No money? No problem. Starting a business cheaply is easier than ever.
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When starting a business, no matter your budget, it never seems quite enough. But when you’re starting out on a truly small scale it can be really hard to know what to prioritise.
With only four out of every 100 businesses surviving long enough to reach the 10-year mark, the foundations you lay can be vitally important. So, what can you do to ensure that the funds – and the enthusiasm – that you start out with, are enough to see you through to long-term success?
When I began LatestFreeStuff.co.uk, all I really had to my name was a great idea and bags of enthusiasm. My budget made a shoestring look like a motorway’s length of rope. As you can imagine, my learning curve was a very steep one. These are the things that I discovered on the way.
What You Need to Know When Starting A New Business
Have a Plan
When you’re just starting out, there is so much to do that it’s hard to concentrate. Sitting down and formulating a plan can seem like a waste of time; you’ve so many more important things to do. And why do you need a formal plan anyway, when you’ve got everything you need to know in your head?
Because without a plan it’s far too easy to end up chasing your tail. Creating a business plan isn’t exciting, but it will provide a valuable reference to keep you on track, helping you to avoid pointless distractions so you can focus on the important matters that will ultimately make you money.
Having a plan allows you see what’s working and what needs to be changed. It also puts you in a better position if you later need to attract investors; believe it or not, but no one else can see the vision in your head; investors like their briefs on paper.
Know your Target Audience
This helps on two fronts. Firstly, you get to know exactly what your customers want, so you can make sure that you’re giving it to them. Secondly, you can tailor your marketing. And this is really important. Advertising to the wrong people at the wrong time is worse than not advertising at all, because you’re simply chucking your money away.
Knowing who your customers are and what they are looking for allows you to get the right messages to right people at the right time, which means that your marketing budget makes more money than it uses.
Put your Customer First
In any scenario, service is king. Satisfied customers will usually tell their friends and family about you, or your product. Dissatisfied customers will take to social media and one mistake could cost you thousands of customers.
Your ultimate aim is to build a long-term relationship with everyone who comes into contact with your company, so that even if they’re not a customer now, they might become one in the future. Put yourself in their place and do everything you can to make them happy.
Focus, Work to Goals and Track your Performance
This, in part, takes us back to having a plan. If you start out with a plan you can set yourself goals, and this helps you to keep moving forward, while providing a starting point from where you can monitor your performance. If you begin to drift, return to your plan and check that all the boxes have been ticked – if so, add some new goals, but don’t lose sight of the old ones.
Have Faith and Accept Change
This is possibly the most difficult part of any business. To start with, you need to have faith in your idea and in your ability to see it through. But, you will always reach a stage where change becomes necessary, and that can be hard.
Admitting that something isn’t working and finding a new approach can be one of the most positive steps you can take in business. A willingness to change is almost future-proofing your assets, ensuring that you’re flexible enough to deal with whatever might come.
Business events are a great way to build both contacts and a customer base. By networking you are getting your name known, accessing other people’s experiences – no small thing in itself – and building your profile. You never know who you might meet or how they might help you – or how you might be able to help them. Every new contact is a positive.
Use Social Media
In most cases, marketing will swallow the majority of your meagre budget, so when the cash runs out social media can be your saviour. Engaging with your customers, creating content that they want to see – and share – is one of the quickest and easiest ways to enhance your profile and build your customer base. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s ubiquitous.
It’s easy to think that social media doesn’t matter anymore because everyone is doing it – but that’s precisely why it DOES matter. Don’t look a marketing gift horse in the mouth.
Deepak Tailor is founder of LatestFreeStuff, the UK's largest freebie website.