I Have a Business Idea. Now What?
So you have a great business idea but not sure what to do with it? It may seem simple, after all, there are over 30 million small businesses in the US alone. That's nearly 1 for every 10 people! Unfortunately, anywhere from 20-25% of businesses fail in their first year. Many of those missed a step: but you don't have to.
These Steps Will Get You Going In the Right Direction
Figure Out What Makes You Special
Your business is going to become a brand, and brands have to have guiding principles and characteristics that act as a compass, always pointing true north. What makes your business special? Why does the market need you?
Even if your idea is more mainstream, think about the values you can offer. What will your business do that others don't? Take time to develop your brand story - how it is you came to be in your business. This will be the key differentiator amongst your competition.
Analyze Your Target Market
No guide would be complete without discussing your target market. This is one of the most crucial steps, and it's often one that people gloss over. You might think that everyone could use your product or service, and you might be right. Typically, this isn't the case. And you don't want it to be. To be really successful, you need to take the time to uber-focus on who could benefit from your service or product. If you appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.
A critical step is to understand how to segment your market. For example, let's say you think the market for your widget is "mothers." Let's dissect this market further so we can really get in the mind of your potential buyer. Are these working moms, stay-at-home moms? Do they have young children in school, older kids in college? What is the age range of moms who would more likely buy from you? This exercise is very beneficial, as it will reveal your true target market. The key is to not make your market too broad.
Naming and Registration
So, you know who you are and who you need to target. Now it's time to make it official. Take time to develop a strong business name and register it. LegalZoom is what we and millions of others use.
To find out if your name is available, look for an “Entity name check” and trademark tool on your state's State Corporation Commission website.
Establish Your Web Presence
Even if your business name is available, finding a domain can be trickier. Your business absolutely must have a website. Your website is the single most important digital asset your company will have.
Try to find a domain name that either matches your business name or is very close. You can get creative with this. For example, if your business name is "John Smith Tax Services" but the domain name johnsmithtaxservices.com is taken, look for alternatives such as jsmithtaxservices.com or smithtaxservices.com. Although typical, your business name and domain do not have to match.
You may consider building social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. These are all highly valuable platforms on which to promote your business, but you want to have a solid, well-thought-out strategy that includes consistent posting. If you're just starting out, spend the time and resources on your website first. Once you have that established, you can learn how social media can benefit you and incorporate that into your strategy.
Identify Sales Avenues
Whether you have a product or a service to sell, there is likely more than one way to sell it. There may be places you are leaving money on the table. Here are some revenue-generating avenues to consider:
Subscription fees: Do you have a service that you can provide ongoing value to the customer? Consider charging a monthly subscription fee which will give them access to your services and a steady flow of income to you.
Create an online course: This is a great way to package your knowledge into a convenient online product. Create it once and sell it to many!
Ecommerce store: If you have a product to sell, consider the possibility of creating additional complimenting products to offer a range of options for your buyers. For example, if you sell custom blankets, consider adding pillows as an option. Most website builders offer eCommerce functionality that allows you to build online stores fairly easily.
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are great platforms on which to sell your product or service to the masses. Typically, you will find a decent return on boosting your posts with a small investment.
Create Marketing Materials
With a plan in tow, now you can actually begin to develop marketing materials. These can be physical or digital, but they need to be carefully designed to appeal to your target market and be suitable for the strategy you outlined.
Don't think that you need to spend a ton on this part of the process. Often people go overboard by spending money on items they really don't need at the startup phase. Instead, focus on your target segment and market to them directly, building relationships, and encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations.
Let's take a quick look at where each type of material can come in handy.
Brochures, pamphlets, flyers, and even the guy on the corner spinning an arrow with your business name on it qualify as physical materials.
While some printed materials such as business cards are an absolute must for your company, think twice before ordering thousands of printed items. Start off with small quantities, such as 200 business cards and flyers. Take note of how long they last and reorder as needed.
Merchandise, otherwise known as swag, can be a great way to get your name out there. Coffee cups and T-shirts are things we all need and use regularly. If you invest in swag, put your logo, website, or phone number on it!
The number one digital asset is your website. There are several good companies that allow you to build your own using WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) website builders. Still, these assume you understand good web design in the first place. Consider seeking help if you're unsure.
After that, you can easily create downloadable PDFs that contain valuable information that your site visitors need to sign up for in order to receive.
Get Down to Business
Now that you know how to start a business, you can get to work. But watch out for one of the common traps of a fledgling business: doing too much on your own. It may be tempting. After all who else but you can truly understand the core values of the company? Can others be trusted?
Stop and ask yourself one question: What is the most valuable use of your time? If you're spending hours punching numbers into Excel charts, you're wasting valuable time. Someone else (such as your teenager or a family member) can be doing that for you. Tap your resources to take over small tasks so that you can work on business strategy and making money!
Need Help Starting Your Business?
Spot On Creative Solutions is dedicated to helping you define, develop, and evolve your business and brand. Contact us here.