By Neil Taparia, Contributor, Forbes Entrepreneurs
One of the challenges of embarking on an entrepreneurial journey is that there’s no predetermined path that tells you how to get where you want to go. It’s one of the biggest deterrents that prevents many would-be entrepreneurs from starting a business.
In Mike L. Murphy’s case, becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t something he planned. It was a decision that evolved from the skills he built pursuing a career in one of the most competitive markets in the world. Now he’s making it his mission to help other entrepreneurs leverage their unique skill sets, as he did, to create thriving businesses of their own. Here’s Mike’s story and his advice for budding entrepreneurs in need of some direction.
Building a brand in a cutthroat business
Mike spent almost twenty years as a visual effects artist, working on some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster films. During his diverse career, he helped bring the the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Fast and Furious, and Iron Man franchises to life.
Mike says, “When I was working in Hollywood, I was a complete idiot when it came to branding. I assumed that everyone would naturally know the projects I worked on and my expertise. The reality is that people only know what you tell them or what they can easily Google. So, you need to take the time to craft your message and support it with your credentials.”
Once he began to focus on his personal brand, new projects came more easily. This led to an epiphany: he could be using his branding skills to create a business of his own.
With this in mind, he launched an online filmmaking academy that allowed him to leverage his considerable skills and polished personal brand. By applying the lessons he’d learned working in Hollywood, the business was a success from the get go bringing in six figures in revenue in its first year of operations.
Develop your messaging
According to Mike, you are what your messaging says you are. Therefore, the first step to take is to refine the messaging you plan to use to represent yourself and your business. He suggests that you ask yourself, “What are you willing to fight for and what do you stand against?” These become your brand values and are key to distilling who you are.
Furthermore, he says that it’s important to isolate a memorable characteristic about yourself that can be the basis of your brand’s image. Specifically, he asks, “What makes you unique and memorable? Maybe you worked on a big project. For example, people love hearing that I worked on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Maybe you have a special flare like Andy Warhol’s hair or a unique story like Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent.” Whatever you think will stick in the minds of potential customers is where you should focus.
Mike also insists that elevator pitches aren’t just for investors. He suggests that entrepreneurs create one along the lines of what you are the best at and passionate about and why. In this way, you’ll be able to convey your unique value proposition instantly to anyone at any time.
Analyze who you’re targeting
Mike learned from his experience that you need to understand your audience if you want to attract their attention. Specifically, he suggests that entrepreneurs ask themselves, “What is the psychology of the decision-makers you’re trying to attract?”
Additionally, he believes there’s no such thing as doing too much market research. Mike insists that it is critical to interview as many people in your target audience as possible, not only to understand what makes them tick, but also to find out what types of brand messaging they’ve already been exposed to. That way, you can identify ways to differentiate your brand.
Develop Your Branding
If you’re building a business that’s based on your own unique experience, Mike suggests taking a slightly different approach to branding. He says, “You are your brand, so skip getting a fancy brand name or logo. Keep it simple. Pick colors that embody your industry and personal style and have a clean, clear visual style that appeals to decision makers in your target audience.”
Establish Your Online Ecosystem
To maximize your brand’s reach, Mike says it’s important to create an online ecosystem to reach people in their preferred medium. He suggests channeling all of your online contacts into a single conversion page. In his case, he found that driving visitors into a call scheduling system like Calendly works especially well.
Mike also encourages producing thought leadership content on blogs and podcasts for your target demographic, where you can even involve the very people you’re marketing to for better results. Per Mike, “Back when I was in Hollywood, had I taken this advice and started a podcast for ‘Legendary Hollywood Producers,’ you can bet they all would have known about me and hired me.”
Once you’ve launched your brand, the work is far from over. Mike says that the more competition you have, the more often you will have to refresh your online content to stay relevant. He explains, “If you’re in a competitive market, you’ve got to hustle more than the competition. You can take a rest when you retire.” Once you’re established, make sure you don’t grow complacent
The bottom line
With all these learnings launching his filmmaking Academy, Mike is launching a new project called The Visionary Planner, which seeks to teach these the valuable lessons that can help entrepreneurs succeed. Through it, he hopes to help as many people as possible live out their entrepreneurial dreams and create thriving companies of all kinds.