- Validating ideas and introducing new products and services through sales or presales.
- Building a community of people that “love your work”. People who will take the time to share their feedback and buy your products and services.
- Connecting with industry leaders, getting their support and referrals.
- Learning fast, failing less and succeeding sooner.
This guide also includes three case studies. Interviews with:
- Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy.
- Michael Woodward, founder of Jumble Think.
- Terri Levine, founder of Heartpreneur.
Let’s get started.
The question is: how do I build my support circle?
Business funding isn’t just about the money. Founders pay in the form of equity to get the support of investors, their network, credibility, and other advantages. Entrepreneurs invest in building a support circle.
The truth is, over 98% of startups are self-funded, bootstrapped. Although only a small percentage of businesses are funded, an entrepreneur cannot build a viable and profitable startup venture without a support circle.
Your support circle must include at least these 3 key stakeholders: mentors, fellow founders, and potential customers (community).
Today, I’m going to share with you a strategy that you can implement right away that will enable you to build a circle of 1000 supporters quickly and without burning stages.
Through the Accelerate Method.
The Accelerate method entails providing well connected people with a strong reason to invite their network to you. It’s a way to leverage their power instead of fighting for the attention of their network and audience.
Instead of (better yet if “in addition to”) spending time and money finding answers online, guessing the next steps, joining and contributing to online communities, advertising products, etc.
…what if people who are 10 steps ahead of you connected you with their “support circle”, one that they spent years building?
Let’s use a hypothetical example.
Pick a name of an “expert” you consider a good example of the success you’d like to accomplish 5 to 10 years from now.
Now, imagine if this person gave you an hour of her or his time to answer all of your questions and then put you in touch with experts like them and people who love and follow their work?
Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Now imagine following the same approach with 10, 50 or 100 experts. Think about the exponential impact this will have on you as an entrepreneur and your businesses.
Before I share with you the step by step process for applying the Accelerate Method and show you how Andrew Warner built an empire by following the same idea, let me tell you more about the logic behind this method.
- According to MicroMentor, the involvement of a mentor in a business boosts execution (going to market) and business survival rates by 42 and 83 percent, respectively.
- According to a research conducted by Hatami, Plotkin and Mishra, companies that presell their products for validation and growth achieve above average performance of 40 to 50% in new business and 80 to 90% in renewal business.
- In a study conducted on lawyers, Casciaro, Gino and Kouchaki found that networking has a significant impact on their ability for getting new and repeat clients. A study that can safely be generalized to other professions and endeavors.
In another study, First Round Capital found that investors’ valuation of repeat founders is significantly higher.
The key point of this guide is that whether you are an aspiring, starting or a growing entrepreneur, there are three key variables that you can control today and that will significantly impact your short and long-term success.
Those key success ingredients are:
- Mentors and how their involvement will save you time, push you forward and keep you moving in the right direction.
- Your ability to presell a product or a service before it’s created whether it is for validation or fundraising purposes.
- Your ability to refer to a big enough sample of potential customers for feedback. Your ability to contact your network with partnership opportunities. Your ability to ask for referrals and promotion.
Typically, entrepreneurs spend years developing their support circle by attending conferences, getting active in online communities, leveraging the power of LinkedIn, cold emailing, sharing content in the form of social media posts or blog articles and YouTube videos, etc.
This is what you are supposed to do. It’s the right path to success in any field not just entrepreneurship.
The Accelerate Method is not a substitution, it’s a way to drive a year worth of “desired outcome” within 2 to 3 months, without burning stages.
It works like this.
- Gather the “Accelerators”, leaders and experts in your space, to discuss a particular topic based on your idea, interest and goals.
- Ask them to invite their audience to the interview/event. See below why they would care to invite their circle.
- Leverage their circle to achieve your goals while sharing valuable content (the interviews) with their audience and the audience of other interviewees.
It’s a top down approach.
- Your start with those who have the biggest support circle in your industry.
- Through them, you gain exposure and access to the members in their circle.
- You repeat the same idea with other people with big circles.
- Thanks to this support circle that you’ve built for yourself, you can
- Presell or sell products and services.
- Build and grow and audience.
- Seek mentorship, connections and referrals from its members.
- Build value adding partnerships.
- Build and strengthen your personal and company brand in your space.
- And more. A lot more.
Let’s use an example or two.
Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus.
At a marketing conference, Sangram gained some insights that helped him come up with an idea.
At the conference, every presenter talked about sales funnels and how to optimize it to get qualified leads that convert. On his way back home, he thought, what if we flipped this funnel?
Instead of focusing on getting as many people as possible to the opening of the funnel and then spend a lot of resources filtering them (sending emails, making cold calls, etc.) to keep qualified leads, what if we start from the end? Focus on attracting only the people that, based on data, we know are most likely to buy?
Instead of spending months and a large sum of money building the product, Sangram applied the Accelerate Method.
He organized a conference he called the Flip My Funnel conference and invited some of the top industry leaders to discuss the topic and the idea.
Imagine this: everyone in the conference (hundreds of people) talking about your idea and sharing feedback.
This not only connected Sangram with top industry experts but also enabled him to presell the vision and generate revenue that he invested in creating the product.
The conference also connected him with advisors and partners who helped him build and grow the right product. It created a buzz for his solution through word of mouth and social media sharing.
It helped him generate a year worth of “desired outcome” within a few months!
Through this online event, I documented the journey of close to 100 self-funded (bootstrapped) founders who built multi-million dollar companies, from scratch.
About 50 of those interviewees invited close to 100,000 people (their email subscribers) to this event.
Thanks to this access, distribution and exposure,
- I built relationships with over 120 leaders and influencers in the space.
- In just 10 days, thousands of new members joined my community.
- A few thousand dollars in revenue from the event turned into mid five figure projects of people who never heard about me and when they did, approached for help.
- Launched a presale campaign for premium members of the summit to validate the need for a new service and as a result generated a few thousand dollars in monthly recurring revenue.
Think about what you could accomplish with 100,000 people?
The million dollar question is: how do I get successful busy people to spare an hour let alone convince them to invite their circle?
Before we answer this question, let’s use another example of an entrepreneur who took this idea to a whole other level, Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy.
Over the years, Mixergy has evolved beyond podcasting to offer courses and supplemental material to help entrepreneurs build successful businesses.
Some of the key questions I had for Andrew in this interview were:
- In the beginning, how did you get experts and leaders to agree to an interview when you didn’t have a big enough audience and strong enough Mixergy brand to attract the best?
He shares an interesting approach he used to convince Seth Godin.
- How did you convince those busy founders to create a course and publish it in Mixergy?
Reading between the lines, you’ll learn that it’s all about the relationships you build. When they trust and believe in your vision, they’ll want to be part of it.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho
The value Andrew created for himself as an entrepreneur and his company Mixergy by building relationships with successful founders and sharing their advice and stories with their audience and the audience of other interviewees, enabled him to leverage the circle of thousands of entrepreneurs and as a result build an enormous support circle for himself and his companies.
One of the end results of this path was Andrew’s recent investment in Bot Academy, a company that not only teaches people how to build chat bots but also assigns them clients soon after they finish the course.
I think you’d agree with me that if Andrew started this company without the support circle he built over the years, he would be starting from scratch. That is,
- Define hypotheses about the value proposition of the product or services he plans to create.
- Reach out to potential buyers for an interview and feedback through online and offline communities.
- Seek the advice and guidance of mentors in the space.
- Build the initial version of the product whether it’s an MVP or a prototype to test user behavior.
- Iterate, pivot or proceed with the next version.
- Reach out to more people for the next round of testing.
Now, according to Andrew’s interview and my research about him, he followed those exact steps and more but today, thanks to his support circle, he could
- Reach out to his existing audience for feedback.
- Reach out to relevant Mixergy speakers for advice and guidance.
- Offer the product to his audience.
- Seek partnerships with relevant speakers and companies he got to build relationships with over the years.
Here’s Andrew’s interview.
Michael Woodward is the founder of Woodward Design Group. Michael started connecting with experts and influencers in 2017. He featured the interviews through JumbleThink, a podcast he created to help entrepreneurs dream big and refine their ideas.
According to Michael as you’ll see in the interview below, this initiative significantly impacted his company and him as an entrepreneur. The results of applying the Accelerate Method through a podcast included:
- Learning from the best: he often asks questions to solve his own problems.
- Building partnerships.
- Acquiring new clients.
- Starting new initiatives.
- Gaining recognition and getting invited to speak at events.
Listen to his story.
Terri built 3 multimillion dollar companies from scratch and learned what it takes to build a company from the ground up no matter the industry, the product or the service. Nonetheless, when she decided to start a new endeavor, coaching and consulting, she decided to gather industry leaders which has helped her:
- Gain exposure to a new audience, people who know the speaker but got to learn about Terri in the process.
- Build a stronger recognition in the space like she says in the interview, just by being presented next to those great entrepreneurs, it helped her gain credibility and people’s trust.
- Boost sales for different products including her 35+ published books. Yes, she published over 35 books over the years.
Listen to Terri’s story.
- Get you exposure to a new or bigger audience.
- Get you recognition in the space.
- Strengthen your personal and company brand.
- Give you ideas and feedback.
- Get you recommendations and referrals.
So you can:
- Launch a product or a service.
- Grow an existing company.
- Build key partnerships.
- Build a stronger network.
- Get advised.
- Sell a company.
- Or maybe learn more about the space and generate new ideas.
Now back to our question: how do I get successful busy people to spare an hour let alone convince them to invite their circle?
Why did Andrew Warner agree to an interview and proposed a promotional partnership opportunity after the interview?
Here’s how and why.
This is what it’s like contacting strangers for a particular reason (collaboration, promotion, support, purchase, etc.)
Going from “YOU” straight to “THEM” with an ask will not work.
Your goal is to minimize that friction.
It cannot be eliminated, but it can be significantly minimized.
They must know and trust you.
The question becomes, how do I get them to meet and speak with me?
What’s in it for them? and what’s the opportunity cost (what else could they do with their assets like time)?
I’m going to guarantee you that every time you start a new conversation with a stranger with the word “interview” 50% more people will answer and agree to your pitch.
It’s just a word and it works like magic.
Ask someone for some time to “pick their brain”, “get feedback”, “tell them about a new product”, etc. and very few will agree. Ask them for an interview, and you’ll see the difference.
What’s in it for them?
First, as I said many times before, experts like to be experts, the least you can do is highlight their expertise. An interview is the best way to do that.
Finding experts through podcasts shows you that they care for exposure and they want more of it.
This, in its own, is a strong reason for them to agree to an interview.
Second, if you’re applying the Accelerate method through an online event, that is, gathering all the interviews and publishing them online like I did with the Bootstrapping Summit, keep in mind that for experts, speaking for an event that’ll include other leaders in the space is another way to highlight their expertise.
Finally, just being part of the event means that hundreds (usually thousands) will see their names, watch their session and maybe contact them for business or to buy their products.
Let’s summarize everything we talked about in this guide.
No matter your goals, you need distribution and exposure.
The best and fastest way to gain distribution and exposure is by leveraging the audience and connections of people who already have it.
To do that, ask to interview them, feature their interview and then ask them to promote the interview.
For that, you need to first gain their trust which you’ll do during the call. And then, you need to make sense of your request to promote by helping them achieve their own goals.
The end result from all of this is an opportunity for you to introduce new products, grow existing ones, build connections, learn more about the space, build key partnerships, gain insights and get advice from experts, and more. A lot more.
The Accelerate Method is every entrepreneur’s opportunity for a 3 months overnight success.
Ready to ACCELERATE? Download the Accelerate Method 28-page step by step guide