Britain is, according to a report in The Telegraph, “a booming nation of start-ups.” In fact, around 660,000 new companies are registered in the UK every year.
Starting a new company is hugely exciting. It is also a risk. The fact is, as many as 60 per cent of new businesses go to the wall in the first three years, and 20 per cent fail within just 12 months.
Making a success of a start-up and growing your idea into a viable business can be achieved if you embrace two rules.
Firstly, learning from mistakes is key (including learning from the mistakes of other start-ups) – there will be blunders and you’ll have to learn how to be agile and recover from them. The second and equally important part of any successful start-up journey is knowing when to invest in help.
Here I’ll be focusing on the five must-have business services every start-up should consider.
- Funding and business planning
- HR advice
- Digital marketing and SEO
- Intellectual Property rights
- Business coaching
Let’s take a look at each of them in more detail.
Funding and business planning for start-ups
Researching possible funding avenues and finding an investor isn’t easy, especially when you are starting out and have a huge number of tasks to complete in order to set up your venture. Seeking the advice of a business adviser could be worth the investment. A business adviser can help you with your business plan, and give invaluable advice on possible funding avenues.
Business advisors and chartered accountants, Wellden Turnbull, say that it is astonishing how many start-ups set out without a well-thought out plan. They say that 1.5 million SMEs do not have a business plan and that it is often the lack of a plan that catches small businesses out.
As soon as you take on your first employee, you will need to ramp up your understanding of HR – that’s human resources. You’ll need to know which HR regulations you’ll need to adhere to and how to deal with all sorts of employee-related issues, such as absenteeism and sick pay, paying a fair wage, calculating holidays, overtime, dealing with staff complaints and much more.
Your employees are a precious resource – get the management of them wrong and you could lose them or worse find yourself at a tribunal. Every start-up needs a minimum level of HR knowledge – if you don’t have clue, you’ll need to learn fast or seek some professional HR advice.
Digital marketing and SEO
Getting noticed online is now more important to business success than ever before. Why? Nowadays everything happens online. Digital marketing is a cost-effective way to promote your business and can put you in a position to compete with established businesses which are much larger than yours.
While setting up a website, email marketing and social media are perfectly do-able in-house, optimising your website to move up the Google rankings is quite involved and requires a certain amount of technical skill.
Seeking help from an SEO professional to ensure your website is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, fast-loading, and has backlinks from authoritative sources is worth the investment.
Intellectual Property rights
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) defines Intellectual Property rights as “the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds.” Also known as IP rights, Intellectual Property rights give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a set period of time.
IP is protected by extensive laws and disputes are common – in fact, there are specialist lawyers who only work on IP cases. There are two main categories for IP protection – Copyright, and Industrial Property (which includes things like trademarks and patents).
Why is IP important for start-ups? When you have a unique idea for a business, there will always be people who will want to steal your idea, so it is important to protect them. In order to prevent your IP being exploited by others it would be prudent to seek specialist advice. For a checklist on protecting your Intellectual Property, see here.
One-to-one coaching or mentoring when you are setting up a business may seem like an extravagance, but it could actually be the best investment you ever make. Research suggests that working with a business coach can increase your profit margin by an average of 46 per cent.
While there is plenty of information out there to help you get your business started, there’s nothing quite like personalised custom advice. Business coaches are usually expert entrepreneurs who know what it takes to make a start-up succeed.
A business coach will train you in the skills you need and teach you how to set goals and grow your brand.
Choosing the right business coach to work with is obviously important. Get this right and your start-up could be catapulted to success.
The most important challenge, and usually the biggest, for any business, is to make sure they stand out from their competitors. This is especially true in the digital landscape today because consumers are constantly bombarded by content and different marketing messages from brands. You want to make sure that when people are searching for a service or product similar to what you offer or sell, they find you and not your competitors.
Sure, you can engage in paid advertising like pay-per-click and search engine marketing, but there are plenty of excellent SEO strategies that can help boost your website traffic organically. When your website traffic increases, your sales increase as well, so of course it’s in your company’s best interest to engage in organic strategies in addition to any paid strategies.
Here is a how-to guide on how to boost your website traffic organically.
Write for humans, not robots
Assuming you know exactly who your target audience is already and you have taken the time to create buyer personas, you should write all of your content on your website and blog for readers, not search engine algorithms. If you’re spending all your time crafting content for search engines, your content will read poorly, will be full of keywords, and will ultimately turn customers off.
Instead, focus on writing for your audience and speaking to them as if you were having a conversation in real life. Be personable and offer them information that they can use, instead of trying to please Google’s algorithms. If your audience finds value in your content, the search engines will automatically take notice.
Create a website blog
If you haven’t already, what are you waiting for? Blogging is one of, if not the most, effective way of increasing organic website traffic. It fosters better relationships between you and your target audience, it builds trust between your brand and your potential and current customers, it improves brand awareness, and it can even help establish you as an industry thought leader or expert in your niche.
Regularly publish content
Maintaining an active presence on both social media and your own company blog is an essential way to maintain good SEO and boost organic traffic. Having a consistent posting schedule will reinforce your brand as a strong voice and a good place to find solutions among your audience. Moreover, your content should always be high quality, so don’t sacrifice quality for quantity because this can do more harm than good.
Use the right keywords
Choosing the most popular keywords in your market is not always the best way to go about this practice. Instead, you should focus on the keywords that are most relevant to your audience. This usually means using more long-tail keywords than short keywords, especially in the age of voice search, since that’s what audiences are shifting to when they’re searching for solutions online.
Your use of keywords is important because top search engines will use them to recognize your website as the right destination for specific questions in a particular subject or niche. Over time, your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) will increase, making it easier for your audience to find you instead of finding your competitors.
Brand awareness is crucial to any business, particularly when launching a new product or service. Think about it – customers aren’t going to buy from a company they don’t recognize or believe is trustworthy and credible. Hence why you must focus on brand awareness in your marketing campaigns and consider innovative ways to introduce customers to your products and services. Brand awareness helps attract new customers, secure valuable repeat business, and boost sales and profits. With this in mind, here are three effective strategies to build brand awareness.
1. Collaborate with influencers
Collaborating with influencers is an excellent way to build brand awareness, increase organic traffic to your site, and boost sales. Influencers have a large audience who follow them and trust their opinions. Having an established influencer recommend your product or service to their followers can instantly improve your brand image, expand your reach, and attract new customers to your business. However, investing in influencers can be wasted expensive if you don’t choose the right ones to work with. Here are some useful tips to help you choose the right influencers for your brand:
- Find an influencer who posts content in your specific niche. Their posts need to be relevant to your brand and align with your values.
- Make sure their audience is actively engaging – are they liking, commenting, and sharing their content?
- Check they are posting consistently and have an active presence on social media channels. Advice on coschedule.com suggests this should be – “one post a day on Facebook, one to two posts a day on Instagram, and approximately 15 tweets a day on Twitter.”
2. Use video marketing
Video is a powerful marketing tool that can be used to build brand visibility and establish you as an authority in your industry. A recent study suggests that a massive 84% of internet traffic will be video by 2020. Video is one of the most engaging, interesting, and popular methods of content with consumers. These statistics clearly demonstrate why all businesses should be using video media as part of their marketing campaigns. Fortunately, there are many companies offering videography and editing services – For example, Its Bernard has worked with many companies to build brand awareness and increase sales through effective video marketing campaigns.
3. Do SEO research
Most people don’t look past the first few pages of search engine results. This means consumers are unlikely to even see your website if you don’t rank highly in search engine result pages. Finding ways to improve your SEO strategy is, therefore, an effective way to build brand awareness and increase traffic to your website. Start by researching ways to enhance your SEO. For instance, identify which specific keywords and phrases are most effective in your particular niche, then find ways to include these naturally within your content. Keep in mind that search engines like Google are constantly updating the ways they rank content. Hence why it’s so important to stay up to date with the current SEO trends. If you’re struggling to improve the SEO ranking of your website, then consider outsourcing this responsibility to SEO specialists.
You wouldn’t make a cake without a recipe, you wouldn’t drive somewhere you’ve never been before without looking at the map, and you shouldn’t run a business without a strategy. Some people underestimate the importance of a business strategy and particularly writing it. Many think that they know where they want to go and what they want to achieve, and that’s enough, but is it? Writing a business strategy will help you to learn if it is actually possible and what roadblocks might be in your way, meaning that you can fix them and work out how to get around them before you have to. It is an action plan that details the concrete steps needed to attain your goals—usually covering the coming year—a timetable for each task, a description of who will do what, and a follow-up process. So, what do you need to make sure that your business strategy is effective and keeps you going in the right direction?
To know where you’re heading, you have to know where you are right now. So before you start looking ahead, you should look back at past performance and at the current situation. Focus on each area of the business and determine what worked well, what could have been better, and what opportunities lie ahead.
Look at your strengths and weaknesses, look for opportunities and threats, and then look at external factors as well. Don’t do this alone either; it’s important to have the right people to make sure you’re collecting the most relevant information.
You’ll get the most team support on the trajectory of the business if as many employees as possible are involved in creating the action plan. They can give you invaluable input on what steps are needed to achieve your objectives and how best to implement them and realistically how they’re going to do it and how long it will take. They are also more likely to work diligently on the implementation if they are involved in the process from the start.
It’s important to know where you want to go, so write it down, give your business a vision statement that describes the future direction of the business and its aims in the medium to long term. Describe the organization’s purpose and values.
Just like the vision, having a mission defines the organization’s purpose, but it also outlines its primary objectives. Write a mission statement that focuses on what needs to be done in the short term to realize the long term vision. So, for the vision statement, you may want to answer the question: “Where do we want to be in five years?”. For the mission statement, you’ll want to ask the questions: What do we do? How do we do it? Who do we do it for? What value do we bring?
You then need to develop a set of high-level objectives for all areas of the business. They need to highlight the priorities and inform the plans that will ensure the delivery of the company’s vision and mission. Look back and incorporate any strengths and weaknesses into your objectives. Your objectives should also include factors such as KPIs, resource allocation, budget requirements and whatever else is specific to your business, this could be estimate Amazon sales, traffic to your website or Facebook likes.
Now you need to translate your strategic objectives into more detailed short-term plans. These plans will contain actions for departments and functions in your organization. You may even want to include suppliers. Focus on results are measurable and communicate these to stakeholders so that they know what they need to do and when. Think of these tactical plans as short sprints to execute the strategy in practice.
You need to break it all down into a basic list of tasks for achieving your objectives. Your actions can include everything from arranging the finance to buying equipment, hiring staff, writing a blog, or developing a website – whatever it is that you need to do to achieve your goals. You should, however, clearly describe each action to make sure you avoid confusion later on.
Stay on track and establish a timeframe for achieving each action.
It’s important to know who is responsible for each action. So, outline this and also put what other resources such as money, equipment, personnel each person will need to carry out each action.
All the planning and hard work may have been done, but it’s vital to continually review all objectives and action plans to make sure you’re still on track to achieve that overall goal. Managing and monitoring a whole strategy is a complex task, which is why many directors, managers, and business leaders are looking to alternative methods of handling strategies. Creating, managing, and reviewing a strategy requires you to capture the relevant information, break down large chunks of information, plan, prioritize, capture the relevant information, and have a clear strategic vision.
Make sure all of your employees are aware of the action plan that they know their role in implementing it, and they are aware of how it fits into your overall business strategy.
When you start implementing your action plan, you need to be disciplined about sticking to the follow-up and measurement process that you have outlined. It’s also a good idea to make sure you recognize employees for meeting or surpassing their responsibilities and hold them accountable if they fail to do so.
Keep the plan alive by discussing it internally on a regular basis, thus keeping it at the forefront of employees’ attention. Ask for employee feedback on how the implementation is going, and in follow-up meetings to discuss the progress, always revisit your action plan regularly and to continually update it. This will mean that your strategy won’t be surpassed by developments in your company or external factors, which could cause your entire business strategy to unravel.
After 12 months, it’s time to create a new plan for the following year, drawing on your overall business strategy and lessons you’ve learned so far
If you run a business, then it’s understandable why you would want your marketing efforts to be successful. If you aren’t sure if yours are then there are a couple of things that you can do to try and help yourself. Take a look below to try and find out more.
Lack of Strategy
The main reason why your business marketing doesn’t work is because you don’t have a strategy. It may be that you are conducting your marketing activities without thinking about them properly or even that you are just too busy chasing the next big thing. If you want to help yourself here, then you have to make sure that you understand your business goals and that you build a strategy that works around it. If you don’t then you will be wasting your time and your money, and this is the last thing that you need.
You Don’t Understand your Customers.
Think about it, when was the last time you really gave your customers some thought? When was the last time you rang them up or took the time to really talk to them? If you haven’t done this in quite some time, then it may help to do that now. If you don’t then you may become out of touch with your customer base or you may even find that you don’t know who they are. When you do this, you will give yourself the chance to really understand them and what they want from you.
Not Having a Call to Action
When it comes to digital marketing, it’s very easy for you to get caught up in social media without having a real call to action. Your customers may have an interest in your business, but they might not know the action that you want them to take. This can be frustrating for them and for you, so whenever you do post on social media, make sure that you have a call to action and also make sure that you make your message clear.
You’re Not Using the Right Channels
If you want to understand how important using the right channels is, then take the following as an example. CB radios are used by truckers as it allows them to communicate with each other. The one thing that you need to take note of is that both truckers need to be tuned in to the same channel in order to actually hear one another. If they don’t then they will be talking with no response. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what they say, because they aren’t being heard. Marketing works in a very similar way. If your business is marketing through a channel that your customers are not using, then you can guarantee that they won’t be getting the message. For example, if you are spending all of your time marketing through Twitter but you know that your potential prospects don’t have a Twitter account then this won’t be doing you any favours at all. If you want to help yourself here, then you need to discover where your audience hangs out and where they get all of their information. Are they going online? Are they using social networking sites? If so which ones? By finding out this information, you can then begin to invest in the right channels, and you can also make sure that your efforts are not going to waste.
Sometimes your marketing efforts won’t work because you are essentially targeting the wrong people. You might be using the right channels and you may feel as though you have everything lined up, but if you are targeting people who have no interest in your product then this will really go against you. This is very common in digital advertising, as you essentially have the option to connect with the whole world. Take Facebook for example, they make it very easy for you to boost your post if you are willing to pay a little bit of money. This approach isn’t really targeted though, so if you are wondering why your reach isn’t very good or if you aren’t sure why you’re not converting then there is a high chance that this is the reason why. You are essentially not sending the right advertisements to the right people and if you are not careful then this will really put a hole in your pocket.
You’re Not Being Patient
Sometimes marketing doesn’t work because you don’t stick at it long enough. Sometimes it can take up to a year for you to start seeing real results. Sure, you will see some indicators along the way that your strategy is working, but you won’t really start seeing major results until this time. This is why perseverance is so important. You have to make sure that you don’t give up and that you also make sure that you give your campaign more than enough time. If you want fast results, check out these video marketing ideas.
Your Service Sucks
Sometimes the problem isn’t with the marketing you’re doing. Sometimes the problem will actually lie with you. This can be a tough pill to swallow but it’s something that you do need to be aware of. If you are really good at marketing, then you may get some people in the door, but they will drop your company in a matter of seconds if you are not able to live up to their expectations. For this reason, you have to make sure that you live up to your promises and that you also provide them with a fantastic customer service. If you want to help yourself here, then you will soon find that talking to your customers is super important. If you don’t then you might you are not giving them what they need, and this is the last thing that you want when you are trying to build your business.
You Aren’t Investing
Sure, you may be investing a great deal in your marketing budget and this is great, but if it’s still an afterthought for your organisation or if your team are not contributing as much as they could be, then there is a high chance that you aren’t going to be achieving the results you need. Successful marketing requires both time and money, and if you are not investing both then you could be missing out. If you’re not sure where you’re going wrong, then this could be because your marketing budget is too small. If you are using PPC for example, then you may need to pay more so that you can show up under certain keywords. You might also have to spend more in order to get the visibility and the click-through rates that you need. Wishing and hoping will not get you where you want to be and you need to be diligent with your efforts too. It may be that you need to make a new site or that you refocus your sales process so that it is more customer-centred. Either way, it doesn’t really matter which option you go with, as long as you are implementing the right tactics and as long as you are actually listening to what your customers have to say.
You Make it Hard to Buy
Your business could be great, and your marketing might even be great too, but if you make it difficult for customers to buy from you then they certainly won’t. Think about it, how many times have you been able to find a great product online, but never actually ended up buying it purely because the buying process was far too difficult? It happens far more than you realise and it’s safe to say that this could be one of the many things holding your business back. If you want to help yourself here then you need to make sure that you make your buying process as simple as possible.
So if you feel as though your marketing efforts are failing miserably then there could be a couple of reasons for this. If you take your time and make sure that you are meeting the needs of your customers then you can turn things around. As mentioned above, it’s also important that you have a call to action and that you also make your buying process as simple as possible. If you do all of this then you will soon find that you are able to get the best result out of your marketing while also going above and beyond for your customers. If you need some more support, then it may be worth hiring a digital marketing service. When you do, they can then analyse your marketing efforts and they can also talk you through the changes you need to make and how they are going to make your business better and more efficient overall. When hiring a company, it also helps to make sure that they specialise in your niche, for example, if you deal in the sale of cars, hire a company that are known for their automobile SEO.