Some businesses begin with a ‘Eureka!’ moment, when an idea in the mind and a gap in the market coincide. Others appear as the logical progression of moving from employee to entrepreneur. However, your first business comes about, it’s a big step which brings with it a variety of questions and challenges.
It’s hard to pick out the most important considerations because there are so many and they all carry so much weight, but we believe we’ve identified the genuinely foundational ones without which you can’t build a strong and lasting business.
Research the Competition
If you’re new to the industry you’ve chosen, then you need to spend time researching the players in the sector. Even if it’s an industry you know well as an employee, you need to gain the different perspective of a business owner. Whatever your experience of the industry, you must prioritize studying the competition. You can learn as much from how they succeed as you can from where they fail. You’re not setting out to copy them but you can learn a great deal. Good research will also help you decide whether you really have something new to offer at a realistic price, or whether you’ll struggle to differentiate your firm.
Know the Market
Getting the edge over your competition is vital and understanding your rivals is only a part of this. You need to know your audience. What’s your target demographic? Who needs your product? What are they looking for that no one else is providing? This applies whether you are business to business or business to customer. However impressive your product or service, you must identify the demand for it. It’s not enough simply to have faith in your idea, you need to know it’s what people want. Not only will this keep you on the right path, but it will also save you a lot of experimentation later on.
Branding and Marketing
There’s an element of the chicken-and-egg conundrum facing any new business when it comes to visibility and promotion. If you’re starting out, you don’t have a reputation you can trade on. Your product or service may be exceptional but since nobody has tried it, how can you persuade people to take the risk? You can put money and effort into developing a brand image but without a demonstrable track record, how will you prevent that from looking like a hollow shell?
The answer is to be smart. Not only do you need to leverage all the opportunities of cross-platform social media marketing, but if you’re opening a store or any kind of physical premises, use its potential to spread your message. A store is just a store until you turn it into a story. One of the most famous ad campaigns in history was the New York smoking billboard set up in 1941 to promote Camel cigarettes. It remained in place for 25 years, using steam to emulate smoke. The novelty and surprise factors meant that it was talked about so much that Camel’s profile went sky-high.
You can achieve a similar effect, albeit on a smaller scale, by installing the latest digital signage technology to announce your presence to your target customers. Technology such as Mandoe Media’s digital sign software allows you to share content on multiple screens, both inside and outside your premises.
Digital signage enables you to generate your own graphics, messages, announcements and images, connect live video and news feeds and even offer customer interactivity. The curiosity factor will be considerable and the sheer invention and directness of this kind of mass communication will overcome the reluctance of consumers to engage with an unknown brand. The market may not know anything about you, but as soon as they’ve seen how you present yourself and what you have to say, they will be intrigued, enticed and, with a little luck, hooked.
In the Back Room
While the customer-facing elements of your new business are crucial, it’s important not to neglect the administrative requirements. This includes deciding on your company’s legal structure, liabilities and taxation status. If you plan to employ people, then you need to decide if they’ll be on the payroll or engaged as freelancers. For every startup, a business plan is essential because this will be your most important tool in seeking funding.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of professional advice available on all these issues.