Starting a new business is an exciting and nerve-wracking time. Money, time, and valuable resources are on the line to keep it going, but the potential rewards are huge.
A great idea isn’t quite enough on its own. Starting a business of any kind requires hard work, determination, and continuous learning to grow and maintain your business. While small business can be easily set up, the proportion of startups that fail within the first year is high. Making sure you’re not one of them is a combination of hard work, seeking opportunities, and following expert guidance.
Good thing is, that no matter what small business you plan to set up, there’s always opportunity for growth. With enough research, planning, and proper execution, positive results much more likely. You’ll see the number of your customers increase, your sales skyrocket, and your business flourish.
The big question is: how do you start?
There’s a million ways to improve your business. As small business owner, you learn them along the way, often from your mistakes or the mistakes of others. But we’ve got some expert tips to give you the best chance of success.
Identify your target market
In order to build a successful business plan, you need to understand your market. Your great idea won’t translate to a successful business if you can’t deliver it to the right people. By identifying your target market, you’ll be able to gather information about your potential customers. Once you’ve established that, you can then work on your business model, pricing, and marketing.
There are two ways you can do this. First, you can rely on data you have gathered. This may be done through focus groups or surveys. With this, you’ll be able to gauge your prospective customers’ personalities, enabling you to plan your customer approach. A competitor analysis is also helpful as it allows you to preview your areas of improvement, and identify gaps in the marketplace.
You can also access data from secondary sources. Though this may not strictly apply to your business model, it helps paint a bigger picture of your industry.
A mixture from both provides a reliable idea of your market. Remember that the purpose of this is to create your plan according to what your customer’s wants and needs, not on what solution you think is best. By being able to identify your target market, your marketing will be cost-efficient, which is perfect for a small business with limited financing.
Develop your branding
Thinking of a business name is the start of your business branding, not the end of it. Branding includes all representation of your business including your logos, color schemes, business cards, website, tone of voice, and other branded items you’ll need.
Developing your brand may not be as simple as choosing a business name but it does help your business in the long run. For example, a logo that represents the product you’re offering will draw the attention of your prospects. Having a tagline that promises them the quality of your service will manage their expectation.A colour scheme for your business can be used for all your promotional and colour assets and create a consistent experience.
Colours also reflect the style of your business. In an industry where most companies use blue (financial institutions, for example), having a yellow or purple brand would make your business stand out as different – but it’s important to identify whether that’s a positive or not. How far you deviate from the norms of your industry will affect your perception and credibility. A baby pink brand for an investment bank will definitely attract a different audience than more traditional colours, but the question is whether it’s the right audience.
Inspire with images
When marketing your product or service, your target market needs to see part of the experience without having to buy it. Having images which inspire them or prompt them to take action will help your audience understand what it is you offer – explainer videos are a particularly helpful, too.
The professional, white-background product image is still able to depict products in a clear manner, but it’s no longer the most enticing representation of your product. Images of your product being used or service being carried out connects more with your audience. They are able to picture themselves in that situation, enjoying your product or being a well-treated customer.
With these kinds of images, your audience is able to make a purchase decision on a rational level. They understand what the product is, who it is for, and why they should get it.
Your imagery is part of your branding, so keeping a consistent style across your product images and website pictures will help to maintain that brand personality across platforms. As a startup, it’s a great idea to build this consistency in from the very start – that way, every time someone sees one of your images, you’re building your brand presence.
Whatever industry you’re in, no matter how big or small your business is, you need to have an online presence. This is the digital age, your customers expect to see you online and they expect to be able to interact with you that way.
Being online allows you to increase your outreach and improves the way you interact with your audience. Additionally, it drives up your revenue through available digital marketing strategies.
For small businesses, creating your websites isn’t as expensive as it once was. Depending on what type of website you want to create, you can either engage a web developer, or build your own using DIY website builders (but do take a look at our post on mistakes to avoid when making a DIY website first)!
As a starting point, you need to include your basic information such as your company details, logo, phone number, email address, and the products you offer. Doing this ensures that your audience can access your online business front at anytime
Another way you need to be online is through interactive social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like. Aside from having easily accessible information available, your business can also engage directly with your prospects and customers. Sharing content through the same platforms allows you to update your audience on your latest products and offers and build a new audience.
Connect with your network
Connecting with the right people is crucial when you start your business. As a budding entrepreneur, you’ll need all the help you can get. Being part of a network is a start.
Across the UK, there are plenty of start-up communities that you can join. They can be national networks or your local community. Either way, it’s an excellent way to meet like-minded people. You can ask for advice, share stories, or exchange ideas.
Also, your network can be a great way to get referrals and help your business get recognised. Within your network, you can drive word-of-mouth marketing to get more customers. Although your network may be composed of entrepreneurs from the same industry—or even the same one with different products – word-of-mouth marketing can get you a long way.
Building up your LinkedIn network is also important – but don’t just use it to post out information. Instead, engage with people, like and comment on their posts, share referrals if someone’s looking for a contact, and ultimately make sure you add value rather than simply broadcasting to your network.
Understand customer service
Often overlooked is the importance of having great customer service. Building trust and rapport with your customers is as important in acquiring them in the first place. After all, retaining an existing customer is more cost-efficient than prospecting a new one.
Creating a customer service team doesn’t need to break the bank, especially when you’re starting out. If you only have you, or a couple of employees, have everyone take shifts in answering calls and emails. If you can, why not engage a virtual PA to help – you don’t have to have someone full time, but you can take some of the admin burden away so you can focus on running the business.
reat customer service makes sure that your customers feel more cared for. This minimises the loss of your customers and increases the chances of repeat purchases. If your prospect is able to reach you more quickly, they’ll be confident that the after-sales service is just as excellent.
If you’re already running your business or thinking about starting one, take these tips into mind. Small businesses take time to grow. You may start from the bottom, but reaching your goals one at a time and deeply understanding your customers paves the way for success.