Starting a company has many issues and depending on what type of business is being set-up there can be a diverse number of areas that need to be tackled. Designing a product, setting up manufacturing, finding premises, getting a handle on purchasing, hiring staff, building the accounting framework and administration routines, investment, grants etc – the list goes on and on. And then suddenly you are ready to open with so much passion in your business idea that you cannot believe that the world is not knocking down your door with equal enthusiasm.
Marketing actually plays a vital part in your business right from the start. Just because you have an idea that you think is brilliant does not mean everyone else will agree and if they do you need to tell them about it and as soon as you can if you don’t want too many sleepless nights.
So here is some advice
- Market research is the first thing to do – before you invest too much time and money – find out what the opportunity to succeed actually is. And I do not mean asking friends and family I mean talking to those who will hopefully be your future customers. For example if you are opening a retail outlet spend as much time as possible researching the area. Go every day at different times and analyse the footfall. Count numbers and check out the demographics. If you are selling into businesses create a prospect profile and again go and talk to people and find out how your product and service will help them and if the pain you will be solving for them will make them get out the cheque book.
- Check out the competition and make sure you have a unique selling point that will let you excel in the market. This research will also help you decide on the pricing structure and once you have faced up to the reality of what you can make on each product and service make sure there is enough margin to keep the future business healthy. There is a lot of hard work related to running a business so make sure the rewards match your effort.
- Make sure your business plan has enough in the marketing budget to launch your business properly. You will spend more money in the early days as you have to cover many areas from brand design and website build to launch events, advertising, PR and setting up regular marketing communication. Depending on your running costs you might have to see a quick return on your investment and if you have staff, rent and other regular costs you have to make sure you are covering these comfortably and therefore sales and marketing becomes a priority but with a plan it won’t become a headache.
- Have a good understanding of how you are going to sell your product or service and include the cost and length of sale in your forecasting and cash projections. For example if you have selling a product that calls for a solution sale the sales cycle could throw your projections out and cause many sleepless nights. And remember sales and marketing go hand in hand so make sure you have all the sales tools you need from business cards, brochures, presentations and other collateral to proposals and contracts set up and ready to go.
- Work out how many people you need to communicate with on a weekly basis in order to generate the amount of revenue you need during the start-up process and that will give you an idea where you should spend your marketing budget. If you are opening a restaurant can you fare well with only locals as customers? How many times are they going to eat out and therefore are likely to spend money with you? If the location is remote and you cannot depend on footfall then you need to tell people from outside the area that it is worthwhile to travel to your restaurant. You need to communicate the value of making the effort.
- Network. Whatever your business social media allows you to quickly get the word out but be warned although this is an affordable option it is very time consuming and will only work if you take it seriously.
- Trial many different forms of marketing communication. SEO, Direct Mail, leaflet drops, events, networking, advertising, PR but you have to have a good understanding of who your future customers are and how they like to be approached. If you put all your marketing spend into one or two areas you could miss out on capturing customers who would be interested in buying from you if only they knew you were there.
Spend your marketing budget wisely and if you can afford to start small and focused do so – if not make sure you have enough money in the pot to share your passion using the right communication tools – communicate with the right person at the right time with the right message and your business idea will grow and thrive.