Starting a business is always nerve-wracking, especially if you don’t have experience in doing so. Having a successful business requires doing some research, and following a plan. I prepared a roadmap on how to start a business:
BEFORE jumping into a business plan, you should take some time thinking about why the idea is excellent, and what results do you expect from it. Focus on these four “must”
- Your idea must solve a problem.
- Your explanation must consider what it is, how it is made, how will you deliver it.
- You must have a competitive advantage.
- You must have a starting price.
Solve a problem.
The first step on how to start a business is solving a problem that the potential customers face. You must explain what the problem is and how your product or service solves it.
- What are its benefits, features and unique selling proposition?
- Are you targeting a customer base your competitors are ignoring?
- Does it have some other characteristic that gives it a competitive edge?
Consider every detail.
Include details of relationships with suppliers, manufacturers and/or partners that are essential to delivering the product or service to customers.
- What do you sell?
- How is it manufactured or provided?
What is your competitive advantage?
A successful idea has proprietary features that give you a competitive advantage like patents, exclusive agreements or licenses.
- Do you have a patent or a patent pending?
- Do you have the license for a product, technology or service?
- Your idea targets high demand and/or short supply?
Get a good price structure.
Describe the pricing, fee, subscription or leasing structure of your product or service. Include prices from competitors in your spreadsheet and compare.
- Are you on the low end, mid-range or high end?
- How will that pricing strategy help you attract customers?
- What is your projected profit margin?
The importance of finding your niche.
Finding your niche is not only about targeting a small group or providing curated solutions, or monetizing a product/service, a niche goes hand in hand with your likes, wants, and values.
- Less competition: Startups can take advantage of a market where large businesses may not want to bother with it. However, once the market grows, so does the competition.
- Increase the chance of success: Narrower audiences allows businesses to focus on specific customer needs, engagement and service.
- Branding: Niche markets allows businesses to position themselves and be recommended by their customers.
- Pivoting: Once the business locks a position in a niche market they can confidently expand.
How to find your niche
Once the Eureka moment passes, make a list of all the things that you are passionate about, interested in and that you have been doing for a long time, or at least a few years successfully.
Try to brainstorm on the following:
- Are you passionate about it? (you know all about it is to know and you just can’t keep the ideas to yourself)
- What are your short-term goals and milestones to measure your success?
- What type of industry are you targeting?
- Who are your customers and how do you reach them?
- Study your competitors
Finding a niche doesn’t necessarily mean you hit the jackpot. Make a simple internet search to get an idea and pay attention to other businesses that do what you want to do.
If there’s competition in your niche market is a sign that there’s money to be made.
Make a list of the different companies and describe their products, services, price and marketing.
Test your idea
Start gathering interest in your niche using social media, create an account specifically for it. Use Facebook groups to ask questions and pitching your product/service, this will give you some idea if people are interested in what you have to offer without taking any risks.
Create a web page where you can and set up a landing page for the product/service.
A market strategy is simply a plan concerning your product, the competition, and how to measure if you are heading in the right direction. That is, how will you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, and how you will develop customer loyalty, so they keep buying from you, or hiring you. Above all, the market strategy highlights the strengths of your business and what sets your business apart from your competition.
This step is the longest one in the business plan. However, it is crucial for your success. You can’t afford to skip it and jump into business on a hunch or a half-baked plan. Talk about your business idea with someone who can give you unbiased advice and point you in the right direction, find a mentor.
For what is worth, use online sources to have a general idea of the market, still, don’t get mesmerized of your findings, talk with prospective customers, suppliers, and others in similar businesses to gain inside knowledge about the pain and gains of what you are looking for. The more people involved, the more ideas you can test and advert problems you didn’t even think about.
Research is good.
Try to gather information from sources other than the internet, such as trade organizations and journals, magazines and newspapers, Census data, and demographic profiles. Use your local library,
The pricing strategy
How do you plan to set prices? Not every business can go for a low price as the differentiator; instead, you should focus on a competitive price (average).
Look at the competition. Is your pricing strategy cost-based? Adding all the costs of manufacturing your product PLUS a margin to make a profit. Is your pricing strategy value-based? Average price plus a margin based on services provided and brand.
Do you plan to set prices on how much your competition charges? Or a lower price to enter the market but planning to rise it later as you position yourself? Perhaps your pricing is a constant sale price, that is, a markup that allows you to have the product/service on sale at all times.
If you are a startup, the most natural pricing strategy is cost-based, but do your research.
Remember that pricing include promotion, distribution, and operations. Moreover, your pricing strategy needs to attract customers to buy your product/service and reflect its value.
The best way to improve is to learn from your role models, in life, and in business. When opening a new business, look for companies you admire and inspire you to get into the business, also, research and study establishments that offer the products or services that you intend to sell.
Create a table with the three competitors and make a thorough compare and contrast kind of essay exercise. Include products, price, quality, customer service, sales method, reputation, social media, and website.
After you are done with this, write down how you are different or similar to your competitors.
Focus on what makes you unique and separate from your competition.
Contrary to a traditional marketing strategy, like the one I just mentioned, the digital marketing strategy differs mainly on the elevator pitch and how to convince customers to buy your products/services.
Traditionally, you have about 10 to 15 seconds to pitch your idea and grab your client’s attention, however, in the digital era, you have 7 seconds tops to convince your audience to stay on the page and not close the browser or keep scrolling their feed.
What can you say in 7 seconds?
Not an easy task, but with practice and lots of drafts, you will nail it. Look at your competitor’s website or social media and write down what are your differences, what do they offer that you don’t.
- Describe your product/service.
- What is unique about your product/service. How do you stand out from the crowd?
- What your customers say about you.
Set SMART goals.
For your marketing strategy to work, you must create goals, not only “to-do lists”. Sure, lists help you go around your day and move forward from one topic to another on the business plan, but without goals, you cannot measure if you are accomplishing your mission and your vision.
When you combine the elements of SMART goals, you have a higher chance of success.
Specific. Focus on one clear, defined metric.
Measurable. Data pointing you are going in the right direction.
Aspirational. The golden pot at the end of the rainbow, where you want to be in X years.
Realistic. Grounding your aspirational goals to milestones, make them achievable.
Time-bound. In the digital world, everything moves fast, your goals should too.
3 Tips to Grow Your Business Online
- Good SEO to attract traffic to your website. Use blogs to promote your products using high-ranking keywords. Use Google Search Console to research what is trending, or use keyword search engines.
- Pump up your conversion rate with abandoned cart plugins, or exit intent pop-ups.
- Use lead magnets, opt-ins, and email marketing to generate leads and grow sales.
I know it is a lot of information on how to start a business,
- Explain what the problem is and how your product or service solves it. What are its benefits, features, and unique selling proposition?
- A successful idea has proprietary features that give you a competitive advantage like patents, exclusive agreements, or licenses.
- What is your price structure? High-end? Low-end?
- Find a niche, focus on a group that would benefit the most from your offer, and test your idea.
- Write a business vision, create a mental image of how important it is for you to open a business, reflect on the activities that will make you happy, fulfilled, and proud of yourself.
- Set business goals, imagine your business one year from now, what does it look like? What about five years from now.
- Find the right team. From employees, suppliers, vendors, maintenance, and asset protection. You need to think about who will help your business thrive and prepare your taxes!
- Make a marketing plan, look at your business goals, and write down a step-by-step process on how you will achieve them.
- Focus on your digital presence. Set up your website, social media business profiles.
- Who is your ideal client? Think about targeting the right audience.
- Create lead magnets and network but above all be authentic and true to your vision!
- Always include a call-to-action (CTA) to inspire, educate, or excite your audience.
- Practice your elevator pitch, your deals, and promos before a meeting.
- Always plan for success and you shall have it.
- The more solid your business plan is, the easier it is to design a successful marketing campaign because business goals are marketing goals!