So, you have decided to start a business. Perhaps you’re still in the early stages of brainstorming. Or maybe you’re just about to launch your website.
If you’re juggling several tasks and starting to feel overwhelmed or exhausted, you might be tempted to cut corners to save time and money. But doing this may end up costing you more time and money later down the track.
Here are 5 key steps that are important for long-term success.
Create a Business Plan
One of the first steps for starting a business is developing a business plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t move forward until you have decided every last detail and compiled it into one document. In fact, you should revisit the plan regularly and be open to making changes. But you should at least have an idea of what steps you need to take to establish your business, and how you are going to approach them.
Before you start your plan, it is important to research your market and have an understanding of who your customers are.
In most cases, your business plan will include a description of the business, market information, a strategy, a financial review and an action plan. There are a number of tools for small businesses are available out there to help manage the business.
It is also important to be prepared for any obstacles and setbacks, particularly if this is the first time you have started a business. Include a risk assessment and a contingency plan, in case something doesn’t quite go the way you imagined.
Name Your Business
It is important to think carefully about your business name now, and put time and research into making it the best that it can be.
When naming your business, you should ask yourself: ‘What do I want to communicate?’
Some business names are successful because they are informative, automatically signalling the nature of the product or service. The benefit of informative names is that the more your name communicates, the less you need to explain to customers. Toys ‘R’ Us and Bakers Delight are two popular examples.
Other successful brands, such as Google or Apple are made up of abstract words. These names tend to be real words, made-up words, or surnames of the founders. The benefit of abstract names is that they create a blank slate and allow customers to make associations with the name based on their experiences. Abstract names can become iconic when a brand builds an excellent reputation.
There are also famous brands which are portmanteaus, such as Facebook and Youtube. Some brands, like Samsung and Zaraffas, use words in languages other than English.
Consider some of the leading brands in your industry. What is it about their business name that makes it memorable?
Brainstorm a list of names and narrow this down to your top 5. Then, search IP Australia and ASIC to see if any of these names are already being used by a similar business. It is also handy to check the domain name, and other media platforms, so that you don’t run into any surprises when it comes to building your online presence. Free tools like namecheck can identify websites and social media accounts with the same name. The other purpose of this process is that it might help your narrow down your list.
The final step is to test your business name. Say each of them out loud, and ask yourself questions about it. Can the proposed name be pronounced easily? Is it short? Does it spark interest? Is it unique? Can employers say it proudly? What ideas or images does it bring to mind?
You might find it difficult to objectively evaluate your own ideas. That is why it is also a good idea ask friends and colleagues in your industry, or people who fit within your target audience.
Depending on what your budget is like, there are benefits to using a naming firm, particularly if this is something you struggle with. However, there are many successful brands that were not named through a naming firm. If you have carefully considered and tested your name, you can build a successful business around it.
Once you have chosen a business name, remember to register your business name and your chosen domain.
Know Your Legal Obligations
So you have registered your business, met your tax obligations and obtained for any necessary licenses or permits. But you also need to understand your legal obligations to consumers.
Before you begin doing business, you should research and understand consumer law to ensure that you are able to meet all of your legal obligations in the instance that something goes wrong with your product.
Regardless of where your manufacturers or suppliers are, if your business is supplying goods to Australian consumers, you are required to offer a guarantee of your products and services. If something is faulty about a product, it is your obligation as a seller to address these problems, which may include providing a replacement or refund.
However, you are not legally required to offer refunds to customers who change their mind.
note: this is a general advice, please contact your legal adviser for any legal help.
Build an Online Presence
Did you know that 85% of customers search for a local business online? Furthermore, 63% of businesses do not have a website. This means that your online presence is a key opportunity for you to stand out.
If you have a limited budget, it can be hard to decide what to prioritise when it comes to spending. Your website is definitely not the area for cutting corners. While there are a number of free or premium platforms, they do not compare to having your own professional and unique site.
A professional web design will build a site that is unique user-friendly and specific to your industry. Your website should stand out among the generic templates by communicating through the design, who you are are as a brand.
While social media pages are not a substitute for a website, they are very important for any business. Having a business account on Facebook or Twitter offers a number of unique advantages. Social media platforms allow you learn about your customers and build an audience. You can gain valuable data about which posts gain the most interest, increase your reach and generate targeted campaigns.
But perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of social media is that it can help you build a relationship with your audience. You can respond to enquiries, and show a human side of your brand by posting content that is meaningful to your audience, and demonstrating your customer service. This is a good way to increase brand loyalty and stand out from competitors.
So, we have established that most consumers search for businesses online. But did you know that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine?
This means that most of your potential customers are using a search engine to find businesses like yours in their local area. For example, someone who needs a haircut in Brisbane may search ‘hairdressers Brisbane’ or ‘barbers in Brisbane.’
Depending on the industry and the location of your business, you could have hundreds of competitors. Out of so many search results, only 10% of people will look further than the first page.
Having a high ranking on Google, or any other search engine gives you a critical advantage over other businesses that offer the same thing.
So, while it is important to increase awareness of your brand through other platforms, clients who are actively searching for your product or service are far more likely to notice you if your website appears on the first page of their search results.
SEO (read what is SEO?). This is a long-term strategy that has significant advantages over other types of marketing.
Studies also suggest that a vast majority of users are more likely to click on organic results than paid ads, as they are perceived to be more trustworthy. A high ranking on search engines can attract more customers and raise awareness about your brand without coming across as a typical advertisement.
Furthermore, a TV, Print or Radio ad is seen by customers for a limited period of time. Once the commercial finishes, or the next edition of the magazine is released, your ad is finished. It can be extremely costly to continue paying for advertising.
By contrast, your website will stay on the internet indefinitely. This is what makes SEO a long-term strategy with a high return of investment . If you have a website and you want to know more about how to grow your customer base, checkout our SEO Brisbane page or SEO Sydney page .
With a good business plan, a great brand name and understanding your legal obligations you can move forward with confidence. Meanwhile, a strong online presence and effective digital marketing strategy will create a high return of investment. If you prioritise these 5 key steps, you can maximise the success of your business, by saving resources in the long-term and attracting more clients.
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