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Success Strategies

6 Ways in Which You Can Make Your Business an 'Overnight Success'

Success may come overnight but much more typically, it's built on skill, experience, and hard work. Just look at the Beatles.
6 Ways in Which You Can Make Your Business an 'Overnight Success'
Image credit: David Redfern | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder and CEO of Hint
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In February 1963, arguably the greatest rock band of all time, the Beatles, shot to No. 1 in the United Kingdom with what was just their second single, Please Please Me. 

Related: 8 Success Lessons From the Richest Person on the Planet

Within months, the band’s live shows were attracting hordes of screaming fans. “Beatlemania” was born, out of what seemed a case of overnight success.

In fact, most of the band's members had been playing together since 1958 and had spent at least 10,000 hours playing live in the nightclubs of Hamburg and Liverpool (as Malcolm Gladwell calculates in his bestseller Outliers). So, no, Beatlemania didn’t spring out of nowhere. It took these musicians five years of practicing, playing live, writing songs -- and putting in mind-numbing hours -- until the time was right for "the Beatles" to become a global phenomenon.

Many entrepreneurs will recognize this scenario: You slowly build a company, and then something happens that opens a floodgate of new sales and customers. Success seems to have come overnight but actually has been built on a foundation of skill, experience and hard work. Moreover, you've hardly just been waiting around until it was your turn to win. "Success" demands much more.

Here are six things you can do to help turn your own slow-and-steady business into an "overnight sensation":

1. Learn what your audience needs.

Despite having more features, the check-in app Burbn wasn't close to competing with its successful rival FourSquare. So, when Burbn's founders noticed that photo-sharing was the most popular of those additional features, they redesigned their app. This time, they focused only on photography. Within hours of launch, the renamed "Instagram" had more users than Burbn had ever had.

Related: 15 Fab Quotes About the Making of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'

Astonishingly, Instagram didn’t even need an "overnight" time frame to be deemed a success. But Burbn's founders only developed their ability to understand what their users actually wanted during the years it took them to develop Instagram's earlier iteration.

2. Watch what your competitors do.

When Google announced that it was shutting down its Reader service, rival RSS feed-reading service Feedly acted fast to attract its millions of users. Feedly offered Google Readers users a one-click migration service, targeted them heavily with marketing campaigns and introduced new features. Within months, Feedly went from four million users to 12 million.

Related: The 10 Mental Traps on Your Road to Success

By paying attention to your competitors and filling in the gaps they overlook, you may suddenly become the solution everyone needs.

3. Jump on new market opportunities.

After eight years, games developer Rovio was nearly bankrupt. Though it had a reputation for creating good games, this small Finnish company lacked the distribution or marketing capabilities of the market’s big players. The launch of the first iPhone and App Store changed all that. Now, the company could reach a global audience through one simple distribution channel.

That's how Rovio came to turn its attention to iPhone games and create the megahit Angry Birds. The company focused on getting the game to number one in smaller, more accessible countries, where Angry Birds' success convinced Apple to promote it in the United States.

Almost overnight, Angry Bird became a cultural, social and financial phenomenon. But without those previous eight years under its belt, Rovio would not have been in the right place to take advantage of this lucrative new opportunity.

4. Take alternative routes.

When I started my beverage business, my goal was to see my products on the shelves of the biggest supermarkets. However, I soon learned that retail space is essentially "owned" by the major food and beverage corporations. So, I changed my strategy and worked to get our drinks into the vending machines and cafeterias of the college campuses and tech companies where our target audience studied and worked.

When people began asking why they couldn’t find their new favorite drink in stores, the supermarkets came back to us asking if they could stock our products. The lesson? When the obvious route to success isn’t clear, look for an alternative.

5. Help things go viral.

When Uber first started out, people were hiring Lincoln town cars to get around, not today’s ubiquitous Toyota Prius. Early adopters then began to boast to friends about this new, premium service at an affordable price. And that boasting went viral.

Uber enhanced this trend with a simple referral program that offered free rides to the referrer and new user.

Going viral is the modern version of an overnight success but it’s far from easy to achieve. The key is to give people a reason to share your idea, product or content, which will ultimately benefit them.

6. Recognize that self-belief from the start is key to "overnight" success.

Speaking of the Beatles, John Lennon once said: “We thought we were the best …it was just a matter of time before everybody else caught on.” More than talent, creativity and 10,000 hours of practice, The Beatles had self-belief.

A strong belief in your business will ensure you’re always listening to what your audience members really want and encouraging them to share your product or service. This belief will also keep you going while you explore new market opportunities, alternative routes to success and whatever it is that your competitors are doing.

Then, when the time is right, you’ll be ready to become the overnight success you always deserved to be.

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