Do you dream of starting a business? Or maybe you have already begun the process? Before you get too far into things, there are a few tasks you need to make sure you do in order to ensure you are successful in your new endeavor.
1. Define your product or service
Figure out exactly WHAT you are trying to sell. Is it a product or a service? Is there really a need for that particular item or service? What are the costs involved, and what do you need to do to create and sell it?
If you are selling a tangible good, figure out exactly what the item, or items, are. Figure out exactly what the materials are. Figure out the exact costs to produce it, and the price you can expect to sell it for. This will help you determine whether or not you can make a profit, and how much you need to sell in order to do so.
If you are selling a service, figure out exactly what that service entails. Define the capacity and limitations of that service. What is included in the cost? And what isn’t? What are you skilled enough to provide within your service offering, and what do you need to learn? Do some research into similar service offerings and determine effective pricing. You want to have competitive pricing, but not pricing so high that you lose customers or too low to sustain a living on.
2. Narrow down your market
Once you have defined your product or service, you need to figure out exactly WHO your market is. Who will buy this product? And who will want to? Is there really a market for what you are selling? And can your market afford its price?
You also want to try to forecast if your target market might change in the coming years, based on technology trends or population movement, or other factors outside of your control. Is your market still going to be there in five years? In ten? How will you have to shift your business to accommodate any changes in your target market as time progresses?
3. Write a business plan
This is one of the most crucial steps in the process of starting a business, yet so many entrepreneurs neglect it entirely. “But I have it all in my head,” you say. “Why do I need to write it down?”
Well, writing a business plan really forces you to fully think through all that “stuff” in your head, and make sure you are truly on a track to success. It forces you to thoroughly examine your business, your finances, your mission, and your strategies. And while writing the business plan, you may discover that some of those ideas you had wouldn’t actually work now that you see all of the costs involved, or can really examine your marketing strategies.
If you need help with a business plan or marketing strategies, there are many avenues available to you. Visit the Small Business Administration for guidelines, information, and help getting started on your new venture. And find a good writer to help you get your ideas on paper if you find yourself struggling.
4. Open your doors and sell yourself
You have your business plan in place, you have your marketing strategies set, you have all the funding you need (if required). Now it’s time to start selling yourself and your product/service.
Do you have a website? If so, is it effective? (How can I tell?) Hire some help if it isn’t. Websites are your number one selling tool in this age of technology. A poorly written website can cause you to lose more business than anything else.
Do you have marketing materials? Are they good quality? If not, hire some help. The design and wording makes the difference between someone looking at the materials, or having them throw it straight in the trash.
Are you constantly trying to find ways to attract new customers? Or have you only put a few things out there and are now sitting back and waiting? Owning a business is a non-stop job. There is no end to marketing – if you stop marketing, you stop gaining business.
While it’s true that at some point a good business may begin to function almost chiefly on referrals, you still need to make an effort to market yourself. Things change, businesses come and go, people move away. You always need that stream of income.
Finding an experienced writer and consultant who you can call part-time or as-needed, rather than a full-time staff member, is a good solution if you are on a tight budget. They can step in to help you for a comparatively lower cost, and they will give you a very high return on your investment.
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