Keen on turning your dream into a reality? You are the next generation of dreamers and doers. You have a great business idea and a long list of things you need to do, but it's not easy starting out on your own.
Everyone needs some help at the beginning, so that’s why we’ve created this step-by-step guide.
We will take you through every aspect of creating, running, and owning a business, from the brainstorming stage to becoming a fully fledged startup. Take your time. It’s an exciting journey and there will be plenty of challenges along the way.
Why do you want to start this business? Think about more than just money here – you need to find meaning in your journey. As when things get tough, and you're having a bad day, it's your vision that will see you through.
Dave Gray, Liminal Thinking
The best way to promote a new or different belief is not with facts, but with a story.
All businesses are stories, and whoever tells the best stories, will receive the most followers. Ask yourself, where do you see your business going? Who is your ideal customer? Which audience groups are you looking to serve? Create a vision board and remember the excitement you felt when you first came up with the idea.
A few doubts might creep in, but that's natural when you're starting something new. It's entirely human to question why you are doing something. Remember, only you can do this.
- Articulate Your Business Vision →
- Start With Why - Simon Sinek’s TED Talk →
If you’re starting out or already have a small business, you will wear many hats and won’t have the time to learn every strategy. So before you start looking for customers, it helps to visualize your target audience. Think about who they are. Where might they shop? What platforms are your audience most likely to use?
You need to know what type of customers you want, as without knowing this, you won’t attract the right ones.
Develop a clear vision of who you’re targeting before you start. Think about why you are chasing these customers and how you can improve their lives. Dive deep into your target audience and focus on your ideal client as few products or services appeal to everyone.
A luxury cork product website selling artisanal handbags won’t appeal to a guy who buys the cheapest bag available on Amazon.
Understanding your audience is an essential first step.
- Building your own business →
- How to make a small business website →
- 7 Steps to Starting a Business →
There are four fundamentals when it comes to attracting customers: networking, SEO, social media, and advertising.
Now that you’ve identified your target audience, you need to meet them in person. Whether that’s online marketing or pressing the flesh, you need to get out there. Take business cards whenever you attend meetings. Make yourself heard.
Your style of networking will depend upon your business, but customers won’t find you by themselves. Find ways to make a name for yourself as a new business.
While networking, as well as finding new customers, you will also meet fellow entrepreneurs – people on the same journey as you. Discovering kindred spirits is invaluable for all business owners. So don't be a stranger. Meeting people is your job now.
- The Art of Finding Your Customers →
- Five Ways Networking Helps You Succeed →
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) means writing content that makes your business appear on Google. In other words, when a mum searches for the 'best nanny in New York,' will she find your childcare business or your competitors?
If your website has been SEO optimized, then you’re far more likely to be successful. You don’t have to post every hour on Facebook. Instead, when you’re creating a business website, make sure you can optimize your text for SEO purposes.
SEO is all about keywords – getting the right words on your website in the right places. There are tools you can use, such as Moz and Google AdWords, to find these keywords.
If you have an advertising budget, then you can also put money behind your Google keyword efforts to find new audiences, but it’s possible to be successful without spending.
- How to Write Copy That Google Loves →
- You Don’t Need to Be a Magician to Optimize SEO →
Every business needs to reach out on social media. As a social media user, you will probably understand this already, but how do you do it for a new business? A top priority for business owners is identifying your audience's favorite social media platforms.
For example, a plumbing business is probably better off advertising on Facebook than a news-orientated platform such as Twitter. Social media is fickle and constantly changing, so it's easy to get it wrong at first.
Staying on top of trends and niche platforms takes time and dedication. Social media is where your customers gossip among themselves, and it’s where you need to be to gain traction with your audience, so picking the right channel is a significant decision for your business.
- How to Create Your Business Fanbase on Facebook →
- Why Social Media Should Be Your Secret Business Tool →
Unless you have millions of dollars to spend on ad campaigns, there’s no need to spend on every social platform. You have to choose the right social network for your business. Facebook and Instagram are the most popular platforms, so they’re probably your best bet.
Your ad copy and images will vary depending on what you’re advertising, and your audience in particular. Light or serious? Casual or formal? If you know your audience, then you’ll be able to find the language and tone that will appeal to them.
Nobody wants to read jokes if they’re browsing for flight insurance, while bakery stores may go for a light and sweet pitch, as they’re popular among all age groups.
You can reward returning customers financially by getting them to recommend your business to their friends. This is best known as a ‘refer a friend’ scheme where you offer existing customers an incentive to buy a product from your business.
A more formal arrangement is an ‘affiliate scheme.’ Here another company will promote your business and direct their online traffic in exchange for commission. Most affiliate schemes will complement your business. For example, an online student guide may work with a hostel booking website as they share the same audience.
- How to Monetize a Website With Affiliate Marketing →
- When to Use Affiliate and Refer-a-Friend Options →
- A Beginner’s Guide To Social Media Advertising →
All successful businesses need to sell themselves, so price accordingly and make payments easy.
What are your products and services worth? You need to determine your market value and check out the competition to see how you measure up.
Find the answer to these questions:
- What are your competitors charging?
- Does the uniqueness of my solution mean I can charge more?
- What do I need to charge to make a profit?
- How much would I pay for my product?
- What would my ideal customer pay?
Be bold and competitive from the outset. As a new business owner, there’s a tendency to be overly grateful and take whatever you’re offered. Pricing is a delicate balancing act. Remember, your customers need your services as much as you need their business, so retain your value when pricing.
- The Foolproof Way to Price Your Solo Business →
Your business vision will form the basis of your selling strategy. It's easy to sell your business if you believe in your own story. It just takes a little preparation. The best way is to sell your idea in simple terms. Maybe write a one-liner or a 50-word elevator pitch that you're comfortable reeling off to customers.
It's crucial to sell the benefits and not the functionality of your business. Listen to what your customers want to hear. Do they actually care about your software innovation features or are they more excited about the beach vacation in Thailand they can book on your app?
It's natural to get sidetracked by procedures and forget why you started your business in the first place. Remember, no one will ever care about it as much as you do. Convincing others to care is the most challenging step of all.
If selling doesn't come naturally, you may need to try something different. Instead of talking to big groups, maybe you can gauge people’s needs and listen to them one-to-one. Not everyone is an extroverted sales type, but you can still believe passionately in your business and find a path to success.
- Selling with Heart: A Reluctant Salesperson’s Guide →
- Why You Should Sell Benefits, Not Features →
- Sell Face-to-face in 4 Easy Steps →
Try and make it easy for your customers to pay you. Even if you don’t have an online store, people expect to be able to pay you quickly. Usually, that’s on your website or an instant payment app. Again, it’s all about knowing your customer.
PayPal is a popular payment option for sole traders and small businesses. If you have an online store, then Shopify, WooCommerce and eBay have payment widgets you can add for free. If you prefer something more traditional, then you can always include a bank payment field, or provide an address where customers can send you cash or a check.
Getting paid is the final step to ‘closing the deal,’ so it’s important you don’t put any obstacles in your customer’s way. Make it clear, fast, and straightforward.
- How To Accept Credit Cards Online →
- What Your E-commerce Store Needs to Succeed →
- Add A ‘Kerchinggg!’ Noise to Your Website →
With so many content options available, it can feel overwhelming going through them all. Ideally, you should pick a medium that corresponds with your business offer and audience.
A typical blog combines text, images, videos, and links to relevant web pages. It’s a fast and direct way of delivering information to your customers. Before you start writing anything, think of subjects your audience will love.
Ecommerce businesses often write about seasonal events such as Mother’s Day or Hosting Black Friday. If you have a journalist’s nose for a good story, it will help if you can pitch your business around events and make your posts topical.
When you start writing, capture your customers’ imaginations with a strong headline and subheader. They will read the header first before continuing. When you go to a news website, it’s usually the headline and image that draws you in, and the same journalistic approach applies to business marketing.
The most successful blogs have simple, clear, and easy instructions. Keep that in mind when you start writing.
- How Modern Blogging Differs from Past Blogs →
- Flog Your Blog – For Money →
- Business Case for Blogging →
- Grow an Audience with Our Best Blogging Practices →
Vlogging is a fantastic way of empathizing with your audience. Everyone loves a good story. A compelling tale warms hearts and stays with long after your audience has stopped watching.
The primary benefit of vlogging is that you can provide a personalized experience to your business. A vlog can be the ‘human face’ of your company as people relate to faces, not websites. If you form a connection with your audience, they will purchase things from ‘you’ not your store.
If you have the gift of the gab, then pick up your phone and start talking. You never know where it might lead.
- Is Vlogging Good For Business? →
Increasingly popular with Internet users across all age groups, podcasting is like listening to a story over a campfire. The platform is easy to record and allows you to chat with your audience as friends.
Think of your customers' interests and knowledge before you start. If your podcast is about small business taxes, then don’t assume they will know as much as you do. First-time listeners will need a gentle introduction to complex subjects and jargon. Keep your topics simple and avoid overcomplicating.
Chat away like you would speak to your friends in a coffee shop or restaurant.
- How to Create Your Own Podcast →
- Should You Add Podcasts to Your Marketing Arsenal? →
Picking the right platform for your content is fundamental to your future success. There are multiple free and easy-to-use platforms available. Think about which one best suits your identity and audience. Creating a YouTube or Facebook vlogging channel is great if you love talking directly with customers.
Podcasting is attractive to many small businesses as it doesn’t require any investment to get started. Blogging meanwhile remains one of the fastest and simplest ways to start a business. Whatever you choose, make sure you pick a channel that complements your goals.
- Why the Right Platform is Critical for Your Blog →
- Why Ghost Might be the Blogging Platform For You →
Once you’ve decided what content to create, it’s now time to share it with your audience.
Social media is essential if you want to connect with customers as that’s where they communicate with one another. When your audience thinks of a specific product or service, you want them to associate it with your business.
With regard to social sharing, it's all about getting the right balance with the '5-3-2' rule for every ten posts. Five of your social posts should be external content related to your business, which will broadly appeal to your audience.
Three should be updates you've created yourself. While finally, two of your posts, should be personalized posts related to your business, which will make you more relatable to your audience.
- Want More Eyeballs? Social Media to the Rescue! →
Email is a fast, direct and targeted way of communicating with your customers. Writing can help you forge relationships with your customers and encourage loyalty, repeat business, and over time, acquire new customers.
The crucial element is the subject line, which like a newsletter headline, it needs to grab your audience’s attention. If they don’t open your email, they won’t read what you have to say.
In your emails you can advertise, offer rewards, discounts and prizes, and provide updates about your business. Email remains one of the most effective ways of communicating with customers.
- Doing Business Email the Right Way →
- How to Get Started with Email Marketing →
- 8 Tips for a Successful Email Marketing Campaign in 2019 →
If you have a content scheduling calendar, such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you can manage your emails and social media posts months in advance. They help take the pressure off your workload as you can plan and schedule all your posts months before they go live.
For example, if you’re an online florist store, it will tell you Valentine’s Day is coming up, and that you need to prepare.
When it comes to emails, the golden rule is to ensure your audience does not forget your business. Depending on your product or services, you can send emails twice a month and increase to weekly overtime. If you've got new content available, or weekly promotions, then consider sending emails two or three times a week.
- How to Produce Content that Delivers Real Value →
When you’re looking for customers as a small business, you don't have to use expensive marketing systems. There are many free and low-cost resources that will aid your company’s personality and goals.
All-in-one marketing platforms such as MailChimp or Constant Contact will help you email your customers by analyzing your content and suggest fresh ideas for posts.
Email management tools allow you to use professional email templates and even create your own bespoke version. They also provide data analytical packages, where you can track how many people read your emails and whether your readers clicked on any offers.
- Make the Most of Your Email Marketing →
Earlier we spoke about the most effective social media sharing and scheduling tools. If you want your social media marketing efforts to be successful, you’ll need to invest in the right tools. Platforms that help you manage and optimize your posts. Whether its Buffer, Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, the smart way to post on social media is through a third-party management tool.
They save you time, money and provide the organizational structure for your business to be competitive.
- Social Media Management in 4 Easy Steps →
Good accounting is essential for every business and a necessary one if you want to attract customers. Luckily, there are online tools available, where you can manage and analyze your income, expenses, and tax receipts.
Xero, Freshbooks, and Quickbooks Online are market leaders in accounting services. They make it easy for you to upload invoices, manage payroll, and track your expenses online.
- Taking The Overwhelm Out Of Being Your Own Bookkeeper →
- How To Measure What Matters for Your Business →
- Best Digital Tools for Productivity 2019 →
As a small business you can’t be everywhere at once, and you shouldn’t try to either.
Freshdesk, LiveChat, and HappyFox Chat provide live chat and custom email templates for small businesses, which are easy-to-use and understand. Calendar-booking tools such as Coschedule or Calendly allow you to manage clients, resources, services, and appointments all in one platform.
Whether its managing existing customers or preparing for new ones, these tools can help you streamline your bookings more effectively.
Robotic assistants, or chatbots, can also save you time responding to emails as they can deliver vital information to customers in real time.
- How About a Robotic Assistant For Your Business? →
- Beef Up Bookings with these Scheduling Apps →
- What Apple Teaches Us about Our Own Businesses →
Creating a business is a rollercoaster challenge and will take you to some spectacular places. As you learn new things, remember to stay with your vision. Part of your journey is that you’ll always be discovering something new about yourself, customers, and business as a whole.
Entrepreneurial adventures often zig-zag, and if things don’t happen right away, then you can always try something else. Endeavor has been the gateway to many successful businesses. Some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs founded multiple companies before their big break.
So if you’re looking to embark upon an entrepreneurial journey, then strap in for the ride and get creative along the way.
We'd like to wish you the best of luck in realizing your entrepreneurial dreams. Here's to your success!