken care of. And above all, know you’re not alone in your endeavor, so look for resources to support you in your entrepreneurial journey.
Clate Mask is the founder and CEO of Keap (formally Infusionsoft), a maker of sales and marketing automation software for small businesses. He also is co-author of Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy.