Being a small business owner can feel overwhelming at times
and the reality is that there is not a single recipe for success. In most cases
you will find that new entrepreneurs tend to act on intuition rather than proper
research and planning - which makes sense to a certain extent.
It’s true, some people are born audacious and their instincts are likely to guide them to the right direction. For the rest of us, however, walking blindly into a new venture might not sound so appealing.
As someone who grew up in an entrepreneurial family and worked closely with various small businesses over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about successful first steps when it comes to starting a business – the things that fancy universities won’t teach you.
Today, I thought I’d share with you 6 ways to effectively kick-start your small business:
1. Have a business plan
If you don’ know how to type a formal ‘business school’ plan with detailed financial forecasts and an executive summary at the top, that’s absolutely fine. You should still have a rough idea about how to turn your vision into reality, though. As a first attempt to an informal business strategy, I would suggest considering your goals and objectives, your target audience and marketing mix. What I find useful when planning BLAM’s marketing strategy is keeping a calendar where I mark promotions or special events on key dates of the year. Remaining organised is essential for every new business where daily tasks can easily pile up and seem chaotic; a good to-do list app can always help keep you on top of your responsibilities.
2. Focus on results
Oh, so you’ve created a new Instagram page and managed to acquire 2,000 followers. Well, unless building a following is part of your social media strategy and linked to a specific objective that will make you more money, it doesn’t mean much. So, instead of having goals such as ‘build a Facebook page’ or ‘gather the x amount of likes on a blog post’ try thinking about the end result of these actions and focus on that. A common mistake among small businesses is failing to associate their social media activities with their overall business strategy, be it lead generation, building brand awareness, creating positive word-of-mouth or any other end-goal.
3. Ask yourself questions
Entrepreneurs are busy people; we all know that. More often than not, being an entrepreneur can be hectic and before you know it you lose track of your goals. I know from experience that taking the time to reflect on your business activity can be particularly useful and even save you from wasting money on the wrong efforts. Make a list of relevant questions and plan the time and day each month to sit down and answer things like ‘What can I do to maximise my sales?’ or ‘What are my competitors doing that I am not?’. You will be surprised how creative you can be when you have planned that time in advance instead of rushing those decisions within your busy daily schedule. Involving your team, if you have one, would be an added bonus to the process.
As our BLAM partners are well aware, going out there and talking to people is crucial for new business owners. We always advise people to start talking to everyone they know including family, friends and old colleagues. These individuals already trust you and would be likely to recommend you when there is a chance. Meeting other entrepreneurs can also be beneficial. Don’t be intimidated to attend networking events or simply hand a few business cards over to your local store owners – these are people exactly like you and they will benefit just as much from knowing you. Our co-founder, Gareth, recommends making 10 meaningful connections per day – you can adjust this number to fit your particular needs, but try not to postpone making contacts. LinkedIn communities are another great way to reach people in your industry on busier days. Just remember to be a useful contributor instead of spamming people with promotions.
5. Get to know your audience
If you are a new business owner, you might think that actually ‘knowing’ your audience is not feasible at this early stage. Use your imagination and create an avatar to represent the person who is most likely to become your customer. My father always says that his company predominantly markets to middle and upper-middle-class citizens – that is not meant to be pretentious, it simply represents the demographic segment which can afford his product and helps him define the quality as well as his pricing strategy. Do you know how much your audience earns and, therefore, is willing to spend on your offering? What about their age, profession, education and family status? These are things that need to be determined early on in the process, otherwise, you risk sending the wrong message to the wrong people, therefore, endangering your firm’s reputation.
6. Know your stuff
One thing our team keeps stressing to our partners is to invest time in learning everything there is to learn about their product. Appearing knowledgeable – and actually being – is vital to any new entrepreneur. How do you expect people to trust you with their money if you are unsure of the value your product can add to them? One of the main reasons my parents’ small business has remained successful for more than 40 years in the market is that their expertise in their industry is second to none. Were they experts when they first started out? Definitely not. Were they afraid they were going to fail? Absolutely. Research your product, discover what exists out there, follow your industry’s news and events, stay close to your customers and listen to what they have to say. And if you are one of the few new business owners who can afford to employ staff, don’t rely on them to know more about how your product works than you do!
I hope these have given you some food for thought. I would love to hear your advice on how to kick-start a small business, so please comment below and join the conversation.
This weekend my wife and I have left the kids with nana and grandpa and we've travelled to Buxton in the Peak District, apparently England's leading Spa Town, nice. The weekend escape in February is an annual event that we commit to every year, visiting a different destination each time, we love it.
I do all of the planning. The research usually starts in November, and the challenge for me is to find an interesting town or city where Abby and I can spend a whole weekend not tied to the usual demands of a busy family and work life.
"I'm thinking about my businesses all of the time, it’s in my blood."
The break away from it all, is a very important event in our calendar and one that plays a significant role in my business life too. Don't worry, I don't spend the whole weekend working, quite the opposite in fact (except for this blog). But, as a certified, got the t-shirt entrepreneur, I'm thinking about my businesses all of the time, it’s in my blood.
When I'm away from the businesses (my staff and business partners know this) the constant contact that we get so used to is intentionally policed. That combined with the removal of family commitments (my weekend role is usually taxi driver, tutor and punchbag) my brain unwinds very quickly and I often have some inspired ideas that are implemented on my return with much enthusiasm.
The idea of taking a break away from it all to unwind is nothing new, but these days how much of a break do we really take when we have our phones in our pocket? Part of the ethos of our annual break is being disconnected from texts, LinkedIn, Facebook, What's app, phone calls and all the other distractions in our connected world. Here in Buxton for example, I have no data reception, no wifi, just, me, my wife and my thoughts. It was following one of my “thoughts", I felt compelled to write this blog as testimony to the power of the disconnected weekend break in Feb!
'I have no data reception, no wifi, just, me, my wife and my thoughts."
However, "embrace the beauty of technology" is one of BLAM's, and therefore my, core values and detaching myself from that technology in order to think creatively is something of an irony. The key thing for me is having the discipline to connect and disconnect to get the best results, something that doesn't always come easy to me.
I am writing this blog on my disconnected mobile, with relaxing music playing, in a clothes shop that has given me free coffee whilst Abby tries on several outfits. There's no signal so no interruptions, heaven :)
It's a well documented subject, the idea of intentionally unplugging and getting away from it all. My advice to our BLAM Partners is to make sure you diarise the breaks the same way you do with the work behaviours and consider the amount of connected time you allow yourself whilst you are there. Like me, I'm sure you will find hidden inspiration in your unconnected escape.
Next week, I will be refreshed and technology will be fully embraced once more and I'll be loving it! Now, where's that awesome little bar with craft beer on tap I spotted earlier, that looked really inspiring...
Pay-Per-Click advertising is one of the quickest ways to attract traffic to your website. Everyone knows that building your following organically can take quite a while - and for start-ups in particular time is gold!
Most people who attempt to set up a PPC campaign, however, tend to feel overwhelmed and often give up. There is such a wealth of possibilities when it comes to PPC advertising and so many different factors that need to be taken into consideration – not to mention the industry jargon which confuses people – that most beginners feel lost before even starting.
Despite these difficulties, we have identified a few simple steps that can lead any start-up to create a successful PPC campaign quickly and easily.
I would love to know what your thoughts are with regards to PPC. Are you planning to use PPC as part of your marketing?
Perhaps you’ve just had this crazy idea. Or maybe you’ve been thinking about it for ages. Whatever your situation, this article aims to help you realise why now is the best time for you to start your own business.
First, let’s define the term social media ‘strategist’, ‘expert’,
‘specialist’ or whichever title you prefer to use to describe that particular
marketing specialisation because I understand it
often causes confusion. I have picked the
term ‘social media strategist’ for this post’s title as for me it is the most
accurate to describe the role. A professional in this industry will never
proceed to manage anyone’s social media platforms without properly planning a
detailed strategy first, and that is usually the main difference between those who are qualified to do the job and those who
A social media strategist, therefore, is the professional behind any successful social media business page. That person is responsible for aligning a company’s social media activities with the overall marketing direction of the business. For some, this might still seem generic and difficult to understand, but hopefully, the rest of this post will shed some light into this role’s specifics while answering some common queries I often hear from clients.
Having said all that, and even though social media are a powerful tool, people should never make the mistake of thinking that a solid social presence is all it takes to ensure a good level of sales. The purpose of your social media strategy is to complement and augment your overall marketing and sales strategy. One cannot do well without the other, and anyone who tells you otherwise shouldn’t be trusted.