If you’re in start-up mode you need all of the help you can get and you also need tools that will help your start-up be successful. “Success” is different for each entrepreneur, but if you want to be a success you need to lay the groundwork and build a strong foundation. Here are the tools that I share with my clients as a way to get their entrepreneurial endeavors off to the best start possible.
Here are tools I recommend:
- You should have a business plan in place. The business plan will guide your business growth from start up to selling. You also need to know the ins and outs of your business, what the goals are, what services you offer, what products you will make and have a plan in place for the growth of the business as it relates to potentially having to hire employees.
- Work with a banker from the beginning of your business endeavor. You should have a business bank account and even a business credit card. Building a relationship with a banker will be of help when you look for capital for expansion.
- What can you outsource? There are items that are likely outside of your area of expertise — social media, accounting, legal, etc. — and you might be better served to outsource these tasks to an expert in that field. Determine what you make hourly and if it’s a good use of your time to focus on areas that are outside of your area of expertise.
- Establish an online presence. This could be one of those items that you outsource, but if you do, you need to determine where your ideal clients gather and have your social presence in those areas. If you jump onto specific social media platforms, make certain your profiles are complete and that you are being active on those platforms.
- Make sure you know how to accept payments electronically. Today’s online world means that you should be able to accept payments online from your clients through your website. If you’re onsite at a conference, for example, you will want to be able to process payments on the spot.
Talk with your business coach or a colleague if you have any questions or concerns about whether your start-up is on the road to success.
Life and business is ever-increasingly being conducted online. In my business, my team is scattered across the globe and we communicate virtually, via video calls and share documents across multiple Internet platforms. Because of this and because of the importance of keeping our company and our client information protected, we have cyber-security measures in place. You simply don’t want to have a weak password lead to a security breach in your website or even having your website hacked.
Here are our top cyber-security tips:
- Make certain your websites are up to date and that you have security measures in place to back up and keep the sites secure. Because cyber threats are continually changing, the method you used this week to protect your site could likely be obsolete next week.
- Install antivirus software and update it regularly.
- Make certain your employees are educated on your cyber-security practices. They need to use extremely strong passwords as a way to not allow a “back-door” entry into any of your sites or servers.
- Don’t store essential or sensitive documents in areas that could be easily accessed by a hacker. If necessary, print sensitive documents to keep on site. At the very least sensitive documents should be password protected and only those who truly need access should have the password.
- Don’t forget to encrypt and protect your mobile devices — smart phones and tablets included. All devices should be password protected.
If you’re not certain your sites and your servers are protected against cyber attacks you will want to work with a qualified, experienced IT firm to assure your security and the integrity of your information.
It’s sometimes hard to get motivated especially in the triple digit heat of an Arizona summer. Keep in mind though that chances are your competition isn’t taking the summer off. They are moving forward with business plans and business growth.
If summer has traditionally been a time for you where you kick back and take time off, I urge you to at least do undertake these five summer business strategies:
- Make certain your website is mobile friendly. Having a mobile friendly website is critical to business success and that isn’t something you want to let go until autumn arrives.
- Make note of your top prospects and then reach out and contact them. If you’re in a lull — whether self imposed or actual — they may be as well and might welcome a call from you.
- Look at your marketing materials and start now to think about what you might offer or change up for the upcoming holidays. If you need new peripheral materials, now is the time to look at that so you can get the designing and printing underway before the rush of the season is upon you.
- Update and review your business plan. We’re now more than through the half way point of the year and you should be making certain you’re on target with the goals you set at the beginning of the year.
- Take on a project you’ve been dreading. We all have them and they aren’t going to miraculously go away. Work on it in bite sized chunks and get it taken care of this summer.
Do you find yourself slowing down in the summer?
Enewsletters, used wisely, can help grow your business simply by helping you stay front of mind and in their inboxes on a regular basis. It’s not enough to be in their inboxes, but you need to be providing quality information as a way to build your relationships with them.
How can you be relevant and provide value to your clients with your enewsletter? Here are a few options:
- Know the purpose for your enewsletter. Yes, you want to stay in front of your clients, but you need to bring them something of value. Know the purpose for your enewsletter before you start.
- Keep the content relevant. If you have a wide client base, you may want to segregate your enewsletters and send them to the target audience that would benefit the most.
- Keep it brief. Your clients don’t have the time to read a lengthy enewsletter. Put in brief points and then direct them back to your website with links and photos. Remember, many of them are reading your correspondence on a smartphone — make it readable.
- Show your expertise. Make your enewsletters a resource that they keep and refer to when they need the answer to a question. Stay on top of your field and become the go-to person when there are changes afoot.
- Speak to them. If the enewsletter program you’re using allows you to embed a video, then share your message via video. Keep it short, snappy and fun. Use video once or twice a month as a way to keep your clients/readers engaged.
Make sure your enewsletters have a clear call to action in every one and be consistent in sending them out. We provide enewsletter services and can assist you in determining how or if an enewsletter would benefit your marketing efforts.
Unless you’re a fast food restaurant, chances are you cannot be, nor do you want to be, everything to everyone. You can’t mix and match all of your products (sandwiches) and add or subtract other items (condiments) until you are everything to everyone. You will make more money and be more productive and well-respected if you focus on a particular niche. Claim your expertise and focus on a particular client or market segment. Be the gourmet restaurant, not the fast food drive through.
Who is your ideal client? When you’re just starting out you may not truly know nor will you find it easy to turn away
potential clients who might not be just right for your goods or services. You don’t want to fall into the trap of changing your offerings to feed the market. Let the market come to you because you are specialized and exclusive.
Here are steps to work through when developing the persona of your ideal client:
- If you’ve built the better mousetrap, who would be best served by it? Consider your client’s pain points and the solution your product or service offers and focus on that as your potential market.
- If you know that your goods or services address XYZ issue in the market place, then go to the marketplace and demonstrate how you can help them do their XYZ even better.
- If you have a client base, take some time to look at them and note all of the common traits they share. If you have turned away potential clients, make note of why and what they did, or did not, possess that made you think that your goods or services weren’t ideal for them. Your current client base is your best source for building a client persona.
Target a specific market. Make sure that your goods or services fit their needs then focus on making what you offer the best it can be.
Entrepreneurs are faced with myriad start up costs whether it’s renting office space or hiring employees or finding ways to market their business or building a professional team such as a business coach, lawyer or accountant. This could mean a large outlay of cash. What can you do to cut back on some of that outlay?
I have tips for marketing business on a shoe-string budget and these can get you started until you have the money coming in to lay out cash for a more intensive marketing strategy:
- Face-to-face networking don’t cost much and can do more than you imagine for growing a business. Why? Because people like to do business with someone they “know, like and trust” and the best way to do that is by getting out of the office and shaking a few hands.
- Word of mouth and referrals from current customers don’t cost anything more than the time you spend asking for them. Warm leads are better and easier to close than cold leads.
- Share your expertise by writing blog posts or sending out newsletters to your list. Writing about your area of expertise shows potential clients that you’re the expert in your niche. Newsletters not only share your expertise, but keep you front of mind — and in the inbox — of current and potential clients.
- Offer free information. While you don’t want to give away the farm, you can give information that is useful to your prospects that gives them a sense of what you do and who you are and leaves them wanting more of what you have to offer.
- To get individuals to take a chance on you and to leave a known entity, provide them with a guarantee of your services then exceed their expectations.
- Don’t forget that social media is an ideal — and for the most part, free — platform for sharing who you are and what you do with potential clients. Remember, though that the operative word is “social” no one wants to be sold to all the time.
What are your best marketing practices that don’t break the bank?