Beginning a new startup or business venture as a first-time entrepreneur can be a daunting affair. You’re more than likely tight on cash, unsure of whether your next planned steps are right and there’s nobody to tell you what to do.
So as the co-founder and creative lead of a strategic presentation company, I’ll share with you 12 foolproof tips for entrepreneurs to be successful in a new venture:
1. Don’t Spend Unnecessarily
First-time entrepreneurs have a tendency to splurge on a new venture. It might be the early jitters of starting a business for the first time, or just plain inexperience. But making frivolous purchases can kill your business before it has even begun to take off.
For example, it’s difficult to make a case for spending a couple hundred dollars on premium stock name cards, paying thousands to shoot a video production about your business or shelling out excessive rent for a swanky office. When in doubt, ask yourself if the spend is going to directly impact the success of your business or whether it’s purely for egotistical reasons.
It could just be the case that certain kinds of spending will reap more pronounced results when your business is more mature.
2. Validate Before Going to Full-On Production
If you’re in the business of developing software or designing hardware products, you’ll want to make sure that you validate the demand and fit of the product to the market you’re selling to as soon as possible. This is more popularly known as finding ‘Product-Market-Fit’.
Kickstarter Is a great example of how companies can get pre-orders and buy-in from their customers even before their products are made. They use marketing videos to show previews of their products to get early sales before they’ve even gone into mass-manufacturing. Founders end up saving hefty upfront costs of production and avoid building something that nobody wants.
If you’re not using Kickstarter, there are other ways you can validate your idea as well. Consider interviewing a few prospective customers and conducting research on how other competitor products became successful.
3. Start Marketing from the Start
A big problem with new ventures is that founders can spend months working on their product, but only spend a small portion of the time at the end promoting it. More often than not, they’ll either end up in a situation where they’ve built something that nobody wants, or find that the much-anticipated launch of their product falls flat because they don’t have anyone to sell it to.
Marketing early, even before your product is a 100% ready can provide useful feedback from potential customers that can enhance the success of your business in the mid-term. At the same time, when you do eventually begin selling your services or products, you’ll already have access to a captive audience to sell to.
Start collecting leads and engaging with your customer communities early to ensure that you have a ready, hungry crowd to sell to.
4. Always Negotiate
The popular adage: ‘You get what you negotiate’ rings true especially in business. There is no limit or line in the sand that restricts business owners from negotiating better deals for themselves. You’ll also find that the first offer presented to you is never the absolute best offer available.
Distance yourself from the mindset that asking for a discount or a better deal is being ‘cheap’ or ‘disrespectful’. In some instances, when negotiators use techniques like low-balling, it can be taken too far.
Approach any negotiation with a mindset of finding a win-win for both parties where you already have a position or desire before you enter the negotiation.
These tips on how to negotiate in difficult situations and get what you want will be helpful.
5. Get Online Immediately
‘If you aren’t online, you don’t exist’ – This is especially true in today’s age where more than 4 billion are using the internet.
Without a web presence, you’re missing out on a powerful traffic driver to your business.
Start Your Own Website
Starting your own website doesn’t have to cost thousands or take months. Using platforms like SquareSpace, Wix and content management systems like WordPress, you can very quickly get setup with a web presence for your business or even a personal website to provide information and collect leads.
Claim Your Googlemybusiness Listing
Google is the largest search engine in the world and it’s the first place where most customers will search for your business. Claiming your free listing ensures that your customers can locate your business and get accurate information like reviews and operating hours.
It’s becoming a lot more important for food and beverage outlets to get noticed and is referred to more than Yelp for reviews.
Drive Traffic to Your Website
Driving traffic to your startup business website is imperative to ensure you have a continuous flow of enquiries and clients.
Using paid advertising like Facebook Ads or Google Adwords and organic marketing techniques like content marketing on your own blog, you can potentially acquire new customers at very reasonable rates.
You’ll even have the potential to automate some of these processes which you might not have been able to do with traditional advertising and marketing efforts.
6. Pitch for Press
Getting noticed by the general public should be one of the eventual priorities for new businesses. Press coverage by mainstream media can potentially send hordes of customers your way. Here are a few ways you can get press coverage for your business:
Pitch Directly to Journalists
Concoct your story angle, prepare a press release and email it in a brief pitch to the journalist covering the beat of your choice.
Using platforms like HARO, you can also provide comment for journalists looking for interviewees.
Start by Guest-Posting
There are many blogs that accept guest author contributions to their publications. Using one of these as a stepping stone to get traffic and coverage is a great way to get free placement by taking the initiative.
Search up for blogs in your industry that accept these by searching terms like: “write for us (your industry) blogs”.
Hire a PR Specialist
You can increase your chance of coverage by hiring a professional.
Look for a freelancer that has had experience getting coverage for companies in your industry. The rates available will be a lot more affordable versus hiring an agency and you’ll still be able to get decent results for your investment.
7. Calculate Your Breakeven Point
Unless you run a pure service company, there’s very likely to be some upfront cost to start your business. These could be the cost of producing your goods, the development costs of your software.
To have a good handle of your finances, you’ll need to calculate your breakeven point. This is just basically the point where your business revenue covers all your expenses and has become profitable.
Knowing this can help you project your finances and costs ahead of time to determine if the business’s pricing and costs are viable or not to avoid a rude fiscal awakening later on.
8. Set Future Goals
Many new business owners get into business with ecstatic enthusiasm only to see their motivation fizzle out after a number of years.
Planning ahead for the business by setting financial and business goals is crucial to continue growing as well as maintain healthy profitability.
There will be moments where entrepreneurs get ‘comfortable’ with their situations and forget that they are running a growing organisation. Avoid this instance by staying on your toes and looking towards your vision for the business in the future.
9. Learn To Sell
For newbies in business, one of the most difficult obstacles to get past is the fear of selling. Sometimes, it’s handling difficult questions,
others it’s about believing enough in your own business to sell it to someone else.
When making any interpersonal sales, always approach it from a standpoint of being a ‘facilitator’ to the sale rather than trying to force it down the person’s throat:
- Ask questions to determine what they need
- Repeat the questions in summarised form to ensure you’ve gotten it right
- Propose solutions that your business can offer that match the needs
- Ask for the sale and propose next steps
It always helps to consistently keep educated on sales techniques and try them out for yourself with different customers to see what works.
10. Collaborate with Other Businesses
As a small business, the odds are against you succeeding. Many other small businesses face a similar predicament and collaborating with ones that have a similar customer demographic can prove to be a lucrative arrangement for both parties.
For example, consistently getting new leads and customers can be a stressful and time-consuming activity for businesses that run on lean teams. A great way to ease this burden is to cross-refer business with other collaborators that may have similar customers but don’t directly compete in the same space.
That way, both businesses keep the pipeline full and build on a healthy alliance. There are many other ways for businesses to collaborate besides cross-referring business for a kickback or commission. Businesses can also work out package rates for services that both businesses provide together to the same clients.
11. Operationalize Your Business
As a startup business owner, your goal should always be to work ‘on the business’ and not ‘in the business’. Otherwise, you’ve only just invented a job for yourself. Entrepreneurs need to build organizations that can run independently of the founders.
A way to get closer to that reality is to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure that staff and systems can run without supervision.
Begin breaking up your business into various functions and developing step-by-step instructions and considerations for each role. Eventually, you’ll end up with SOPs for every function and role to be delegated to other staff that work in the organisation.
If done correctly, you should see massive savings In your time to focus on growing the business rather than just getting bogged down by the day-to-day.
12. Test and Experiment with New Ways To Do Business
There are tested and proven ways to get new customers and run businesses in various industries. However, the best methods aren’t always mainstream or well-known. Sometimes the best ways haven’t been discovered yet.
These can be in the form of new technologies that have recently become available for mass adoption, or simply creative ways to conduct marketing activities.
Are there systems that can be improved with automation in your industry? Are there untapped niches that can potentially be wildly profitable that others have yet to explore?
Once you’ve dominated your current line of business, consider expanding into new areas. The business world is ever-evolving and changing, the only way to really stay ahead is to endeavour to innovate and disrupt first.
Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com