You’ve accomplished what hundreds of thousands of people dream of doing: zeroing in on your big start-up idea. Being an entrepreneur is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. Having a big idea isn’t enough. You will need valuable plans, tools, and resources, not to mention truckloads of determination and grit. We know you have that last one covered!
In this ultimate guide to how to start your brand new business I’ll provide you with a systematic approach to some of the most essential processes you’ll need to start a business.
1. Plunge Yourself Into Market Research
One of the biggest mistakes that young entrepreneurs make is that they don’t do enough market research. This is particularly common if they feel familiar with the product and target demographic. The danger of not carrying out market research is you may carry incorrect assumptions into your business decisions.
Many businesses struggle to launch because their products or services don’t align with the demographic they’re trying to target. This results in the need to backtrack and tweak the product or service. All of which could have been avoided with thorough market research.
Understanding your consumers through research-backed findings is a sure-shot way to align and leverage your product with clever, tailormade digital marketing. Doing solid market research provides you with a blueprint. That’s why this should be the absolute first thing you do when starting a business.
Understand your Customer’s Stage of Awareness
One of the best ways to collect consumer-centric insights is to identify their stage of awareness to your product or service. This is theorized by one of the best copywriters in history, Eugene Schwartz, who explained this concept in his bestselling book Breakthrough Advertising.
- Unaware: This kind of audience doesn’t know about your product or the problem that it seeks to solve. For example: Your product is an app that helps people track their sleep, but your consumers have no idea that insufficient sleep has a bad effect on their health!
- Problem Aware: This kind of audience knows there’s a problem that exists, but they don’t know what the solution is or that you’re providing the solution. For example: Worried parents who realize their child isn’t learning in school but don’t know how they can supplement their learning.
- Solution Aware: This kind of audience knows about the existing problem and the solution, but they don’t know you’re offering that solution. They might know your competitors who are offering the same solution. For example: Vegan athletes are looking for plant-based protein powders in the market since it’s hard to find, but they don’t know about your product (yet!).
- Product Aware: This audience knows about everything, the problem, the solution, and your product/service as one of those solutions. For example: your consumers know you’re one of the companies offering pest control solutions in the area.
- Most Aware: This kind of audience knows about your product and has even bought from you in the past. These are your customers, and you simply have to work on retaining and converting consistently.
Along with understanding your customer’s awareness level, you’ll also need to do active market research to understand their demographics and psychographics. It’s worth looking into the option of surveys or performing a study with a selected control group. These findings can be the backbone of your marketing endeavors at a later stage. Here are some more market research techniques you can follow.
2. Chart Out Your Business Plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times and we wish it wasn’t true! There’s nothing more foolproof than making a solid and detailed business plan to ensure that you’ve got everything down on paper and ready to go.
If you have a business partner, this stage becomes more essential to ensure you’re both on the same page. Furthermore, most investors want to see this business plan, so it makes sense to chart it out.
There are two kinds of business plans: traditional and lean. The former is more detailed and can include every aspect of your business. The latter is more concise and abstract. I recommend creating the traditional business plan as it’s preferred by investors and the extra hours of conceptualizing your business can’t hurt.
Here are the five sections that your traditional business plan should cover:
As the name suggests, the executive summary of your business plan briefly outlines what your business is, your mission statement, and what you hope to accomplish. This is also the stage where you can ponder upon more holistic ideals: like what your brand DNA is. Spend some time listing out attributes of your brand’s personality.
Your executive summary can also include details about the product or service and the leadership team behind it. You can briefly touch upon your plans for funding and detail on that in the later section devoted to it. Make sure to end with your vision statement for your start-up.
Competition Analysis is an integral part of a business plan, as well as an important part of market research. You can highlight your findings from studies you carried out in this section. It isn’t enough to state that whatever your competition is doing, you’ll do better. Analyze the differences between their brand image, their product and service lines, and their dedicated market.
Don’t just focus on exposing the mistakes you think your competitors are making (though that is important!), but highlight what they’re doing right that you can learn from. This will help you take an unbiased and open-minded approach that can only help your business grow.
This is your opportunity to lay out a company structure. Whether you’re adopting a corporate vertical hierarchy or a more collaborative egalitarian structure, you should have the details of it written down. This will help you understand the role that leadership and different responsibilities will play in your organization.
It’s also a great opportunity to solidify the legalities of your organization. If you haven’t gotten registered yet, this is a good time to do it. You’ll have to articulate whether your company is a C or S corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship.
If your business plan is going to investors, include the profiles of key team members and how they will contribute to the organization.
Even if you’re starting out with one product or service, include a detailed description of it in your business plan! Talk about how your product or service will perform in the market, the problem it solves for your consumers! Look into the lifecycle of your product or service and any future product lines that you hope to establish.
Within your product or service description, highlight any findings from research and development you undertook.
Marketing & Sales Strategies
A lot of startups make the mistake of assuming that marketing and sales come much after the conceptualization stage. In fact, it helps to get started on a game plan for your launch and subsequent marketing and advertising. This is essential for your budgeting and managing resources, and helps you set aside a sufficient margin for your marketing.
At this stage, you don’t need to plan out every step of your digital marketing strategies, but we will cover what is necessary in the coming sections.
3. Hire deliberately
Hiring when starting a business is one of the most crucial stages of launching. Unlike an established business that can afford to hire-and-fire, the employees you hire will play a vital role in forming the culture of your business. You need to carefully and deliberately hire employees that are driven, high potential, and a good culture fit for your brand.
When looking for the first 20 people to hire in your company, I recommend that you shoot for the stars. Don’t settle for employees that simply fit the skills you’re looking for. Hire people who demonstrate a history of successful projects and contributions to start-ups. You will need people who go above and beyond to take ownership of tasks since they will likely outgrow their job responsibilities as the business steadily takes off.
If you’re on a tight budget or not ready to take on hiring your core team, utilize freelancers. This can save you a lot of extra expense while also taking advantage of their experience. Most established freelancers can provide valuable insight and perspective that you may not have had access to before.
4. Form Digital Marketing Strategies
It’s almost pointless to start a business today if you’re not going to capitalize on digital marketing. Unlike traditional spaces where content creation is a one-time thing, on digital platforms, you need to consistently make noise. Gaining the attention of potential customers on a crowded platform is the ultimate goal of clever digital marketing strategies.
Since you’re starting your business in 2021, it is no longer enough to run a few Facebook ads and call it a day. Many startups make the mistake of sticking to a few well-known but overrated content marketing strategies that don’t give them an edge. You need to stay on top of all the latest digital marketing trends to ensure that you have the edge.
Have a look at what world-renowned digital analyst Brian Solis says: “Each business is a victim of Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate. Every business is threatened.”
We’ll quickly get into some of the latest digital marketing trends in 2021 that you can exploit to your brand’s advantage.
Adopting artificial intelligence in the tools and resources you use isn’t science fiction anymore. The tech is here, and it’s time to make full use of them. Using AI-integrated softwares builds up on your customer-relations communication, content creation, and e-commerce transactions. You can now utilize artificial intelligence in NLP (natural language processing), eliminating the need for human intervention and error.
Take a look at some of the leading AI-driven tools and resources that you can benefit from today.
As much as your digital marketing efforts are about providing easy access to information for your consumer’s, many want the convenience and clarity of live conversations. They want an executive who can answer queries, provide service quotations and consultations. It’s a huge expense to provide this through round-the-clock employees, and a realistic conversational chatbot can fill the gaps.
Advertising can feel aggressive and inauthentic when it’s too generic, causing consumer’s to create distance between themselves and the product. Having personalization at the forefront of advertising and marketing strategies can greatly increase your conversion rate. You only need to look as far as Amazon and Netflix to see how personalized product recommendations can boost success.
Everyone appreciates tailor-made suggestions. It makes the consumer feel heard and important. Personalization algorithms at the core of your app and website can make a big difference in the customer’s experience.
It’s daunting to launch your startup, especially if it’s your first business and you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur. The best part about launching in 2021 is that you’re not alone. If you don’t know fellow entrepreneurs personally, you can capitalize on the entrepreneurial communities and freely available online resources. With careful and diligent research practices, you will reap the benefits of doing your homework before launch.
It’s easy to feel paralyzed by the fear of failure. That’s why relying on tried and tested methods to get your business off the ground can go a long way. The world is your oyster, and only you can truly realize your fullest potential. Good luck!