Entrepreneurs start businesses to make lots of money and change the world, right?

Not exactly, says a new survey of 1,884 company founders conducted by marketing automation firm Drip, a subsidiary of Leadpages, a lead generation software company.

While just under 23% of respondents said that making more money is the main reason they keep going with their business, 24% said that "building a better life for my family" is what gets them out of bed in the morning.

Okay, so the difference between the two findings may not be all that big. But the number of respondents who say family comes first swells to 33.6% among founders in the 35-44 age bracket, when they are likely to have small children at home.

Just 16.5% of respondents said they wanted to "help customers", while only 14% said they wanted to "make a difference in the world."

Another surprising finding of the survey is how off-line marketing dominates for startup founders. 50% said they rely on old fashioned referrals or word of mouth to generate new business, compared with just 17% who rely on online marketing like websites and social media.

This could be a function of age, however, since just 30% of respondents under 24 say they rely on word of mouth to generate new business.

Those who do use online marketing rely on it intensively and see a lot of impact on their business from it: 16.7% of respondents say they use online marketing and it "makes a difference", while another 16.8% say their business "wouldn't exist without it."

Entrepreneurs tend to be an insecure lot, though, with 21.3% of respondents saying they were still uncertain whether their business would ever succeed. In fact, 15.2% of founders who have been in business for more than five years continue to be doubtful about their chances for success.

These findings are backed by chilling statistics from the Small Business Administration, which reports that a third of new businesses fail within the first two years, and half don't make it past year five.

So what should entrepreneurs do to increase their chances of success?

In a recent podcast conversation with Clay Collins, Co-Founder and CEO of Leadpages, he shared a few tips for entrepreneurs trying to build an audience that they can then turn into paying customers.

He suggests investing time and energy in first building what he calls a "minimum viable audience", before building a "minimum viable product", a term familiar to startup founders trying to quickly get their first products to market.

To do this, business owners should focus on building an email list of people who have expressed interest in your content or products. Having such a list has several benefits, like conducting customer research, for example. You can survey the members of your list to find out what products and services they might be interested in purchasing from you.

And then, of course, once you've got something to offer, you can use your list as a ready-made audience for your products or services.

And how should you build an email list? Don't hesitate to offer lots of free content like check lists, ebooks, and free video courses that will motivate visitors to your website to share their email address with you, advises Clay.

That's the strategy he and his team at Leadpages have used to successfully attract 46,000 paying customers in just three years, a number that is rising by about 2,000 new customers every month.

"I think there is no greater education as a marketer that you can have than meticulously growing an audience. Building and interacting with that audience will change your life, and could be the basis for a business that's worth hundreds of millions of dollars someday, like it was for us. Start with that minimum viable audience and go from there."

Published on: Nov 15, 2016