Posted by Naomi Dunford in Starting Up
Starting a business is fun. Planning a business is not as fun. So how do you take your fresh idea and turn it into a viable business without sacrificing your enthusiasm in the process? Here are some ways to get started now.
Plan well, but plan quickly.
You know you need a business plan. (You do know that, don’t you?) You also know that business plans are long, scary, and mind-numbingly boring. They tend to take a lot of time, time which you might not have.
The most important part of your business plan is your SWOT analysis.
This is where you identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The SWOT analysis is your new best friend. Run one on your business, on yourself, on your business partners, and on your competition. Figure out what’s helping you and what’s hurting you. Do not fall into the trap of shoving your head into the sand and thinking you have no weaknesses. Think about this. Write it down.
Since this is for your own use and doesn’t have to be prettied up for a banker’s benefit, there’s no reason this should take more than a day.
Identify your Unique Selling Proposition.
Once you know your own strengths and your competitors’ weaknesses, you can figure out what makes you different from them. This is your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. It will be the driving force behind your marketing campaign.
What makes you unique does not have to be something earth-shattering. You don’t need to redesign the wheel. It could be as simple as actually listing your prices on your website, or offering 24 hour a day phone support. The only requirement is that it has to be something your customers actually care about. Pretty packaging on your plumbing parts is not a USP. Same-day delivery might be.
How are you going to market this thing?
You’ve identified your USP. Now you’re going to have to let people know about it. Sounds obvious? Apparently it isn’t. How many times have you been actively trying to spend your hard-earned money on a product or service, and all the companies looked the same? These companies are lazy marketers. They are telling you about all the fancy gizmos that every other competitor has, too.
You need to take your USP and beat your potential customers over the head with it. They should know why you’re different than The Other Guy before hiring you even crosses their minds. Do not make them think. Make your USP the most readily available piece of information to your customers. If you do that, the details of your marketing plan don’t matter as much. Since the thing that makes you better than your competition is now wildly obvious, whether you advertise in Text Link Ads or AdSense is just not a big deal.
Figure out your funding.
Unless your competition is Coca-Cola, the amount of money you have to start with is actually pretty unimportant. What is important is that you know how much you have, and that you allocate it wisely. Whether you have $500 or $5 million to start with, spend the most you can get away with on marketing. You need to get people to buy your product or service. Once they do, you can spend all the money you want on a new fax machine or 30-inch monitor or thicker stationery.
Start sooner rather than later.
There is a point, generally a lot earlier than most people think, when you have to stop thinking and start doing. It’s easy to sit back and ruminate on the absolute perfect way to launch your business. What’s hard is understanding that a not-bad business launched in a not-bad way makes a lot more money than an amazing business not launched at all because circumstances are not perfect. Make your service good, make it easy to buy from you, hang your shingle and prepare for a crazy ride.
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