When you start out in business, there are a mixture of emotions involved. For me it was excitement, but when you start putting in the hours it’s not just excitement you’re gripped by. The realisation of the task ahead becomes apparent pretty fast. Queue the anxiety, stress, worry, panic and the list goes on. It’s a nerve-racking experience when the fog clears and you see what’s ahead.
“If I don’t make any money this month, I’m not going to get paid”
When you think of it like that. It’s dead simple.
I need to make some money, was my initial thought. To a certain extent, I didn’t care how I did it, it just had to happen. Looking back I could have done with a few words of advice, so I’ve put this list together to guide you through the coming ups and downs and help you keep a level head when everyone else is falling apart.
Although this intro may have put you off slightly, my advice would be to embrace it. Yes, its tough, but anything worth having usually requires effort. I can tell you now that I’m a better businessman and a stronger character than I was due to the things I’ve learnt from starting businesses.
You can’t do everything
Welcome to week one of your startup, your role this week will be Managing Director, Marketer, HR, Sales Assistant, Customer service, Logistics and official tea maker. I’m telling you now, it can’t be done. Or should I say it can’t be done without dropping the ball. I know it’s not always realistic to hire a whole team as you start a business, wouldn’t it be nice to have that sort of funding on offer! But you can let others share some of the load.
My top piece of advice would be to find a business partner. Two heads are better than one and although you may not want to give up a percentage of your company, it may be the move that secures its eventual success. Not only can you split the workload down the middle, but on days when you’re feeling stuck in a rut, having someone to pull you out can be a lifesaver. You may think that giving away a percentage of your company will lose you money in the long run, but think of it like this. Half of all UK startups fail within the first 5 years, if your start up makes it past that and thrives; there is plenty of money in the world to make everyone a millionaire.
You can also use sites like Freelancer.com to find professionals to do work for you at fairly competitive rates. Make sure you qualify them first, but this is always a good option if you need something done by a specialist.
Learn how to market properly
You’ve got a great business, a foolproof plan and a team of people around you ready to give it all, what now? You need to get your business in front of the right people.There are multiple ways to market nowadays but below I have highlighted three that I feel are the most important for startups.
Content marketing is one of the best ways for start-ups to market for several reasons. Number 1; It has one of the highest levels of return on invest (ROI). Generally content marketing costs are low in comparison to other avenues like PPC advertising. If you are willing to write the posts yourself the price per piece of content drops even further. Try to keep to a schedule with your content marketing. Once a week is a good place to start but bear in mind that 48% of B2C marketers and 42% of B2B marketers now publish more than once a week according to the Content Marketing Institute.
There aren’t many people or businesses out there that still aren’t on social media, so whether your company is a B2C or a B2B outfit, you need to get on there. Where to start though? You can’t go wrong with the basics. It’s better to keep a small number of social media platforms up to date and active than use every platform and spread yourself to thin. Do your market research, find out which platform your target customers use the most and start focusing your efforts on building a following and keeping in contact with your connections. From the start you should be using Google Analytics to monitor which traffic is coming from social media platforms. Having this data available shows you where you should concentrate your efforts.
Although gathering email addresses can be hard, there is very little more effective than a good email marketing campaign. Even if your mailing list is small, you have a direct route to the customer. You will need to optimise things like landing pages and make sure people are subscribing to your blog, but all in all email marketing is still one of the key players in startup marketing.
Prompt people for their email addresses by offering free gifts, competitions and discounts on future products. When I started out I made it one of my top priorities and it paid off.
Learn who your potential customers are
Although this comes under the marketing banner, I want to keep it separate because I think it holds a certain level of importance away from your classic marketing techniques.
Without customers your idea is nothing, and I really do mean nothing. At the end of the day, it all comes down to them. If they don’t buy, you fail.
With this in mind, try and learn everything about your target market. How they shop, how they think, where they hang out, who’s in the friendship circles. There is enough information out there to build a picture of your customer.
Grab a piece of paper right now… well not right now, after you’ve finished reading this I mean. I want you to draw a stick man and a stick woman. On this piece of paper I want you to write everything you know about your customer. How both the man and woman shop, how old are they, what do they do for a living. This page should be filled with writing, corner to corner. Once you have this piece of paper, you know exactly where to find and how to approach your potential customer.
There is no way round this one. Good old fashioned elbow grease will get you a long way in business. It’s not advisable to work every waking hour but when you’re working, roll your sleeves up and get it done. There are very few business models that work without someone putting the hours in. Be efficient though, working long hours doesn’t always mean getting lots done. Use automation as much as you can. If something can be automated, do it. Every minute you save is time you could be doing something else to grow your business. There is no reason why 5 hours of solid work won’t produce the same as 8 hours of sporadic work and excessive coffee breaks.
The round up
The journey into entrepreneurship is truly remarkable. You’ll learn a lot about yourself over the first few years in a start up. Don’t expect to get lucky, go and make some luck for yourself.
James has worked within various management roles as well as becoming an entrepreneur by his early twenties. Working with companies across the globe in a range of industries, he wants to help people grow their businesses and become more successful in life.
Latest posts by James Mckenna (see all)
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