You know the feeling. It’s 2:30 on a Tuesday and you are sitting at your desk, staring out the window, dreaming of something bigger. Something better. Something YOURS.
You know that starting a business is daunting and very hard work. But you keep asking yourself over and over again – “Is this REALLY where I want to be 10 years from now? Working for a badgering, micromanaging boss? Chained to a desk 9 hours a day?” Maybe you have dreamed of opening that sweet little retail shop that sells rare antiques or finally utilizing that B school degree and open a consulting firm. So you decide – YES! I am doing this! But, now what? How do you ensure that your business will endure for the long haul?
1. Make sure it is something you are passionate about.
Let’s face it. Being an entrepreneur is hard work. This will not be a 9-5 gig. It will require a tremendous amount of grit and energy. Entrepreneurs and business owners are truly passionate about what they do and will do everything possible to turn their vision into a product or service for the rest of the world to enjoy. Don’t start a business that you don’t know much about or aren’t willing to continue to learn or grow with. When I started my own marketing firm, it was a no brainer – I LOVE marketing and working with clients and am so excited to come to work each day! And because of that passion, my business is booming!
2. Recruit a strong team.
Or as we like to say here in KC – Be Royal. Choosing your team is critical to the success of your business. You want A listers who are have your passion, but their own skill sets and ideas. Build relationships with recruiters in your community and nurture those relationships. All it takes is one big WIN and suddenly you need to hire 20 people quickly. It’s best to have access to great people before you need them. They can assist in building your own team from the ground up with a group of people who share your vision and who are willing to embark on a journey with you.
3. Position for success.
Positioning is a crucial ingredient in the buying process and should never be left to chance. It’s your opportunity to influence the market’s perception of your business. Failure to proactively address positioning is unlikely to end well. With or without your input, customers will position your business—probably based on information from your competitors, which will not flatter you. Clear, concise, meaningful messaging and positioning also helps you cut through the relentless advertising and marketing noise of the marketplace. In your customer’s mind, positioning gives your messages some context so they can be better heard and accepted. Doug Stayman, Associate Professor of Marketing at Cornell University, gives a great example and provides a template for you here.
Start working on positioning early. The key here is to test test test. As you near launch, test-drive your value proposition and overall messaging with beta customers and industry analysts. If those messages aren’t resonating with those audiences, you’re not ready.
4. Set clear and attainable goals.
Is the initial goal of your company launch to hire great talent to build your product? Is it to build up a customer base? Or are you most interested in getting venture capital? Set goals that are challenging, but that you will actually be able to accomplish. This applies to both your short-term and long-term goals. Figure it out, because the answer or answers will determine what you should do next.
5. Make sure to put your website under the microscope.
This is your showpiece to the world. Your website represents who you are as a company and is often the first place your potential customers engage with your brand. It should be optimized for analytics, easy to navigate, and responsive to multiple devices. If your initial goal for the site is to build awareness rather than drive leads, you can feature minimal calls to action and keep things simple at the start. The branding elements including your logo, your tagline and any other graphical elements on the site should make it easy for new visitors to understand why the site exists and why they should stick around.
6. Start writing and building your content marketing assets.
As you add content to your website, include basic information—such as product spec sheets, sales contacts, and calls to action—as well as deep content to support lead conversion when that becomes a priority, including case studies (as soon as they’re available), testimonials, whitepapers, e-books, SlideShares, a healthy blog, video library and other assets. Looking for amazing ways to stay organized during this process? Find some great ideas here!
7. Be social.
Now more than ever it is critical to engage with your customers on a social level. Businesses with a strategic approach to social media have a competitive edge. They’re tapping into customer information available in social networks, engaging with customers more quickly and robustly than their competitors, building business models that are flexible to accommodate and embrace customer change in near-real time, and leveraging cloud services and automation to give them more time to focus on customer communications.
Pick the three most relevant social media channels for your market, and craft a strategy for building your following on each. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other outlets can help you engage with influencers and prospects, amplify your content, and establish yourself as a reliable source of industry knowledge.
8. Never Stop Being Innovative
And we mean NEVER. You have it in you or you wouldn’t be where you are today – starting a business. Staying innovative takes great dedication, hard work and resolve. Keep a close eye on your competition. How are they using innovation to be successful – is there a strategy you can pick up? Continue to challenge your team to probe and question. How can our product offering be better? What can service can we provide to our customers that others in our industries are not? One easy way to strengthen innovation in your startup is to establish a platform for your team members to share and test their ideas. This is often one of the simplest, and most powerful, ways to remain on the cutting edge of your field. In this Inc. article, Method cofounder, Eric Ryan’s mantra is “Live in a Constant State of Make.” Perhaps he’s on to something.
Launching a new business is not easy. Launching one that lasts is even harder. But with dedication, a constant thirst for learning, the ability to be nimble and change direction quickly, and the passionate heart of a winner – we know you will succeed.