So, you’re setting up your own small business? It’s a big step, but hopefully you’ve done your homework and have carved out a niche for yourself in the market. As you’ll have found out during your research and groundwork, there’s lots to do get yourself established and win clients – while sticking to the projections and budgets of your business plan. Here are some of the key things you need to keep in mind when turning your idea into a sustainable and successful business.
It’s all about image
Have you started thinking about branding? It’s one of the most important ingredients when defining what your company is, what it is offering, and securing its place in the busy marketplace. You want your customers and suppliers to recognize you, remember you and, above all, trust you.
When considering all of this, you need to take lots of things into account. You need your logo, for example, to connect with your target clients. It’s not just about choosing your own personal, favorite design, colors or font.
Try and think of your company branding as a fellow human, a real customer. In that sense, think about their character. Are they a man or woman? Are you targeting both? Are they young and fashionable, or older with specific tastes and needs? What kind of things do they want to get out of life? What interests them? What do they spend money on and why?
This is all important in determining the face of your company. A face that will be in full view on your website, social media and stationery.
Check out the opposition
Have a nose around at what similar companies are doing. How are they branding and marketing themselves? What services and products are they playing on? You obviously don’t want to copy them, but it will help grow your understanding of what works and what doesn’t as you think about your company image. How are you going to set your business apart from the others? What is going to be striking about what you do?
Really know your clients
If you can come up with a clear profile, it means you really know your customer(s) and can brand your company and your products and services accordingly – maximize your chances of connecting and turning that connection into a sale. Knowing who your clients are is not only crucial in terms of developing your branding, it’s also a fundamental part of your continued operations. You need to keep up to date with their changing needs and desires, and budgets – while also giving them incentives and new reasons to want to stay with your company, rather than turn to another.
Thinking about your clients at Christmas, sending a card or corporate gifts, can help build long-term loyalty as well.
Get the creative juices flowing
Once you’ve given lots of thought to your products and services, your clients, your market and the kind of brand image you want to portray, then think about calling in some external creative brains to help you bring it all together. There are all sorts of consultants and agencies out there, offering everything from logo design to marketing plans and paid-for advertising services.
How about going online?
You’ll be in a minority if you don’t get a website for your business. Online trading is a key ingredient in the success of many companies, as it can open-up the market so much. Instead of just touting your services locally, you can potentially sell to the world through an online portal, but think carefully before getting a site online. As you have done with all the branding and target client research, come up with a plan of action – that best meets the needs of your business.
Of course, you need to come up with a website that looks great and pulls customers in, but it also needs to really sell the products and services you offer in a simple way, so it’s also about great marketing, visuals and customer service.
Getting noticed online
Once you have the website ready to go online for your business, talk to the developer or other web expert about getting it the SEO-treatment – optimizing the search engine recognition. Basically, allowing the bots to find key words on your website that are searched by potential customers. Without the ingredients of SEO, you can end up with a site that looks great, but is very difficult to find online. It’s kind of like opening-up a store in a street that’s difficult to find and get to, leaving you with no customers coming through the door.
Don’t forget social media
With your website ready for action, it’s time to think about getting your company noticed on social media. It’s where many of your potential clients will be active, and could potentially bring in new business for you. Think about opening accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on – to get maximum saturation. Experts say you should be going for a personalized approach, compiling and targeting messages at your potential clients across all platforms.
You need to build up a strong following, so create interest by posting interesting and relevant content – and regularly. Don’t just post one sentence of text one month, and the one photo the next. You need to maintain some healthy activity across all of your social media channels and regularly.
Social media can be a really great way to connect with your clients, reaching out to them in their homes and at work, and offering them incentives and promotions tailored to them – making them feel special. Connecting your social media accounts to your website, with latest posts featured on the homepage, can also help boost your company’s online presence, but try not to duplicate the content across the platforms, you want people to follow you via different mediums and they won’t if it is the same information across the board. Experiment with different formats such as blog posts, infographics and video, this can help build a name for you and your company and drive up traffic to all your online channels.