Few people would say that having their own business and being their own boss is an idea that does not appeal to them. The numbers are testament to this: every year, over 600,000 small businesses open shop according to the Small Business Associations. However, a great deal of these unfortunately doesn’t last long.
Starting a business is much more than just coming up with a name and registering it. If you want to do it seriously, a tremendous amount of work goes into developing your product or service, coming up with a plan, acquiring the funds, and then setting things in motion.
If you want to try your hands at entrepreneurship, you should study the steps of starting a business in detail. Here are 5 initial steps you mustn’t skip.
1. Know what you are in for
First and foremost, it’s important that you know exactly what you are signing up for by starting your own business. This is by no means going to be a “side hustle” you can comfortably do besides your day job.
Starting a business requires a lot of commitment, so you need to be sure that you are ready to make the necessary sacrifices. Self-employment may sound like a dream, but not everyone is cut out for it. It’s a lot of work –a lot more than many expect–, so you will naturally have less free time. It’s also stressful, risky, and requires a lot of self-discipline. Be sure to consider well whether you should choose this career path.
If you are determined to become a business owner, you should know that there’s a lot of preparation involved in starting up a business. Not only do you need a solid idea, backed up by thorough market research, but you also need to set clear goals and develop a strong plan that will be able to anticipate challenges in the initial years of your business’s lifetime, be it financial challenges or any other kind. A solid plan will be indispensable when you are seeking funding for your idea, too.
2. Know the marketplace for your business
You should already have an idea about the product or service you are to offer at this stage. However, that is not the end of this story. The next step is conducting a detailed analysis of your product or service idea in order to determine its viability. First of all, you should get acquainted with your market. Observe the general atmosphere and identify the ruling trends. Keep up with developments so that you can anticipate the direction the industry is heading.
Secondly, study already existing businesses in the industry to familiarize yourself with your competition. There’s not much point in developing the same product or service since it will be difficult to gain a foothold in a market where other, well-established businesses already supply the demand. You should find something about your idea that makes it different – that will be your competitive advantage that makes your idea viable.
Lastly, identify who your target audience is and how much demand there actually is for your product or service. Create an ideal customer profile and determine key pieces of information about them. Do they actually need your product? What would make them choose you over other businesses? It does not matter how great your plan is if you simply cannot meet your own goals due to a miscalculation of the existing demand for your product.
3. Create an online presence for your business
No matter the industry you are about to enter, in 2021, an online presence is not an option- it is an absolute necessity! Your business will need a website from the get-go; otherwise, you miss out on a huge customer pool that prefers to do business online. Google says that more than half of the total internet traffic came from mobile devices as early as 2016 – you can only imagine how much this grew in the past 5 years as smartphones took over. Make your website available on mobile devices, and create a Google My Business profile so that customers on the go can easily find and contact you.
Besides a solid website, you should also give some thought to social media. An active social media presence not only makes a business legitimate in the eyes of the customers –after all, they will clearly see your involvement in the industry– but it also gives your potential customers a chance to communicate with you. Establishing a positive relationship with your customers is invaluable for your brand. However, this does not mean you should be on absolutely every social media platform. One or two of the most relevant ones should be sufficient to drive more qualified traffic to your site while not overburdening yourself with managing several different platforms with several different algorithms.
4. Marketing your business
When you are developing your business plan, it is essential that you also devote ample attention to marketing. Marketing should not be an afterthought; if you only start thinking about it once you are about to launch, budgeting it will become a mess. In fact, beginning your marketing campaigns even before you launch can be a very smart idea in certain cases. Usually, you should cover both digital and traditional marketing.
While digital marketing seems to be the absolute ruler of the marketing world nowadays, traditional channels are still not dead and they are still a very effective way of reaching customers, especially certain demographics that may not be as internet-savvy. Print ads in relevant newspapers or magazines, eye-catching custom banners and direct mail marketing are just some of the traditional marketing methods to consider that are still relevant today.
As for digital marketing, your pure presence on social media is already a good step, but it’s far from enough. You really need to learn the ropes of the platform’s algorithm and regularly publish relevant posts that aren’t purely hard-selling. Social media sites are also very lucrative advertisement opportunities as they are accurate at targeting the right people. But marketing isn’t all about advertising. In fact, more organic means of marketing are what’s going to bring you the most conversions. Organically getting to the first page of search results will bring you much more traffic than a paid ad on the very same page, so invest in SEO.
5. Feedback from your clients
Finally, you mustn’t forget about your business’s fuel, your customers. Without them, you won’t last long, so you have to work extra hard to keep them happy once they give you a chance. Customer satisfaction should always be your priority, even in cases where it means a financial loss at the time. Your business can handle one refund; it certainly can’t handle the long-term negative effects of the bad word-of-mouth that dissatisfied clients will generate.
However, no one is perfect, and there’s little chance you’ll get everything perfect right from the beginning. This is why it’s extremely important that you are always open to customer feedback. Not only should you encourage customers to leave you reviews, but you should also actively seek out what they are saying about you on the internet. Make your interactions professional and appease dissatisfied customers to minimize the damage. Don’t take negative criticism personally, but do take it seriously. Learn from it and improve your service for the next time.
As you can see, you already have a lot on your plate, and your business hasn’t even opened yet. However, if you are confident in your idea and determined to make it work, you’re already on the right path. Success is never guaranteed, but you can always boost your chances by putting in the effort. The aforementioned tips are there to help you on your journey to business ownership.