Starting a new business is an exciting time. With so much information available today, how is a person to know what will work for them? Everyone should know that having a plan is key to business success. Developing a plan is the part that scares, confuses and eludes many emerging business owners. We recommend that business owners treat their plan like a Prescription; Think of each step forward as a dose of medicine designed to give you a healthy business.
Before you start a business there some key decisions that must be answered;
1. Who are my customers?
2. Where are my customers?
3. How will I attract my customers?
4. How will I delivery my product/service to my customers?
5. How will I manage my finances?
6. Can I afford this?
Within each of these questions are the building blocks of a healthy business. To many, these questions seem out of order, or are not all inclusive of what is needed to start and maintain a healthy business. We could not disagree more as these questions are the Prescription for a Healthy Business.
Who and where are my customers?
No business can be successful without customers. To not know your customers is one of the biggest mistakes small business people make. The consumer is becoming more educated and has more buying opportunities today than ever in the past. Additionally, the consumer has become more cost conscientious and uses a more thoughtful buying strategy today than ever before. Knowing what your product or service does for your customers is the easy part, understanding that customer and how to attract them to your product or service is the harder part.
Most of the time, new business owners come from a business where they dealt with customers using the particular product or service that will be the breadwinner for their new business. Profiling who these customers are will help the business owner gain the insight needed to knowing who the customers are. It’s important to understand your company’s position on competition. Make sure you are not bound by a non-compete or some other non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement prior to profiling customers.
If you’re moving into a new area or are under some sort of confidentiality or non-compete clause, subscribe to a data mining service that can help you understand who your customers are. Services such as Sales Genie, Hudson or Dun & Bradstreet offer cost effective mining tools that can put customer information in front of you so you know all you need to know about your potential new customers.
How will I attract my customers?
Once you know who your customers are and where they are doing business and what they may need of your product or service, a plan can be made to attract them to your company. Understanding what customers look for when making buying decisions can be difficult for some and seemingly easy for other. Many items or services that are commodities may be chosen for price or ease of delivery. Other things may be chosen by necessity, region or rarity. Finally, there is a relationship purchase, where you have an established relationship with someone in your customer’s company that can influence the buying decision; each of these different buying parameters must be understood for your particular area of expertise or product line.
Commodity items will be the most difficult area for a new business to get into, if you don’t have an advantage with location or relationship. Competition is made tougher due to more businesses competing for the same customer base. There are ways to differentiate you from others by having a better company image, customer services or delivery model that might better define your company from the others. Keeping your image can be as simple as a professional clean look, easy to understand ordering guidelines and quick response to questions, concerns or issues.
Using your regional advantages or the availability to get rare or hard to find items should be incorporated into your image or presentation so that companies know intuitively that you’re different from your competitors. Using a professional branding company to help you define your image and understand how to reach them in different ways will be an investment that will have a good return on investment if you have a good understanding of your message and customers.
Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be good avenues for some businesses, but all of them are still new to the marketing game and their impact on buying decisions is still hard to measure. However, all offer free accounts and should be implemented to support your brand and give your company one added access point to the markets.
Having a website is important as is a good email address. Websites do not need to be complex or overly flamboyant to be successful. People appreciate the ability to quickly access a webpage and efficiently understand a company and their product or service offering. Having an email address that is easy to remember and use will help people to communicate with your company and give you an opportunity to begin to capture communication history with potential customers.