Want to start your own business? 6 things you need to do
What do Hewlett-Packard and Virgin Media have in common? They started with less than £500 and crafted successful business by identifying gaps in the markets. All great businesspeople have to start somewhere, regardless of whether they have the capital or not – so, if you think you’ve found a unique product, make sure you’re ready to launch with these six top tips.
A Business Plan
It sounds like an obvious one, but many would-be entrepreneurs don’t realise the amount of information that is required for a good quality business plan. Including as many details as possible can help you when it comes to applying for a business loan, but the benefits also extend to the fact you’ll be more prepared if you have every piece of information on hand.
Make sure you’ve done your market and competitor research in order to prove that your business will be profitable and can compete, and try to establish what will happen in the event that your business fails. If you’re still unsure, you can learn how to write a business plan online.
A Unique Selling Point
A unique selling point is what is going to help you to stand out from the competition and, in turn, make it easier to market your business to the right audience. Once you identify the unique selling point of your business versus your competitors, you can then focus on marketing towards your target audience. Brands that have sold their USP as their main marketing focus include Avis: “We’re number two. We try harder.” and M&M’s “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” The reason these two work so well is that they focus on audience perception of their brands against their competitors, offering something fresh and unique in well-established industries. If you can’t answer this question about your business, revisit your business idea and find a gap in the market that your business can fall into.
Your name, logo and how you speak to your audience all play a role in your brand. The first step is to ensure that you’re happy with your logo – after all, changing a logo too soon can leave your audience confused and unsure of your business’ identity. You can trial designs on LinkedIn and various other forums and see what your audience thinks and feels when they see your logo.
When designing your logo, consider working with a freelancer, as this will only help to secure your networking in earlier days and foster good working relationships. When it comes to your company name, you want to make sure that you’ve got a name that not only identifies your product but also is a keyword you’ll be happy implementing in your marketing campaigns.
Create a list of possible names and see how they rank on Google – this could be an important factor later on when you execute a marketing campaign. Examples of great brands include Apple, GAP and Subway. Commit to your branding and be confident in your convictions.
A Business Website
As your business is brand new, you need to figure out how you’re going to reach your target audience. Creating a blog for your business is a simple and effective way of bringing in visitors and converting them into customers – and content marketing is one of the key ingredients for ranking well on search engines such as Google.
In each blog post, mention a ‘keyword’ that you’d like to rank for, and, as always, add a subtle call to action to entice the reader to look into your products. Not only will you rank for your niche, but you are far more likely to convert into a sale, than with a generic keyword that is already too saturated to compete with at such an early stage. Your main goal for the website should be to help drive your conversation rate, so put as much focus into your online presence as possible.
Social Media Accounts
Embrace the digital age – there has never been a better time to use hashtags or visual adverts to promote your business. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are some of the best free tools for marketing your brand, so use them to your advantage.
Whether you’ve got investment capital to start your business or not, it’s good to stay on top of your budget in your first few months, and content on the majority of these platforms has the potential to go viral for very little cost. Some great examples include Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ YouTube campaign, and Disney’s #ShareYourEars campaign on Facebook and Instagram.
The best part is that, if you have some money to spare, you can buy ad space and target an audience for your social posts to ensure engagement and interactivity. Get into the habit of scheduling daily or weekly posts to show that your brand is active and alive, as well as speaking directly to customers and your audience. Being able to actively engage on a personal level with consumers often makes you become a more trusted brand.
Don’t forget to register a professional email address when you set up your website – doing this will help customers, clients and potential working partners feel more confident about your business – even if it’s just one person on the other end. This also goes hand-in-hand with setting up a business phone number. Some people just feel more comfortable picking up a phone and speaking directly with someone else, so invest in equipment that will help you to do that. You can also collate all this information your business card, too, so remember to carry these with you wherever you are, as you never know when a perfect business opportunity might arise.
Making sure you’re prepared will always make it easier to succeed, no matter how unique your business idea is. Don’t take the chance and rush into a business venture that will need time to evolve – and remember to read up on as many businesses that have failed in your industry so that you don’t make similar mistakes. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was The Coca-Cola Company!