An important decision when first setting up your online business is the platform choice you make. Think of your platform as they did back in the day with the classic soapbox.
Throughout the 19th Century and into the 20th, prior to the invention of corrugated fiberboard, manufacturers used wooden crates for the shipment of wholesale merchandise to retail establishments. Discarded containers of every size, well-constructed and sturdy, were readily available in most towns. These “soapboxes” made free and easily portable temporary platforms for street corner speakers attempting to be seen and heard at improvised “outdoor meetings,” to which passersby would gather to hear often provocative speeches on religious or political themes. Source Wikipedia
We live in a very different age today but this soapbox principle is still very relevant to us as the soapbox platform is the Internet and the message declared being your mission statement. Specifically the “This is what we do and why you should care?” message to stop passerby traffic to take a moment and listen.
We live in this age of attention deficit which is why the first step to success online is having a terrific message (mission) and the 2nd step is having that good ole soapbox platform.
Now you know that you need to be on the Internet (platform) but you also know simply relying on Other People's Platforms (I will call this OPP from now on) like Facebook, Instagram and even Google is unwise.
You need Your Own Platform (YOP) to grow and build relationships online and OPP simply compliments it.
But how do you choose YOP?
I would like to answer this question today with one filter – the bootstrapped startup.
This is a startup that has a message and product the world needs to hear and see but are building their business with very little capital. Think the $100 startup book by Chris Guillebeau.
And today I'm going to answer the question of “Can I really get started with $100?”
And using the platform hack I am about to share I can confidently tell you, yes you can!
The Startup Nemesis
To show you exactly how the $100 startup can be achieved it will serve us well to first look at the enemy of this goal.
Specifically technology and development costs to building your startup.
Statistics show us that only 3% of small businesses make it to the fifth year and for the failed businesses the most common reason (82%) is cash flow problems. (Source smallbiztrends.com) This is a jaw dropping realization if you are just about to press the launch button on your business.
But there is hope when you – “Know thy startup enemies”
There are two:
- Cash flow: Cited as the reason for 82% of firms surveyed
- Technology – Platform: A costly exercise in wasted time & money
The cash flow issue is why we are focusing on the best way to bootstrap your startup. And when it comes to technology it really is everything, especially when you are bootstrapping.
You need the right technology to host your platform and get your product/service into the hands of would-be customers and fans. You need the right technology to support your customers and encourage them to share your brand with their friends and family. You also need the right technology to ensure you get paid the dues you deserve.
The wrong technology increases costs and wastes your time to such a degree that your clients lose out and ultimately lose trust in your brand.
The result inevitably is startup failure.
So it makes sense that if we can solve the technology conundrum we can solve one of the biggest bottlenecks to your startup success and if we can bootstrap it, we are catching two birds with one stone. (Catch and release of course and certainly no killing of two birds with one stone.)
So let's have a look at the secret platform hack.
Hack #1 – WordPress and…
Did you just seriously mention WordPress – that thing people publish blogs on?
Yes I did and there are a few key reasons why
- WordPress was built from the ground up to spread messages and build community online
- WordPress is free to use (open source)
- If you can dream it, WordPress has a plugin for it
So as you can see, this is a bootstrapped startups dream as it allows you to do whatever you want and do it essentially for free, especially if one of your founders is a tech guy – developer.
Wait a minute…
Oh I can hear you buzzing now because as with all good things in life there are compromises and WordPress is no different.
It's not the easiest platform to use compared to some others like Wix, Shopify and Squarespace.
And it's not exactly free either as you do need a domain name and hosting to really get the most out of it but you have to do this for any other platform anyway so we are not counting that against WordPress -what we are though is that ease of use is an issue.
I won't butter this up – WordPress can be an absolute nightmare to a first time user.
The template design system is clunky and don't even get me started on the WordPress editor!
But remember what I said about the “If you can dream it, there is a plugin for it”? Well come to the rescue it does because the easiest way to turn WordPress from a nightmare to an absolute dream is with a free plugin called Elementor.
Introduced in 2016, this plugin is a game changer for the WordPress community and in two years it's now installed on over a million websites! (How's that for startup success!)
The reason it's so successful is because it addressed this major pain point for WordPress users who knew they had something special but also couldn't stand the built in page editor they were using.
See demo below:
Download Elementor for free
Hack #2 – GNU/GPL
We have all heard the saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch!”
And yes when it comes to WordPress there are times when free will only get you so far.
Maybe you have some specific eCommerce requirements or some custom coding for your members area – in these cases it's time to put some money up and get what is called Premium plugins (in other words paid ones).
This can be a frustrating time especially when you have been so happy with all the free stuff you have been getting with WordPress. But there can be a more frustrating issue and that has to do with compatibility when the plugin you just paid for actually breaks another part of your website.
This has happened to me on more than one occassion, which is why I want to share hack #2 with you right now.
Try before you buy!
Yes, there are a number of companies that offer a FREE trial but most WordPress premium plugins do require you to buy first. By the time you have had a chance to test it, your money back guarantee expires!
So there is a clever way to get around this and it has to do with the fact that WordPress is open source software and plugins released under the GNU/GPL license agreement.
Basically, if you have a developer friend you can get access to the product for free to test first.
Now I know many of you reading this will have developer friends but said friend may not have the specific plugin you are wanting and there are two ways around this.
Method 1: Fiverr
Search FIVERR for plugin you want. Here is an example of Thrive Leads – another great plugin that costs between $67-$147.
See that gig for $5 – he is giving you the plugin as part of this deal!
He is allowed to do this because as a developer he is allowed to give you the plugin as part of his service which in this case is designing an opt in form for your website.
$5 is certainly a lot better than $67 and once you are 100% certain the plugin is right for you, then you can go buy the plugin direct from Thrive so that you can get access to that all so important product support.
We use Thrive products ourselves and when you are in a growth phase it really does pay to have support from the plugin creators to reduce web development fees.
Method #2 – Digital Boss Club
I will keep this one short.
Think of Digital Boss Club (DBC) and specifically DBC Pro as your developer friend, where you get access to your choice of premium WordPress plugins. You just need to be part of the club.
Well done on reading all the way to the end…
You understand that relying on OPP is not going to cut it – you need YOP.
Did that sound like gobbledygook? Aha, I caught you skipping to the end! Seriously, go back and read the introduction. 🙂
And one of the best ways of developing YOP is using WordPress because it is free open source technology that was built from the ground up to help people spread a message.
And when using Hacks #1 and #2 you are able to achieve this more cost effectively than any other solution on the market today. Dare I say $100 startup…
I do hope this little piece has helped you in choosing your platform today. If you enjoyed this post I would so love it if you could share using any of the social media buttons.