Probably one of the biggest lies I’ve ever been told when I set out to start my first business.
“Nicholas! You only get one chance take make a good first impression.”
Lies, lies and more lies.
It’s been over 15 years since then, and I’ve started nine businesses. Some successful, others not. In fact, two of them failed miserably because I spent too much time trying to perfect the “first impression.”
Entrepreneurship is all about screwing up gracefully. As an entrepreneur, people look at what you created and they say, “Wow! This is amazing. You’re really talented.” And, of course, as the said entrepreneur, you look them straight in the eyes and say, “Damn straight! Did it my first try.”
But we know what the truth really is.
It wasn’t your first try. It wasn’t even your second try.
You had an idea. You then took that idea and threw it out there into the wild. First with a small little group of friends. Then with a random group of people you never met before. Each time refining how you come across to potential customers. Going back to those same potential customers and trying again. Fixing each screw up as it happens.
Entrepreneurship Might as Well be Spelled F.A.I.L.U.R.E.
Being an entrepreneur is all about learning to fail quickly.
You go out there with your ideas, with your products, and you try to see how wrong you are. Because when you fail you can start over. You can learn. You can make a new product. You can refine your service. You can fix how people perceive you.
What you don’t want is to have spent six months refining your prototype with the help of your mom only to go out into the “real world” and find out you missed something. Something that forces you to go back to the drawing board and start over. Sadly, people make that mistake all the time.
I made it lots of times. And we’re going to pretend like I don’t still make that mistake.
Let’s take Jones Cards and Delivery. It was one the first company I started as an adult. It was basically a flower shop… but with cards as the main offering and no flowers.
I had a good product people loved. I had been handing my cards out since I was in middle school. I figured it was a shoe in for a thriving business.
I took out my first business loan! $3,000. Basically, three time more than my net worth at the time. Then I spent a few month perfecting the delivery process, the card offering, everything.
I was going to be a millionaire.
After I had my prototype in place four months later. I wanted it to be perfect. I had my website and my big hopes and dreams. I didn’t want to fail. But I wasn’t talking to potential customers along the way. I was doing the work and innovation myself.
I never sold or delivered a single card.
I had spent another $2,000 of my own money on top of my business loan and had nothing coming in to keep me afloat. I closed up shop and started making pizzas so I could save myself financially.
But I learned something from that experience. I did something wrong. Didn’t know what at that time. But something. And I was determined to give entrepreneurship another go.
A couple businesses later I realized what I had done wrong. I was so concerned about making a good first impression that I never did any beta testing. I realized I never put up a raw unpolished product out there for customers to help me perfect.
Learning From Testing
Today’s landscape allows for many kinds of first impressions… And lots of ways to go about them. A/B testing your website is one of many.
There are three companies I would recommend you check out.
First, there is obviously my company, Swift Impressions. But there is also Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer. We all basically do the same thing, and we all do it basically just as good. It just comes down to cost and a few differences here and there.
Swift Impressions lets you A/B test your entire website, including one ad network against another and have all the data on what ran and what didn’t. With this, you can run an audit across your entire website. You can find out who is paying you properly and who is not.
With Optimizely, you can A/B test more than just a website. You can A/B test your iOS apps and your computer apps too. Pretty awesome when that’s what you’re looking for.
Visual Website Optimizer has a graphic interface allowing you to easily make all the changes you want to your website. It can be complicated to use, but you may find it nice once you go through one of their many tutorials.
A/B testing is proof that companies, no matter how big, will always be working on how to perfect the first impression.
I’m not trying to hard sell anything. I would suggest you look in to all of them, but It’s your job to go out there and find the solution that’s going to work for you. Go on… get on it.