25 December 2013

Startup Strategies

You know how when you moved into your first apartment, you made a ton of mistakes and had to learn the hard way? It’s kind of the same when it comes to starting a business. Entrepreneurs are bound to slip-up every now and then (more now than then), and frankly, the learning curve never really ends. First-time business owners can, however, avoid some very common and possibly business-ruining problems by learning from those who have been through it all before.

Be Efficient. There are a lot of free and super cheap tools to use so you can automate and streamline various types of Internet marketing. Do you rely heavily on social media? Buffer lets you load Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Twitter posts, then distributes them based on a custom timetable. Do you need to stay on top of news and trends? IFTTT will send you a daily early morning text with a link to the latest New York Times headlines - you can catch up on the most important information of the day before stepping out of bed.

Consolidate Expenses. One of the worst things you can do when launching a business is pay for unnecessary business expenses. Wait until you’re profitable to set up a work-only cell phone line and for now, change your regular voice mail to make it professional. Hold off on hiring staff or, if you absolutely need the support, work only with freelancers.

Create a space just for work… especially if you work from home. Taking breaks and giving your mind a rest is an important part of being efficient. Being able to walk away from your desk, even if it’s to your couch at the other side of the room, is necessary for disconnecting. Don’t, however, spend a lot of money on renting office space or getting fancy furniture just yet. So long as your office is functional and ergonomic, albeit tiny, that’s enough for now.

Identify your target audience. Who is going to buy your product or service? How do you reach them? The niche you market to may expand or contract over time as you get a better sense of your buyers, but you need to start somewhere. If you want to secure some sales early on, but you don’t have anything to show potential buyers (like if you’re selling business writing services or graphic design), draft up some prototypes to start building your portfolio.

Get involved. Even if you have a national or worldwide business, it’s hugely beneficial to tap into the local community. Hook up with a charity, attend business mixers, chat with shop owners as you browse - you run a local business even if you can take on overseas customers. Plus, you’ll be amazed at what one evening of face-to-face networking can do compared to weeks spent trolling the Internet for potential buyers. Yes, online marketing is helpful and essential to any business, but there’s still nothing to replace good ol’ fashioned meet-and-greets and word-of-mouth marketing.

Get paid. Sounds obvious, right? There are tricks when it comes to getting customers to pay up, though, and cash flow is of the up-most importance at the start of a business. Later on, you can take an unprofitable few days in order to tweak your business plan, but for now, money talks. Offer discounts (to new customers, for referrals, over a holiday weekend) as well as incentives for paying. For example, throw in something extra for customers who pay within a short, pre-determined time period or give a small discount when a client pays the full amount due, not just the required deposit, upfront.

Justin Norris is a professional blogger that provides tips and information on franchise opportunities and investments. He writes for FranchiseExpo.com, the place to find the best franchise opportunities available.