087: The Power of Momentum
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We define what momentum is today. Many people have their own definitions of momentum in business. Momentum is that moment when your business has struggled and then doors begin to open and the business takes on a life of its own. It is a great thing when it happens and it is devastating when it dies. But, there are always ways to get momentum if you are willing to hustle for them.
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Getting momentum is work and it requires time, dedication, and patience. It doesn’t happen overnight and just because you build up momentum doesn’t mean you should rest back on your laurels. If you are trying to get momentum started in your business or the momentum you had is dead today’s episode could be pretty useful to you.
Here’s what we talked about in today’s episode:
- What is momentum?
- How to create it.
- What to do when momentum dies.
- The importance of focus.
- The difference between noise and momentum.
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Steli Efti: Hey, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And in today’s episode of The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about momentum, how to get it and what to do when you lose it. So, momentum is one of my favorite topics when it comes to entrepreneurship and business because I do think that that’s the religion and the Gods you should be praying to when you start something new. To me it’s all about how can we build momentum, that’s the number one question I have when I wake up and when I go to sleep is not how can we accomplish this massive thing, but how can we start small and build on that and build on that and build on that so that eventually, you know, as you’re like pushing things up the mountain, eventually you get to that point where now the thing that you were pushing up is rolling down and you accomplish even more than you would because there’s wind behind your back. And we can talk about what is that, what is that if we want to physically grasp it.
To me, momentum means that there are so many good things happening in your direction. You have so many conversations with prospects. You have so much content out there that people are discovering. You have, you know—your recruiting is rockin’ and rollin’ so you’re getting more and more kind of incoming amazing talent that you can hire and join your team. There’s good things happening to you that are a result of all of the good things you did in the past. And so if you show up today at work and don’t do anything, a lot of good things will still happen to you. That kind of is a weird way of me describing what momentum is. I’m sure you have a more eloquent way of describing it, but what is momentum to you and why is it important?
Hiten Shah: I think the momentum—momentum especially—yeah, I really like your description, by the way. I think it is weird, for sure. But it has a lot of logic to it when you think about it that way. I think what you’re talking about is the result of momentum.
Steli Efti: Yeah.
Hiten Shah: You know, in a more— sort of if I were to mess with your words as much as I love to do that. And so to me it’s like—and I know it’s one of your favorite topics. It’s one that like I understood a long time ago and probably have forgotten a little bit because I think it’s easy to have momentum and not have to worry about it and it’s really hard to create that momentum in my mind especially when you’re talking about a business, you know, in the way you describe it like it’s the all these things happening and you not having to be there. And I think that’s the result you get when you actually have real momentum towards I would say a common goal, right?
Usually the momentum has to be towards something, maybe it’s a mission, maybe it’s a common goal, maybe it’s—you know, maybe it’s the fact that everyday your sales team, you know, or you’re looking forward to being the—not having to buy the drinks at the bar on Friday, right? Because that’s just a cultural thing or something. But those are all things that I feel like can help describe kind of what you’re talking about.
For me, it’s just like how do you just make sure that beyond all odds, people keep moving in the same direction and you’re getting the results you want in your business?
Steli Efti: So okay, so—isn’t that—well, let’s uncover that. Isn’t that alignment more so than— what the hell are you doing?
Hiten Shah: Nothing, just banging on a table. I didn’t know it’s that loud.
Steli Efti: Yes, yes. It sounded like a woodpecker.
Hiten Shah: No, no, no.
Steli Efti: All right. So, would you describe—it sounds to me more like how do I get alignment? How do I get everybody behind the common goal and walking in one direction? I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as momentum.
Hiten Shah: So that’s probably one way to get momentum, right?
Steli Efti: Yes, yes.
Hiten Shah: And I think momentum is a motion created by things like that, right? It’s probably a good way because I think you took it from one angle. I took it from another angle, but momentum is really just this inertia maybe? Right? This natural wind behind your back.
Steli Efti: Yeah.
Hiten Shah: And I think—I love the idea of natural wind behind your back. What I’m wondering and what I really I think is worth discussing is like how do you create?
Steli Efti: Yes. Let’s talk about that.
Hiten Shah: Right? Yeah. So what’s your take on that? How do you—like let’s say you’re like—it doesn’t matter what stage you are, but let’s just say you’re sitting in this situation and you’re like “I need to create momentum. It’s just not here.”
Steli Efti: So, I think that one of the most crucial kind of principles of creating momentum is to realize that if it’s not there, it means by de facto that—you know, if the wind is not in your back, it means it’s in your front—you’re getting wind in your face versus in your back. So it means that you’re going to have to work through resistance. And the best way that I know of working through—resistance means nobody—for example, when you start off, nobody knows you exist or when you try to get your first customers, they’re your first customers so you have no credibility or social proof, right? Those are all—this is like wind in your face. This is like resistance. You’re trying to do something and you’re going to get a lot of push back. It’s going to be more difficult because it’s the beginning.
And when you want to break through that, to me, it’s almost always about focus. It’s almost always about being very, very focused and doing one thing really well, really focused again and again and again and again until it starts becoming easy until you start turning around something that was difficult to now something that’s easy.
So to give you an example, let’s say you want to build momentum in your marketing, to me the worst thing you can do is you can say, “Oh, we have zero brand. Nobody knows we exist. In order to build momentum, let’s do everything. Let’s do, you know, paid acquisition, PR, SEO, content, this, that and—let’s do viral campaigns. Let’s do everything to create momentum.” That typically will never work because you’re not creating enough—you’re not pushing through enough in any of these areas because you are so broad.
So, the reverse tactic is if I was to go, “Well, we need some momentum in our marketing, we have zero right now. Focusing on one thing that we can penetrate heavy enough and focus enough that we’re going to break through. In my world, that’s content marketing, so we start doing a shit ton of content marketing and we do a lot of content, high quality, high quantity and we repurpose and remix some content until people start thinking and telling us, ‘Wow, you’re everywhere! We see your content everywhere. Your content is amazing.’ Until people start sharing it more and more, until people start referring to it and then eventually— at the beginning, it was really hard and now we have the wind in our backs so we can get all these natural things that are happening, these links are being shared, our stuff is being shared around, our brand is being created.”
So, to me, it’s about like focusing on one thing, realizing that you’re going to have to push through some resistance and getting through past that resistance until you start reversing the energy and you get the momentum on your side.
Hiten Shah: Ha! Yeah, that’s interesting because it’s still very specific to a specific endeavour or thing like sales or marketing or whatever. That’s the way you’re describing momentum right? I’m thinking about like—because it’s still like, “Oh, you know, you did all the content. You got a brand and all of a sudden you have momentum.” To me like I heard that sounds more like just sort of word of mouth to me in that case.
Steli Efti: Okay.
Hiten Shah: Right? And the momentum is—I guess you can call it that, but it’s really the fact that all of a sudden now your brand is out there enough where you’re getting traffic, eyeballs, audience without having to actually do anything, right? Which is still the same definition as I think you used before, right? Which is like “you don’t do anything and things still happen that are great,” right?
Steli Efti: Yeah. It’s kind of—I mean to a certain degree, it’s like, you know, when you push the ball up a mountain, right? Up the mountain, it’s going to take 100% energy and effort on your part. Push that ball up the mountain. Because if you leave the ball alone, it’s going to roll down the mountain. It’s not going to just roll up. But the momentum you’re at the top of the mountain and you push the ball down, you have to do nothing, right? I mean you had to get it up the mountain, but the moment you push it down, it rolls down all on its own.
You know, that’s kind of another metaphor or a mental imagery that I think when I think of momentum is it’s going to be—you’re going to have to push something up the mountain until you hit that point where it rolls on its own. And to me, word of mouth can be part of that or is a big part of that because it means today, if I don’t write anything and if I don’t promote anything, traffic will still come to my side. People will talk about my stuff. They will share it. They will link to it. They will find it, although I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t have to write today to get traffic today. I didn’t have to promote anything today to get traffic today. It’s the result of the stuff I’ve done yesterday and the day before and hopefully it’s accumulative result. It’s a result that’s linear but, you know, it’s growing.
Hiten Shah: That’s a good point. I mean that’s why from a momentum standpoint, from a brand and marketing, you know, approach like the content marketing stuff works really well because it falls under those criteria, right? You get to touch a lot of people and eventually it’s just out there and you get more search traffic. So, all of a sudden, all the content you created that’s old, if some of it was good enough, you start getting more and more search traffic over time and then you have momentum as a result, right?
Steli Efti: Well, think about your brand, right, at the beginning when you started as an entrepreneur, you didn’t have a brand, nobody knew Hiten Shah, nobody was approaching you for advice. What you did is you put yourself out there, you helped people, you created great brands, you created companies that were interesting, you’re creating content, you were speaking at conferences, you were meeting with one person for coffee and was being useful and then you were meeting with 5 people a week for coffee and you were being useful and then eventually, you know, 100 people a week wanted to meet with you and ask for advice. It just grew.
Today, when you wake up, you don’t have to do anything to have an inbox full of people asking you for advice, help or tell you how you impacted their life in a positive way. Now everyday this thing like there’s a lot going on that’s a result of all of the momentum that you’ve built for all the things that you’ve done.
Hiten Shah: That’s true.
Steli Efti: Right? So if in the next 3 months you give no talks, you give nobody advice, you write nothing and you don’t create a new company, your inbox is still going to be full, you know, 3 months and 1 day from now with like a bunch of people telling you how amazing you are and that they need your help and that they have questions for you because you’ve done it for long enough that now your brand has momentum. It’s growing—
Hiten Shah: Towards that, yeah.
Steli Efti: —almost on its own even without you—Now, if you stop today, maybe 2 years, maybe 4 years, eventually the momentum is going to die down again, right? But [0:11:47][Indiscernible] momentum.
Hiten Shah: So what happens then? What happens then? Let’s say it dies down, what do we do?
Steli Efti: Well, that’s an interesting one. The question is like—I think an interesting question to ask at that point is why, why did it die down? And one thing that could be a very like straightforward answer is “I stopped doing the things or we stopped doing the things that got us momentum in the first place,” right? “We were, you know, putting in the work every day and then eventually we got all these benefits and we confuse—” I think this is such a hard concept sometimes to manage for us as humans because we see the results of today and we instantly equate it with the work we’ve done today.
But it’s hard for us to kind of connect things when they are delayed. So, all the great things that are happening to my business today is a result of things we did 6 months from now. Are we still doing these things today or not? That’s an important question I think to ask.
Hiten Shah: So there’s an accumulative factor still, right? It’s like basically, yeah, what did we stop doing? Because we didn’t see the lack—yeah, actually I’ve seen this like even specific content marketing like we for a while at KISSmetrics, we had a lot of infographics and then we stopped and our search traffic eventually started going down.
Steli Efti: Yeah. And then you—like oftentimes you’re wondering, “Hey, we haven’t—today was the exact same day as yesterday, why are our results different?” Well, because you need to ask yourself, you know—you need to compare the days 6 months ago and today, not today and yesterday. The results you’re getting today are the results of your past hustle, of the past work you’ve done. So I think that that’s—a lot of times people, once they start getting great results, they just get maybe a little lazy, a little complacent. They start thinking, “Well, I’m not doing anything and great things are happening, so I’ll just not do anything tomorrow again.” And eventually, these great things happen at a lesser frequency and eventually they stop happening at all.
What are other reasons though? What—so this I think is simpler because if you realize that, you can just go back to do what you’ve been doing and then hopefully you learn your lesson and you don’t stop. But what if that’s not the cause of the issue? Did you ever have this situation yourself or seen that where a company, a team or a person were doing something, it created a lot of momentum and they kept doing the thing that got them all the momentum but then momentum still died down? Like what could be another reason for that?
Hiten Shah: The thing that they used to do doesn’t work anymore.
Steli Efti: Oh, yeah.
Hiten Shah: That’s the most common one, right? It’s like “Oh, I know how to do this. I was doing this. I’ll do it again.” So like, you know, good example is like—let’s see. What kind of things die? Yeah, like you know, like this is a simple one, all right, too simple but you were doing radio ads in a local area. You were getting a lot of business there. You stopped doing the radio ads and the business didn’t stop for whatever word of mouth reason. All of a sudden the business stopped. You start doing radio ads again, but by then some competitor is already doing that. Your costs are higher and it stops working. It wasn’t working as good as when you first did it.
Steli Efti: Yeah. There you go. I mean there’s many of these things, right, where the world has changed and what you used to do just doesn’t work anymore, right?
Hiten Shah: Right.
Steli Efti: I’m assuming—I wasn’t around for that time, but the first few people that figured out AdWords from Google, right, and they were like killing it. If they just did what they did forever and they didn’t grow with the game and learn more about it, eventually you know that ad was outbid by somebody else and it’s—
Hiten Shah: Yeah. I mean it’s one—
Steli Efti: [0:15:27][Indiscernible].
Hiten Shah: You’re talking about one of the rules of marketing, right? When you—if you get in a channel early, you get the most benefit especially if you figure it out obviously. So, if you get in a channel and figure it out early, you get the most benefit. But, that doesn’t mean that later on it’s going to have the same benefits. So if you started early and you have this expectation that later on it’s going to stay the same, that’s a wrong false expectation because everything gets crowded eventually especially things like you were describing marketing channels.
Steli Efti: So, in that case if you had momentum and then you lose it and you look at the reason and it’s not that you stop doing what got you there in the first place and the reason turns out to be that the world has changed and that thing isn’t working anymore, you need to have—you need to eat the humble pie and kind of rediscover what’s working today and start from scratch basically.
Hiten Shah: I have a tactical tip. It is starting from scratch. I do have a tactical tip on this, which is like you can— basically, you can just think about how you got to that first thing in the first place like how did you figure out that AdWords is going to work in the first place, right? What was your thought process there and just go back to that, like most people have different ways of coming to a conclusion or coming to a tactic, right? Some people want to think about a lot, talk to a lot of people. Some people want to take some action right away, right? And some people are just, you know, thinking through the perfect plan, right? So there’s a lot of different approaches, but whatever got you to that first thing that you had, the thing that was working, try to repeat that same process again in the process of trying to find the next thing. That’s the easiest way to go because at least you know that whatever you did there, it did work.
Steli Efti: I love that. So instead of just going, you know, whatever it was like “I found Google AdWords and my ads are not performing anymore. Why aren’t they performing anymore? I want them to perform. This suck, da-da-da.” Instead of being stuck in that kind of problem mind frame, you step back and you go, “How did I discover Google AdWords?”
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: “Oh, you know, I was researching new ways to advertise online because I think the internet is great. Oh, let me keep—maybe I’ll go back to that drawing book and do some more research on what other stuff is out there, right? And what people are writing and what people are experiencing and trying and what works and what doesn’t then maybe I’d discover something else. Or maybe I rediscover AdWords and I learned more about it and I approach it in a different way.” I love that going back to what got you to the dance basically.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. I think that does it. That’s the easiest way to start, you know, at least kickstart your next process of, you know, trying to find that momentum.
Steli Efti: Let’s go back to one—like one thing that I find to be a critical principle in building momentum is focus. And I don’t know if you agree. At least I’m curious about your thoughts. I find that building momentum is proportionately harder the broader you try to do it, if that makes sense, right? The more broad I try to build the momentum—
Hiten Shah: I totally agree. I mean—
Steli Efti: –the more challenge I think it’s going to be.
Hiten Shah: You could almost call me a focus freak at a point in my life like I just—yeah, I hate lack of focus. It really bothers me. So I think momentum and focus go together really, really strongly like—and the reason it create—a way to create momentum is definitely focus. It’s like—it’s probably what you need especially when you’ve lost it and you want to find it again.
Steli Efti: You know what the funny thing is, a lot of times I see founders—I don’t know what it is, but it’s a funny thing. I see this many, many times where founders try to create momentum by going as broad as possible. It feels like that’s their internal imprint on what momentum is. We’ve gotten one press article. We’ve gotten one business partnership relationship with this other company. We’ve gotten one new customer. We’ve gotten one investor to be interested in us. We’ve got—like they do a million things. It’s that they’ve created all this noise and they confuse it for momentum. They confuse it for the signal. They almost feel like if they focus too much they’ll never build momentum because there’s not going to be a million things in this business, all these different opportunities. And it’s so—I don’t know if it’s counterintuitive for people, but it is such destructive behaviour in my mind when I observe it because they never build enough momentum in anything, right? They just scratch the surface on a million different things but they really haven’t accomplished anything.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I’ve seen that and I think—I’ve seen people in that mode and you have to focus. It’s actually very imperative when you’re trying to accomplish something so specific, right? Of trying to, you know, whatever—find the new AdWords for yourself or, you know, figure out how to just kickstart your business. And so, yeah, it’s like how can you imagine doing so many things with so little resources? Like it’s just—the math doesn’t work out. The logic doesn’t work out, right? If you’re small, you’re starting out, you don’t have much. There’s probably a limited everything. How can you imagine that you can do everything?
Steli Efti: Yeah. I feel like people have this idea that momentum means lots of things going on versus momentum means you have figured out one thing and one thing is going your direction in a really great way. So, yeah—so I think that’s also my tip for this episode is really if you are trying to create momentum, if you want to turn the tide and get the wind in your back and have things “start becoming easier” like customers come to you, investors come to you, you know, whatever it is, things start happening without you needing to push them up the mountain all the time, you need to focus. Be very, very focused on one thing and really push that thing up the mountain until it starts rolling down before you start another thing and do less—do those things with more intensity, with more energy, with more dedication than trying to do tons and tons of things. The more things you do, the lower your chances to ever building momentum in any of these areas. That’s I think really my main point here.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I love it. I mean, you know, for me like I’ll give my tip which is just like sometimes like you don’t know you lost momentum. You don’t know that the momentum is the problem. So, to figure that out, just think through what’s different between how you’re feeling now or whatever is going on versus, you know, when you actually felt like everything was great or at its best and, you know, you were just trying to make sure it doesn’t get screwed up. And if you think about that, then you’ll probably get a better idea of what’s the difference between now and, you know, back then and that can be really helpful in helping you understand kind of how to make that happen again.
Steli Efti: I love it. Momentum honestly—I think momentum is one of the most beautiful things when you accomplish it. It takes energy. It takes a while. It takes focus. But once you have it, it is a nice feeling. It’s like “All these opportunities, all these doors open, all these things happening much, much easier every single day.” It’s a beautiful state in the universe whenever something accomplishes momentum, so it’s really worthwhile and it’s one of the most important things to learn how to think about and act in and use when you’re starting a business. So, yeah, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on that. We’re going to post this episode on the Facebook group. Go to thestartupchat.com/fb for Facebook. If you’re not already part of it, make sure to join the group and join the discussion and we’ll hear you very soon.
Hiten Shah: See yah.
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