The 7 Phases of Building a Successful Online Business

Some gurus might have you believe that all you need to do to build an online business is follow a simple step-by-step checklist. And that following said checklist will lead to $10,000 months seemingly overnight. (No joke, this was an offer I saw recently.) 

Sorry to break it to you (okay not THAT sorry)… I’m not one of those gurus. As badass as it would be to simply follow a checklist and then whisk yourself off to the Bahamas to spend your days effortlessly laying on a beach while you rake in the cash… it is never gonna happen.

That’s because building an online business is actually a whole hell of a lot harder than the gurus out there would have you believe… especially if you’re a knowledge brand. 

More on that below…

Want to dive a little deeper into the subject? Listen to Bobby discuss the concepts in this post in Episode 277 on the Certified BADA$$ Online Marketing Podcast!

Here’s What We’ll Be Covering…

  • Why there’s an order of operations to building a business
  • The 7 phases of building a knowledge brand
  • What the heck a knowledge brand even is
  • Phase One: The Planner Phase
  • Phase Two: The Builder Phase
  • Phase Three: The Recruiter Phase
  • Phase Four: The Scientist Phase
  • Phase Five: The Banker Phase
  • Phase Six: The Leader Phase
  • Phase Seven: The BADA$$ Phase

If You’re Reading This Post, You’re Probably a Knowledge Brand

You might be asking yourself, “Bobby… WTH is a knowledge brand and why do you keep talking about it?” 

Okay, even if you didn’t ask yourself that question… it’s a good one. So I’m gonna answer it. 

Simply put, a knowledge brand is a business where your main commodity is your knowledge and expertise. 

This pretty much covers MOST of the businesses in our space (think online businesses who sell coaching, courses, memberships, etc.). 

If you’re selling what is in your head, you’re a knowledge business.  

(If that’s NOT the kind of business you’re building, this post might not be for you… but you’re welcome to keep reading and decide for yourself.) 

And while we’re on the topic of defining things… let me set out a proper definition for “success” of an online business. 

When I say “build your online business,” I’m not talking about getting to your first $10,000 month. I’m not even talking about getting to your first 6- or 7-figures! 

(Weird, right?!) 

What I mean when I say “build your online business” is building a knowledge brand that will consistently bring you enough revenue to support your family, your team, your overhead, and bring in a PROFIT for years to come. 

YEARS. Not months. 

Building an online business is a process. And in that process, there are 7 phases you’ll go through in the evolution of your business (there’s a bit of foreshadowing for you!). 

BUT nearly ALL of the gurus out there are trying to convince you to do things in the wrong. freaking. order.  

Bold statement, I know. But hear me out. 

After building my business and helping other people build theirs, I recognized that this is a HUGE problem. 

Here’s why: Online business owners are paying TONS of money for programs to learn how to use strategies their businesses aren’t ready for (or strategies that would never work for their business to begin with!). 

Here are some examples: 

  • Paying thousands to learn how to create a profitable course for your business to sell… to an audience who does NOT want to learn in that format.
  • Creating a membership to sell when you don’t have an audience size that will work for a membership offer.
  • Launching a program without an email list!

There are people out there telling you to do these things, and it’s costing people their hard-earned money and causing them to question their business (instead of the advice they’ve been given). 

And sometimes, it causes good business owners to give up. 

I’m not cool with that garbage.  

There is a major lack of real marketing in the space… and it’s time to remedy that so online business owners can start building knowledge brand businesses that last. 

That’s why I’ve created the BADA$$ Online Marketing™ (BOM) Process, which is a seven-phase model to help entrepreneurs like you figure out how to do the right things at the right time and order in your business. 

Basically, it means you’ll know what to focus on, figure out the right kinds of offers for your people, and take action that will actually move your business forward from Day 1. 

So in the post below, I’ll be giving you an overview of the 7 Phases of Business. Then, we’re gonna talk about each of them in-depth and look at how they play out in your business journey in some upcoming posts.  

This is a series you don’t want to miss! So, without further ado, let’s do this!

The 7 Phases of Building a Knowledge Brand

The 7 phases of business are strategically set up to help you build the “house” of your business, from foundation to roof, so to speak. 

Essentially, it’s going to help you stay laser focused on what you should be doing at different points in your business. 

For example, if you’re in the very early stages of your business, you need to build your business foundation (e.g., market research, etc.) BEFORE you move on to more advanced things, like adding the fixtures (e.g., building and selling offers, etc.). 

In fact, when you do things in the proper order, each subsequent phase is MUCH easier for you to navigate. 

Imagine building a house and trying to put up the walls before the foundation. Or trying to put a roof on a house with no walls. That’s pretty much the same thing.

There’s an order of operations in a business that should be followed.

Here’s the breakdown of the order of operations: 

Phase One: The Planner Phase

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The Planner Phase is the phase where you create an overall vision and strategy for your business. You can’t start building until you’re prepared, so you need to have an overview of what you plan to build for the long term. That’s what you’re creating in this phase.  

Think of this as creating the blueprints for your business. You’re creating a business plan that you’ll be able to use when you go to actually build it.  

A lot of people skip this step or skip important parts of this step, like market research. That makes about as much sense as trying to build a house without taking the time to create blueprints.  

You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints, so don’t start building your business without taking the time to create a business plan.  

The good news is that unlike when you’re building a house, your initial attempts at a business plan can and almost certainly will be wrong.

Your goal during the planner phase isn’t to be perfect, it’s to get a plan in place that you can start to execute and test.  

Phase Two: The Builder Phase

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Once you have the plan, you move to the builder phase. In this phase, you create the basic conversion and customer experience machines for your business.  

What you’re doing is you’re preparing your business for traffic

You’re not yet sending traffic to your business or trying to get people’s attention because you need to get your business ready first. 

You also don’t have a scaled product or service to offer just yet.  

Maybe you have an idea of what you want to create, but until you’ve built an audience, interacted with them, worked with them, nurtured them, and had meaningful conversations, you shouldn’t have any kind of scaled product at this point. 

Instead you’ll create your first “Buy Anytime” product in the form of a smaller offer (think eBook or template) or a 1-to-1 offer that allows you to work directly with your people. 

Whatever the simplest offer you can create and start selling the fastest is your first “Buy Anytime” offer. 

Primarily, you’ll  focus on creating your website and optimizing it to convert, create your lead magnet, and create your email marketing basic sequences. 

Phase Three: The Recruiter Phase

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After you’ve done the work in the building phase, you move to the Recruiter Phase

In this phase, the problem you’re tackling is getting enough people to see your conversion elements (e.g., free resources, buy anytime product) and to build your audience to a size that you’re ready to create a scaled product. 

This is where you’re building your traffic machine.

You need to figure out your social media marketing, content marketing, and paid ads to help you drive traffic and attract your target audience to join your list effectively. 

At this point, you’re preparing your business to scale because you’re getting feedback by watching what works and what doesn’t as you’re building your list. 

You’ll also see which key messaging elements seem to convert while others don’t. 

It’s also a learning phase because you’re going to learn a lot… if you’re paying attention to your people, the numbers in your business, and the feedback they’re giving you. 

You don’t move out of the recruiter phase until you have at least a thousand people on your list.  And yes, a thousand people on your list is generally an important threshold because it usually indicates that you now have an audience to speak to and something is starting to work. (There are very few exceptions to this rule.) 

Once you get to this point, you can talk to your potential customers and get the feedback you need to potentially launch a scaled product that will actually work. 

Phase Four: The Scientist Phase

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When you’ve got things running in your new business, you move to the Scientist Phase.

This is where you figure out and create a scaled model for your business. It could be a product like a course or a membership. It could be an agency model if you’re building a service business. 

We call this phase the scientist phase because this is a phase of experimentation

You try things out, see what works, you learn, and then you iterate. 

Now it’s important to understand that when you reach this phase, you have to be ready to be wrong.

Even if you’ve done the work in the previous phases, it’s still possible that you won’t get things right the first time you try to create a scaled product. So, you need to continue to iterate and experiment until you find what really works. 

You move out of this phase when you hit $10,000 a month consistently in sales. That’s what we call the entrepreneurial minimum wage.  

But before you get too excited, this isn’t what you’ll be bringing home. 

Despite what some gurus would have you believe, a $10k month in your business isn’t a $10k paycheck. 

Essentially, this will be about the time you’ll be able to start paying yourself a consistent full-time wage AND cover the expenses of the business. 

Phase Five: The Banker Phase

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The Banker Phase is when you start to tackle money issues more seriously. 

Up until this point, you’ve likely been a solopreneur or have had one VA on your team to help you get work done. But now it’s time to start thinking of building in financial stability. 

This is about the time that you have to deal with more complex financial management and become laser focused to create long-term financial stability for the business and yourself. 

In this phase, you’re working on growing your revenue enough so that it can cover your lifestyle, wants, and needs now and in the future. 

Your revenue must also grow enough so that you can start preparing to delegate more of your work.

You’re preparing to build a bigger team. 

It’s the time when you’re focusing on two things at once: you’re continuing to scale your money, but you’re also trying to put money aside to build that nest egg in your business so that you’re covered if something happens. 

The long-term goal is that every time you hire team members, it will ultimately lead you to more money… even though it will cost you in the short-term with training and onboarding. But that’s all part of the process of building your team. 

When you’ve built a solid financial foundation, you move to the next phase. 

Phase Six: The Leader Phase

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The Leader Phase is where you focus on unplugging. 

No, not the “4 hour work week” kind of unplugging where you’re spending most of your time lying on that beach we talked about earlier sipping Bahama Mamas, devoid of all responsibility. 

#sorrynotsorry 

When I say unplugging, what I mean is that you’re no longer the one responsible for all the implementation of your business tasks. 

This is the phase where you’re whittling down what it is you spend your time on while you delegate everything else to your team. 

This is also where you can identify bottlenecks and address them so that you create a cohesive team that works efficiently in their areas of responsibilities. 

Bottlenecks can show up in workflows, but they can also show up in your marketing, sales, and fulfillment strategies.  

Identifying them will help you continue to iterate and improve on them, making it much easier for you to continue to unplug from areas you don’t need to be responsible for anymore. 

Once you’ve hired someone to take over an area of responsibility, you can unplug from that area and start focusing on higher-level areas that only YOU can be responsible for. 

Building a team that can support your vision in the areas you need to unplug from is a difficult (but rewarding!) task. But once you find people who fill in skillset gaps that you have, you’ll be able to accomplish so much more than you ever could on your own. 

Essentially, you’re becoming a leader in your business. This takes a lot of focus on personal and professional growth and the destruction of ego.  

Ego has no place in a healthy team! 

Phase Seven: The BADA$$ Phase

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The last phase is what we call the BADA$$ phase, which is really more aspirational for most of us than others. 

You move to this phase of building your knowledge business when 90% or more of your time is spent exclusively on casting a vision, doing things you truly love doing, and doing things that only you can do. 

It’s gonna take you a while to get there, but once you do, you’ll be reaping the benefits of what you’ve sown this whole time. 

So these are the phases in a nutshell. 

Why Do You Need A Process in Building a Business?

Having a process for building your business is essential to avoid some major and common pitfalls when it comes to getting an online business off the ground. 

Understanding the evolution of an online business can help you understand the WHY behind doing things at a specific time in your business. 

Here are a few more specific reasons why following a process is important:  

You Can Avoid The Feeling Of Overwhelm

 If you try to do all the things when you’re just starting out (e.g., creating an entire product suite), you’re going to overwhelm yourself and burn out fast.  

You’ll feel like there are so many things to do, so many things to focus on, so many strategies to learn, and so on. 

When you’re first getting started, don’t try to take it all in or do everything the gurus tell you to do. Stay focused on your current phase.

Get through it, and move on to the next phase. 

This will keep overwhelm at bay and help you put the blinders on when shiny object syndrome starts vying for your attention. 

You Won’t End Up With A Lot Unfinished Projects

Another part of the problem that might come if you try to do everything all at once or out of order is that you end up with a lot of unfinished projects. 

Getting things half-done won’t do you any good because they can’t pay you dividends until they’re completed. 

If you have all those open loops, you’re not going to see any results. That will lead to further overwhelm.

Worse, you might just give up because they’re not working. 

Again, you have to focus on one thing at a time, get it done, and move to the next thing. 

Remember: One finished project is more valuable to you than 10 half-finished ones.

You Can See The Big Picture of Your Business Structure

You need to understand the different things that need to be completed and how they will all fit together if you want to build a successful business.

If you don’t know how everything fits together, you might do those individual tasks in your business in a vacuum, and you won’t do them right. 

Basically, you need to keep the big picture in mind when you’re working on the smaller tasks to keep yourself always moving in the right direction. 

This is important for the day-to-day work, the strategy, and for all your decision making.  

Few things are more valuable than understanding how everything in your business fits and works together toward a common goal. 

You Can Avoid Wasting Resources

You need a process in building a business because if you build stuff in the wrong order, a lot of bad things can happen in varying degrees. 

You could end up just wasting your time, effort, and money because you’re spending them all focusing on a task that won’t bring any return for you.  

For example, you put a whole bunch of time, effort, and energy into generating traffic and getting people to come to your website… but you don’t have a content strategy or a website that’s optimized to convert the traffic! 

The BOM™ Process is designed to build on itself. Each objective and focus builds on the next, and everything has a purpose that will benefit your business now or in the future. 

You’ll Get the Right Data

When you do things in the wrong order, you might generate data that’s not reliable. 

For example, if you try to launch a scaled product before you have a decent-sized list and audience, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to launch to crickets and no one is going to buy. 

And you might take that to mean that it’s the wrong type of offer. So you’ll create another offer and try to launch that with the same results. 

Over and over again, until you feel like you’ve exhausted all your options and question your whole business. (Yes, I’ve seen this happen many times, sadly.) 

But until you have a large enough pool in your audience to gather data from, you can’t really know what the problem is. 

Maybe you don’t have a large enough audience to convert (Considering most offers convert at 1-3%, you need a LOT of qualified leads in your audience to make even 10 sales!). 

Maybe you don’t have the right audience to begin with. 

Maybe your messaging was off. 

Until you have a large enough audience to interact with and test, you won’t know enough to make strategic decisions. 

You’ll Get Enough Information to Guide Your Business Decisions

Having a process that guides you to do things in the right order allows you to gather enough information that you can use in decision making. 

If you don’t take the time to create an audience first, cultivate it, nurture it, listen to your people, and do research based on that, you’re not gonna know a lot of things. 

You may think you know what scaled program your audience wants, but you’re probably wrong.  

You may think you know what messaging will work with your audience, but you’re probably wrong. 

Doing things in the proper order will allow you to be SURE of the messaging, products, and offers your people actually want and how they want them delivered. 

You Can Avoid Wasting a Lot of Money

If you do things in the wrong order, you might end up sucking out some of the most precious resources from the business—time and money. 

Cash is the lifeblood of any business, especially small businesses. If you don’t have cash, you’re going to have problems. 

So, when starting a business, don’t rush to hire or scale your team too quickly. 

And don’t waste thousands of dollars on programs that are advising you to create a scaled offer before your business is ready for one! 

Early on, when you have time and not a lot of money coming in the door, you should be investing your time and preserving your cash. 

Conclusion: Why a Business Needs More Than a Checklist to Grow

When building a knowledge brand, a lot of people have been sold hollow promises about easy-to-follow checklists or businesses-in-a-box that will make you money seemingly overnight. 

But it’s all digital snake oil. 

There is simply NO one-size-fits-all approach to building a successful online business.  

There is, however, a process or an order of operations that every online business can follow to build a business that’s around for the long-term. 

When it comes to building your business, order matters. Focus matters. 

Keep an eye out for upcoming posts where we’ll dive into the different phases and unpack each phase in depth! 

If you want to get this information and do a deeper dive right now, you can do that. Join BADA$$ Online Marketing™ University (BOMU) and inside, we have the BOM™ Process course. It’s completely free.

About Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur

About Bobby Klinck