Owning your own business is a dream come true! There’s nothing like the amazing feeling of getting your first shipment of business cards, hiring employees for your team, speaking with customers about how your business will service them – and overall joy of enjoying your passion daily. But, as with all things worthwhile, this doesn’t come easy. We previously outlined the first steps in taking the leap and creating the business formation. However, there are more hurdles and many obstacles to overcome to make the vision a sustainable, long-lasting reality. Let’s outline several key concepts that should be kept in the forefront so you can see the obstacles that lie ahead in your entrepreneurial path and easily navigate through them. Time is of the essence, and time can cost you your business if you don’t plan properly. With new business success being a low percent, there is a great risk for you to be burned out, so follow thru below with lessons I have already learned.
Unless you are a non-profit, you need sales and payments, which usually comes from repeat, loyal customers and exceptionally serviced customers. Those customers probably heard about you from your advertising efforts – thoughtfully created from your communications and marketing plan.
A communications and marketing plan is an important part to put into place. This exercise helps you visualize your ideal customer(s) and lay out tactics where they can interact with your brand/company. Different interactions can be from social media, public relations and traditional advertising. Target communications efforts to a pool of customers a bit broader than that of your core select ideal customer segment. This allows you to not limit your customer base. Answer a few basic questions: How would that customer see your ads? Where would they go to find your goods/services? Look for the cost efficient model that helps target these potential clients.
Remember that marketing doesn’t lead to your goal sales volume in 1 day, 30 days or 90- it takes time. Marketing allows for a repetition of processes, so don’t give up on it, keep doing it. Have your communications plan dictate your monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual targets, goals, and engagements. Learn the lesson now, that as your sales are increasing, keep your communications plan in focus. When the momentum comes, keep pushing vs slowing down your marketing ideas. These are fantastic touch points with new clients, as well as your regulars.
Within your communications plan, you will want to promote your entrepreneurial brand. Whether it’s you as an individual consultant or the company you’re leading, it’s vital to get out there and build an online reputation. Social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, is a great tool to build a fan base and you can use this owned channel to push out updates on your business. You may also want to conduct earned media relations and get into newspapers, online news (like SmallBizDaily) or other trade outlets- think of news sources your potential customers are reading. Also with these media publications, you can choose to dedicate marketing dollars for paid advertisements. You will promote your logo, promotional material and company branding. To know which is the right communications avenue for you, look at your marketing plan to review where you think your customer base would find you.
As you start your business, it is so important to promote your brand via communications as you are small and growing. You will have the most time and effort now rather than later.
So many business owners are knee deep in the work and they forget, or worse they push away their communications priorities, and snooze on their brand promotion plan. These companies often struggle to get the sales going because their marketing and advertising efforts paused.
Sales is not everything, but you can’t have profits without sales. As you meet and speak with customers and clients, keep the feedback door open. Get their reviews, hear the feedback and ask for additional sales or referrals. Utilize subtle approaches like a quick email questionnaire or a follow-up survey, or simply ask for a review to be posted on your social media pages or if they’d share a testimonial for your website. Ask politely and genuinely if they have other friends or family who can utilize your product/service. In my past sales life, we tested and proved that a kiosk had higher ancillary sales than the sales team. We found out the reason was because the kiosk asks the same question, the same way, every time vs the sales team who gets emotional and accepts a “no” before the question as asked. Be more like the kiosk.
Set a smart pricing strategy. Pricing is such an important piece that often is calculated with no market research support. Get your data, sharpen those Excel skill sets and obtain a real analysis of your cost, margin, and determine valid pricing points. Whether you have a good or service, go with a three-tier approach for services offered: Good, better, best. Test these tiers out with analytics. Lesson learned is always easier to knock down the price, than increase it later on. You can always add discounts, coupons, promotions. It is very difficult to increase pricing after a lower standard price was publicly shown/advertised. Reach out to advisors that can assist in pricing strategy. It is well worth it to spend time and money to get this part right from the start!
Yelp, Google reviews, Facebook and LinkedIn likes are some of the quickest ways to identify if a business is reputable. Power of influence is real and these reviews can make or break a growing business. Make it part of your vision to exceed the customers’ expectations and provide amazing client experience each and every time. Design your business with this in mind. Returning customers provide higher return and prove much more valuable in the long term. When you get so busy, it is easy to forget to thank the customer. So don’t forget and again keep it as part of your plan.
Time is important and I realize it is hard to do all of these things and all at the same time as you are starting a new business. But hear me out: you need to make time for it. Create a marketing appointment in your calendar to focus on communications and promotion, adapt the process to thank each customer routinely, add in your day to increase sales, plan your day to have more time for all of these items. Do these things, and you will continue to see growth.
I hope you have enjoyed so far the first steps in taking the leap, creating the business formation and now overcoming initial business obstacles. In the last article of this four-part series, we will discuss your new company’s long-term vision of growth. I can’t wait to continue to share my entrepreneurial journey with you.
Mitesh Gandhi is an advisor for Breakaway Bookkeeping + Advising.
Lessons stock photo by Peshkova/Shutterstock