Starting a new business is an exciting thing, but it can also be daunting. With so much to consider it can be easy to overlook something and find yourself ill prepared for running your own business and yearning for the comfort of your steady 9-5 job. If you are prepared to put the work in however and get to know your market and your own business inside out then you can achieve greatness. Here’s your essential checklist to give your start-up the best possible start.
Do Your Research
When starting up a new business it’s important that you do your research to make sure that it’s a viable idea, identify any flaws in your strategy and discover any gaps in the market that you can exploit and fill. Your initial research should include a SWOT analysis, which is a pretty standard way to establish your businesses strengths and weaknesses while also identifying opportunities to explore and threats to be wary of.
You will want to identify your target market at this point (creating an ideal costumer in your head is helpful) and conduct some research to find out if there is actually a demand for your product/service and if your product/service appeals to them over that of your competitors.
If you are thinking of operating online then it’s useful to do some keyword and competitive research based on the industry that you are targeting. Tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner allow you to find out how many people are searching for a particular keyword relevant to your business each month. This is valuable information and you can also analyze how strong the websites are that are currently ranking on page 1 for these keywords. This will give you an idea of how difficult it will be to outrank them and ultimately dominate the online market for your niche.
Create A Business Plan
A clear and concise business plan is essential for any new business. Your plan should detail your company overview, what you know about the market you will be operating in and your target customer base.
Once you have established all of these then you need to include a competitor analysis to identify what sets you apart from them and how to provide a service that’s either better or different enough to compete for their customers. You will also want to include your marketing strategy within your business plan to establish how you intend to make your target customer base.
Next you will need to cover the daily operation of the business, this should include an operations, management and financial plan
Get Your Finances In Order
As we have already touched on, your finances are critical to your company’s success so it’s vital that you get them in order right from day 1. You should hire the services of an accountant to help you set up your company’s books and then to maintain them with you on an on-going basis.
You may need to raise funds for your business and that’s where having a solid business plan will help but you should only really seek investment or a bank loan if you really need it, otherwise try to use your own funds to get started (without wiping out all of your savings if possible).
In the modern world of business having an online presence is essential. Even if you are planning on running a traditional type business you will still benefit from having a website, and more than that it can be very detrimental not to have one as that’s how this and future generations shop and find services.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on your website but bare in mind that to many people your website will be the face of your company and so rightly or wrongly they will associate the quality of your site with the quality of your service.
As well as having a website it’s also important to have a social media presence. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media platforms for businesses, however you should only set up profiles that you (or a member of your staff) are committed to spending time on. Neglecting your social media profile can be even more damaging to your brand than not having one in the first place.
No matter what type or size of business you are setting up you will need to create a brand. This is what will define your business and tell your target market exactly what you are offering, why you are different and why they should choose you.
A great tip to remember when developing your brand is to think of it as a person. Give it a personality, beliefs, values and its own goals to achieve. This will allow you to establish an emotive position in the market for your brand and allow you to create a relationship with your target market, one which hopefully you can continue to build on for years to come.
Your logo is the face of your brand, it will appear on your website, packaging, vans, business cards, the walls of your meeting rooms and any other applicable areas of the business you can think of. Your brand needs more than a face though, it needs a brain behind it and that’s where your brand message comes in. What do you want your business to say? Basically you need to constantly justify your existence and show the world why they shouldn’t ignore you.
It’s Launch Time
By this stage you should already have your marketing plan in place so now it’s time to launch your business and start marketing it to those that matter. Your launch strategy should include networking (probably lots of it), contacting the local press, online marketing (including SEO and/or PPC on your website), email campaigns, social media promotion and traditional promotion (including marketing materials such as signage, brochures, stationery, banners, window graphics etc.).
If your business is in retail then organize an opening day and invite the press and industry influencers to be there. If it’s an online shop/service then promote the launch of the new website on social media (through paid ads if needs be) advertise on related websites and get influential bloggers to talk about your products/services.