About to open your own business and want your startup company to have a successful launch and grow quickly? Here are nine tips for the conscientious entrepreneur…
Should this year’s list of startup companies include yours? If so, we have valuable insight for you!
In 2019, thousands of new small business startups will come into being. From pop-up handmade gift shops to coffee stands, wedding cake bakers to engineering widget manufacturers, the rate of new small businesses appearing is hitting record levels. Partly because it’s never been easier to reach customers and create a startup with low overheads thanks to the powerful reach of the Internet.
If you’ve been dreaming of setting up your own business, 2019 could be the year to do it. And while there is something to be said for pushing procrastination to the side, there is an equal argument to make sure you’ve done sufficient preparation prior to launching your startup.
Startup or Start-up?
It doesn’t matter how you spell it, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Especially with the demanding customers you will encounter.
If you start conducting business but you don’t act professionally, word soon spreads. People talk! They leave negative reviews on social media – and most won’t give you a second chance.
A poorly planned launch can damage your business reputation and set you back significantly, so dedicate a little time in the beginning to ironing out the details and ensuring that you can make a brilliant first impression. You don’t have to have the budget of a big organization to look like one if you just add a few simple, professional touches to your enterprise.
Below, let’s explore simple ways to look like your startup means business.
Don’t Cheat Your Website
If you’ve simply thrown up a web page for your startup on short notice without a plan or much thought to content, then you’ve made a grave mistake. HUGE! The reality is your website is one of the most important assets of your business.
Functioning as your shop window to the world, it’s crucial to give customers a flavor of what you do and make a connection with them. Remember, this will be a main sales driver.
Many small businesses buy a domain in haste and then take ages to fill it with content, or throw up a few quick holding pages. More reality: They shouldn’t have launched without a fully loaded website, as it is better to have nothing up online than something incomplete or not truly representative.
Online customers are notoriously fickle, and studies have found that you have an average of only three seconds to draw a person in or lose them as they click away from your website.
Hopefully that fact makes you think seriously.
If your website is:
- Badly constructed
- Offers a sub-standard user experience
- Doesn’t have an appealing design
- Does not showcase what you do effectively
- Work to direct visitors easily to what they want to find
You’re going to be losing sales – now and in the future. Because once a customer clicks away, they are very unlikely to come back. The reputation damage is already done, without you even having a chance to show what your startup does.
This is doing your business an obvious disservice. Your website should be a key part of your marketing strategy, and the portal you use to communicate important messages about your brand as well as your offer to customers.
Good Startup Website Choices
Creating a professional looking website doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, simple is often best in terms of design, as long as it has the correct architecture and functionality. Even if you start with a single well designed web page, that is a far better approach than lots of ‘under construction’ holding pages.
There are oodles of websites out there with free website design templates that you can use for a slick new look. Or better still, work with a Web design firm who will be able to advise on:
- eCommerce best practices
- Usability and compliance
- Data capture
- Responsive design
And user experience.
Importantly, don’t just rely on third party sites like Facebook and Instagram. Not only are you missing out on customers who do not choose to use those platforms, but you’re also effectively surrendering real control over a hugely valuable asset – the data you collect and manage.
Something to remember: Social media sites are “rented real estate” and you do not control the decisions made about the platform. On your own website, you control all decisions; You own the real estate.
In addition, you should also have a clear Contact page on your website so that customers and other interested parties can easily submit a query. You could even invest in chatbot software if you get a lot of routine queries which are easily resolved.
Choose A Telephone Service For Your Startup
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than calling a business and being greeted with just a gruff ‘hello?’. It’s not what customers expect and it doesn’t give the professional experience you are aiming to create, does it?
But what do you do if you can’t spring for a receptionist just yet? Well, a business answering service could be just what you need to give your customers and suppliers the greeting their call deserves.
If messages come in for your business there can then be an immediate response and no query will be left hanging unanswered. Your business will receive a free phone number that is professionally answered every time and you won’t have to worry about missing out on a lead every time you need to leave your desk.
Nice and simple, eh? 🙂
… And A Physical Address
Having a separate physical address can be a real advantage for:
- Those who work from home
- Individuals or small teams operating from a co-working space
- Digital nomads
Not only does it make the operation look well established, which inspires confidence with customers and business associates, but it also adds a layer of privacy for those who don’t want their personal address made public.
You simply rent a PO Box address and use the address in place of a physical location.
Make Invoicing Count
In all the whirl of doing business, sometimes the admin of generating and issuing invoices, chasing payments and balancing the books can get neglected. But the simple fact of the matter is, if you don’t get paid, your business is not going to last long.
A lot of entrepreneurs and freelancers have problems with getting paid on time with clients and this can cause serious cash flow issues. One of the best investments you can make for your startup is a good cloud based invoicing software which can:
- Generate professional looking documents instantly, from anywhere
- Send payment reminders
- Let you access important client details
You may even be able to accept online payments, which can help get what you are owed faster.
Also make sure that you are issuing contracts if you’re in a line of work that needs them. You can easily find templates for contracts online.
Check Your Credit History
All businesses need access to credit, in order to set up and operate in a professional way. Never is this more true than when it comes to fledgling businesses, where there isn’t an established cashflow, and profits can be slow to show up.
The vendors and suppliers you choose will usually operate on a credit system and you are also likely to need the occasional lump sum for stock or capital projects. Access to funding starts with building a positive credit history. In turn, other businesses and lenders can establish that you are a reliable customer.
Start building your business credit score from the very start by making tactical purchases and paying on time.
Make Your Photos Look Good
Images are a huge part of your branding. Good branding is what really makes your business resonate positively with your customers.
Many times, images are the first introduction your target market will have to what you do. So make sure they are great! Especially when it comes to online sales, first sets of photos sometimes do not do justice to the goods or inspiring the imagination about services.
Be the exception – Use large, realistic, super clear imagery, or aspirational shots that provide a vision that customers want. Show them the detail that makes them want to buy. Take high quality images or hire a professional photographer.
If you need additional pictures, sometimes a stock image site can be helpful to supplement what you have. You don’t even necessarily need a DSLR camera as most high spec smartphones these days are capable of pro quality images. You can even get post production image editing software in easy to use apps.
Include a mix of images: Items against a plain background are great, but it’s also a wise idea to show products in use to demonstrate their scale and give potential buyers an idea of what they can do with a product.
Consider A Staff Uniform For Your Startup
If your team will have face to face interaction with customers on a regular basis, you could consider some form of uniform to give your business a more professional look. A smart collared polo shirt with an embroidered logo looks smart, and gives a sense of trust and confidence.
You can order custom business clothing easily and inexpensively online. If you are your business, then make sure that you look the part, whether that is a smart suit or a more creative uniform. As long as your wardrobe is appropriate for your industry, and what you do and gives the right impression, your startup will soon be looking ready for business.