As a tech entrepreneur, particularly in the early stages of a startup, you have to be a jack of all trades in order to succeed. Aka your entrepreneurial skill set needs to expand far greater than you once thought. Although your business card might read ‘CEO’ or ‘Founder’, in reality there probably at least 20 other positions not listed: CMO, CFO, Sales Director, Graphic Designer … Because if you don’t do it, who will?
Your business will be largely, if not solely, based on the web, which is why it is so important to have at least a basic set of web skills under your belt.
Here are 9 basic web skills every modern tech entrepreneur needs to add to their entrepreneurial skill set:
A strong web presence is essential to any successful business, which is why one of the very first things you’ll do when starting out is to build a website. HTML and CSS are the languages that form the basis of every webpage, so having even a nominal grasp on these will be enormously helpful when it comes to liaising with web developers. It’s also handy in terms of saving your company valuable time and money, as you’ll be able to make simple edits to your website yourself without having to go through the rigmarole of hiring a developer to do it for you. As self-professed ‘serial entrepreneur’ John Rampton writes, “Though I have several developers, it’s nice to be able to hop into the code and fix little things that annoy me. Then I don’t have to get my programmers out of their groove.”
Between these three languages, you’ll be able to build and maintain a fairly impressive, professional-looking website that will reflect your product or services in the best light and you’ll add some notches on your entrepreneurial skill set tool belt.
Wireframing is more of a design skill rather than a technical skill, as it’s about defining the information hierarchy of a site or app, thereby influencing how users navigate it. As such, it forms a vital part of the user experience (UX) design. While knowing how to wireframe is less essential for basic websites, as many web development platforms like WordPress and Wix provide easy-to-use templates, it’s essential if you’re creating more complex sites or apps.
As Doreen Bloch, CEO and Founder of Poshly Inc., writes: “Being able to wireframe a page is an incredibly important skill for technology development. It’s critical for being able to properly communicate with your technical and product teams. While not a coding skill per se, it requires understanding how sites or apps are designed, and the more advanced wireframing can involve complex software. Be sure to develop this skill before starting up.”
3. Graphic design and image editing
While the old adage says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, the reality is people can’t help but. The look and feel of your website and other marketing collateral will inevitably play a huge role in how your product and brand are perceived, so it’s worth investing time in learning some graphic design and image editing skills so you don’t put people off with poor colour choice, or a bad image crop.
“How do you think you’re going to grab the attention of customers or investors?” says Rampton. “Having a great and innovative product/service is a start, but you need to have them notice your designs first. Remember, the colours, typeface and logo of your company say who you are and what you stand for.”
A basic grasp of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop will go a long way, and Canva also offers great resources to help you create professional designs with ease.
4. SEO marketing
“In the beginning, you’ll be doing the work of every business department. With that in mind, do you understand basic SEO and digital marketing? If not, you’ll want to brush up on this area before you launch a business,” advises Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits.
No matter how expertly designed your website is, it’s not going to be worth the time and money you’ve invested in it if your customers can’t find it. Even a basic understanding of SEO will help move your website a few notches up the search engine results page (SERP) – and those few notches could make all the difference.
5. Email marketing
You might think that in this digital age, with all the social media platforms available to us, email seems a bit passé. But its reach means it is still just as relevant as ever. In fact, according to Radicati Group, more than 3.7 billion people – or, to put it another way, almost 54% of the global population – use email. Email marketing, therefore, needs to be an essential component of your overall marketing strategy if you want to reach your customer where they live.
And it’s effective too, according to at least one entrepreneur. “Email marketing is the main reason why we closed our first client deal with my startup,” says Jun Loayza, President of Ecommerce Rules. “Every month, my list would receive an email about our latest milestone. One month before launch, I emailed my list to set up a meeting. I set up five meetings and closed one client deal, allowing us to launch our product with a paying client — all thanks to email marketing.”
6. Social media marketing
You might think it’s good enough to just hire a 20-year-old intern to look after your social media, but this is in fact doing your business a huge disservice. Your social media plays an essential role in how you engage with customers, so you need to be across the ins and outs of how it works (trust us, it’s more complex than it looks on the surface).
As part of their Entrepreneurs’ Programme, business.gov.au are running an online webinar series on social media for business, covering topics like branding, sales and lead generation and customer service, so if you’re unsure where to start to boost your entrepreneurial skills, this is a great resource.
7. Content marketing
When you’re in the early stages of your business, with no time and limited budget, producing quality content can seem like more effort than it’s worth. But while investing that money into advertising will provide a short-term windfall, it’s not going to do much for your long-term strategy and brand development.
“I suggest investing more in the front-end and making sure your content is the best possible representation of your company,” says Chris Cavallini, founder of Nutrition Solutions. “Your content is often the first thing people see. And if what they see is average, they’re going to assume your company, product, service and team are average as well.”
Good content marketing is also about cultivating your personal brand too, whether that’s by blogging regularly, contributing articles to other publications, or producing thought leadership pieces for LinkedIn. “Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing on building their company brand to the exclusion of building their personal brand,” says Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom. “However, your personal brand will differentiate you from your competitors, give you authority and credibility in your field, and stick with you in the event your company ultimately experiences failure.”
8. Data analytics
When you’re launching a startup, passion is a vital ingredient for success, but occasionally it can blind us to signs that things aren’t going quite how we’d like. And with the abundance of data available to us now, ignorance is simply no excuse. That’s why modern entrepreneurs need to be constantly tuned in to what the data is telling them about the market and customer preferences.
“Failures are unavoidable and ridiculously costly for start-ups with little time and money,” says Larry Kim, founder of WordStream. “The key to success, therefore, is in trying to fail slightly less often by using more data rather than gut feel in the project planning phases, and not let projects that fail to meet their success criteria linger around for too long.”
Marketing automation software can be a big help here, as it pulls all your essential marketing data into easy-to-read dashboards.
9. Online accounting and bookkeeping
Your business will live or die depending on the bottom line, so ensuring your finances are in order is essential to your business’s success. But not everyone has an aptitude for numbers, and staying on top of invoicing, payroll and tax, on top of all your other responsibilities, can seem like an almost impossible task.
Do yourself a big favour by making use of accounting and bookkeeping software to help you handle it all. It’ll save you a lot of stress, not to mention money that you won’t need to spend on an accountant.
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