Startup Advice

Question: What tips can you share about starting a small business?

Answer: Where better to get the answer to this question but ask small business owners and those that support small businesses in their start-up stage. Alignable is a community of small business owners that share ideas. These are tips and suggestions made by members of the Alignable community

Concentrate your resources where they count. (1) Identify your ideal audience and their needs. (2) Build a beautiful/professional brand visual identity. (3) Work on the whole branding experience (visuals, message, customer service, etc.). (4) Have a strong social media presence (in not all, but on the right medias) and connect with the right people. (5) Constantly share value. (6) Be consistent. Be unique. Do the work! Prioritize the work. Do what is important first, even if it is the hardest.

Create a value proposition that resonates with your target market. What are their needs? How can you solve their pain points? What is it they want from you that will equate to a buying decision for you? Creating a value proposition that is customer focused will generate sales. Value propositions need to be clear, concise and benefit based statements that define what customers can expect when doing business with you.

Think twice before you forego or shortchange marketing your brand. Think about the following questions as you consider your marketing investments: (1) What is your cost per lead? If you are using email blasts, direct mail or a local home and garden show to generate leads for sales, what is your cost per qualified lead from each medium? (2) What is the lifetime value of a customer? If you perform fertilizing for clients and the average annual invoice value is $500 per year per customers, and you have most clients an average of 10 years, then the lifetime value of a client is $5,000. Looking at a client from this perspective is different from looking at them at an annual value. (3) What percentage of my budget should be apportioned for marketing? The amount depends on what works and what doesn’t and investing again in what worked. There is no optimal approach or amount. It highly depends on your business and market. (4) Your marketing objective is to create a sustainable competitive advantage. Positioning yourself in the mind of buyers, so they see no suitable substitute for you, you have achieved your goal.

What are some of the common misperceptions about marketing? (1) Expecting too much too soon, then giving up when results don’t happen instantaneously. And, doing just way too much with no focus. (2) The opposite: doing a campaign once and then quitting. Marketing requires repetition. (3) Not understanding your marketing and your ultimate consumer. (4) Not tracking the results so there is little understanding of what worked and what didn’t. Or, tracking, but not adjusting the media campaign.

Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up. Most sales are lost because the seller gives up too soon. It may take up to 7 contacts with someone new before you get them converted to using your product or service. Use all the tools to follow-up the initial contact, so they see you on social media as well as traditional communications tools, like postcards, advertisements, and flyers. Follow-up every sale with a personal thank you note so show (1) you valued them as a customer and took the time to write them personally and (2) they remember you in a different dimension other than performing the work.

Ask for the business. Many individuals forget – it’s called “the closing” portion of the sales process. Yes, you are going to be a sales person unless you can afford to pay real sales people. Actually, the two most important functions of small business owners are (1) sales and (2) cash management.

The number one thing that trips up businesses is scalability. When you start your business, you have a lot of time and no customers. As you build your business, it starts to reverse. Putting in good processes right from the start is key. Also, stay away from busy work. Ask yourself with every task or process, why am I doing this and if I stopped, would it negatively impact my business? If the answer is no, stop doing it.

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