I recently had the pleasure of conducting a four part business development workshop series for Connect Jerusalem. Connect Jerusalem is a a joint program of Tzeirim Bamerkaz (Center for Young Adults in Jerusalem) and the Jerusalem Municipality, with the support of the Absorption Ministry and Joint Israel.
The purpose of the program is to help young Olim (new immigrants) integrate and establish themselves professionally in Israel, empowering them to become a strong creative force in Jerusalem.
We wanted to help people transform an entrepreneurial idea into a tangible reality as quickly as possible – by creating a fully-functioning digital presence with which they could market their business and service online.
Together with the program's director, Ronit Cohen-Gluzburg, I established early on that we wanted the workshop would be super-practical. We wanted people to walk away with something tangible that they had done, not some more abstract information that they would need to apply on their own.
We wanted the hours spent at the workshop to be spent not just learning new ideas, but actually applying them. We all know how much fear and procrastination can hold us back from doing what we already know we should.
The workshop would provide a structured environment for people to actually do the work. It would provide a supportive environment for people to get feedback on their work, and to practice what Seth Godin calls Shipping – the scary, vulnerable process of actually pressing “send” and sharing what you’ve done with the world.
The curriculum we came up with was ambitious. I believe that by using the 80/20 principle and focusing on the most important aspects of each part of the marketing process, it is possible to achieve a lot of success with relatively little effort. Stated differently, just because something is an integral component of your business success, doesn’t mean it is complicated or takes a lot of time, money, or effort to implement.
The group had around 10 participants who signed up and actually attended the four three-hour sessions. Below is an overview of what they learned, and some examples of work that was created in the session.
Week #1: Create a Business Plan
The first week was the most abstract.
Participants were given a worksheet and instructed to fill it out as a group. Right away, we were combating the inertia that often prevents people from answering basic questions about their business, even when they are told what questions they need to ask.
The worksheet helped the participants identify the goals for their business, as well as think more broadly about what success would look like. It also helped them identify their ideal client, which would help keep them focused during later meetings when more practical marketing steps would be taken.
To quote Yisroel, one of the participants:
I was amazed by how empowering it is to focus on my dream before concentrating on details, and I’ve subsequently returned to my dream many times to gather strength and clarity.
As a result of this same exercise, Yisroel was also able to identify a real-life ideal customer and successfully network with them.
Week #2: Create a Digital Product
In the second meeting, participants were encouraged to create a short video presenting their business or sharing a piece of helpful information. This allowed them to demonstrate their expertise in an area, while getting comfortable enough to share it with others.
To quote Yisroel again:
We overcame our inertia about moving forward by being recorded pitching our product. I rehearsed for almost the full 2 hours, then presented before the camera. I also benefitted immensely from the professional photos--those may have cost the amount of the workshop!
Connect Jerusalem brought in a volunteer photographer who took videos of the participants. The following final videos were created by the participants using the footage:
Week #3: Create a Website
This session alone was worth attending the entire course for, participants effectively received hundreds of dollars in resources and mentorship and walked away from the end of the meeting with a functional website.
Having a personal website serves as a “digital calling card” in the internet age, and participants were encouraged to add relevant information about their business(created in week #1), while uploading their newly created videos (week #2) to the site.
Below are some examples of the websites created during a single 3-hour session (click an image to enlarge it):
Week #4: Marketing
The purpose of the final meeting was to actually publicize the work that had been created in the first three sessions. Participants learned tips for real-world networking, social media marketing, and, in particular, email marketing.
Participants were walked through the steps of setting up an account and creating their first business-email, which would allow them to send emails to many recipients at once and monitor the results. Here is a link to a sample email that Yisroel created and sent out.
Overall, the course was received very positively. Particpants got a lot of practical information, and were pushed to actually create their dreams. They learned from doing, not just listening, and benefited from each other’s feedback.
Here is some more feedback we received from the course:
Thank you for the wonderful course. There was a lot to learn for me even though I had studied marketing previously. Lots of marketing insights and especislly technical issues were of great importance to me (how to arrange shopping and paiment page, compose and send e-mails).
I enjoyed the workshop. I learned about some very important and simple tools for growing a business.
What I Learned
There were a couple practical things I learned from the experience of teaching the course.
1. You can do a lot in 12 hours
Just as I suspected, participants with a basic amount of computer-savvy were able to make a tremendous amount of progress in a very short amount of time. It was rewarding to see the 80/20 hypothesis play out in other people’s lives, and helped reinforce within me the validity of this approach.
2. It all comes down to you
Even in a course geared towards practical application of ideas, there were still people who were more successful than others. I found that those with the highest amount of personal motivation and the clearest vision, were able to get the most from the meetings.
Others who were not as sure about what they wanted to gain from the workshop (“I've got a bunch of different ideas I’m considering right now”), or who didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about coming, got less from the meetings, and produced less impressive results.
You can lead a person to hundreds of dollars’ worth of practical information and mentorship, but you can’t make him or her drink.
3. We needed to market ourselves better
There are hundreds of people in every city with big dreams and little resources. How many entrepreneurs and small business should have been interested in this type of practical, super-subsidized program? Dozens at least. And yet the workshop ran with just a small, core group of around 10 participants.
This means that we did not do a good enough job letting people know about the program, and explaining the many benefits of participating. There are physical limitations to the marketing process which we might not be able to overcome (like limited social network or financial resources), but I believe we could have done a better job explaining to people what they would be getting from the program and how they would benefit from it.
That said, there will always be people who will see the offer and fail to act (see lesson #2) – fear of success can be as strong as the fear of failure – or they may not have had the time.
Either way, the most important lesson I tried imparting upon the participants was “It’s better to do ‘good-enough’ than not at all.” And that is exactly what we did.
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