Fall Post - Build Your Own Business Part Two
Happy Autumn and welcome to part two of "Build Your Own Business!"
For this post, I'm going to assume you've found that fantastic idea of a product or service. We will focus on four areas. Together, let's call them "PPEE":
There are several methods one can use PLAN your business. The most obvious method is completing THE BUSINESS PLAN. I'd recommend these sites as resources, both for finding useful templates, as well as good advice on creating yours.
As a sole proprietor, I've been told many times that I probably don't need to complete a business plan until requesting some kind of external financial support. However, I feel completing a business plan right away forces you to focus on details, as well as streamline your overall business vision and mission, allowing for a clearer path toward reaching goals.
Other planning resources:
Small Business Association - http://www.sba.gov
SCORE Mentoring and Volunteers - https://www.score.org
Entrepreneur Magazine - http://www.entrepreneur.com/startingabusiness/
State Offices in Minnesota - http://mn.gov/deed/business/starting-business/
Having a strategy to FIND NEW CUSTOMERS is crucial to success, and you don't have to spend a lot of money to do it. A great article There are many ways to PROMOTE your business.
- Create an Online Presence & Branding - You will hear a lot about "branding" when you're first starting out. If you're like me, you may be somewhat turned off by mass-media and today's over-sexualized advertising, but the simple truth is, that if you're going to start a business, you will need to define yourself, your business, and your brand - lest your audience does it for you. Think of it as simply getting your potential clients to remember you and your product or service through a logo, packaging, advertising, and overall identity. You will want to make it a good one. Creating your vision and mission is a great start toward developing your brand.
- Utilize Social Media - Although the jury is still out about what kind of "Return on Investment" companies receive through social media, there is no denying it's a powerful tool for engaging with current customers and creating relationships with potential customers. You will want to be careful in selecting which social media platform best serves your brand. For example, if your product is highly visual or heavily designed, you might select Pinterest or Tumblr over Twitter. Of course, these will all still work well together with Twitter, Ning and LinkedIn, which are the three favorite platforms for my service-oriented business.
- Define your Product and/or Service line and Pricing - This might be better listed at the top! However, it might be a good indication that some small businesses take for granted - knowing what you're going to sell and who/when/where/how your going to sell it is crucial to promoting any business. Once you've got a product and service price list, you can go from there with special promotions, daily deals, and other incentives to get a potential customer to give you a call!
- Develop Partnerships - So important. Perhaps, like me, your talents lie in relationships; marketing, communications, etc.. with lots of technical user experience. I tend to get bored easily delving into the nitty gritty of a technical problem. This is why I sought out a partnership - a technical guru that I swear performs the best kind of computer magic. Other partnerships could be purely for financial reasons, or perhaps you have a specific project that you think is a genius idea, but as an individual, probably won't get nearly the visibility unless you partner with a trade association, or a school, or some entity that has the reputation, funding and client base that would make your project a success. I'd certainly recommend having your potential partner complete a non-disclosure agreement BEFORE you hit them with your brilliant idea - not everyone is as honest and pure of heart as we are, right?
- Become an Expert in the field - There are several ways you might begin to do some "modest" self promotion: put together or attend a meet-up in which you might be able to speak your mind about the benefits of your product or service, write a research article, create a youtube channel discussing your area of expertise, create a public access television show, blog, blog, blog and blog some more… Getting a little more involved with Public Relations can help with this as well - ie., putting together an informative press release and sending it to local TV or radio stations letting them know about your expertise, may just land a call in gig one day. You never know.
- Build Philanthropy - This may be one of the most important areas to become involved in these days. Whether it be volunteering or donating or giving back to the community in some way, you will build long-lasting relationships as well as a sterling reputation if you recognize and support the underserved and underrepresented.
Here are a couple more great resources for promoting your business:
The next, and probably the most important area of building your own business is to EXECUTE your plans of action. No amount of planning will build your business if you are unable to execute said plans. In other words, you must "make sales" in order to earn revenue and keep your business afloat.
Setting up your sales plan is key, and will most likely include the following:
- Cold calling / mailings
- Online marketing
- Face to face networking
- Community building
- Conventions, sales shows, etc.
The final area of building your own business would be to EVALUATE. This will most likely include daily/monthly/quarterly/annual accounting reports, such as tracking revenues and expenditures. It may also include industry trends and regular market analyses. However, do make sure to include Marketing and Internet analytics and sales tracking. Understanding who your niche market (your audience) is as it develops will be crucial to turning a future sale more quickly, as well as creating a platform for growth in the years to come!
I hope you've gotten some great ideas to move your business dreams into ACTION! Good luck and good business!