In this day and age, more and more people are leaving the rat race and going into business for themselves. While this can be one of the most empowering experiences of your lifetime, it is wise to proceed with caution. A staggering percentage of businesses close within their first two years of opening, so consider these tips to make sure you don’t become another statistic.
Identify your niche market
Your niche market, also known as a target audience, is the heart of your business. A solid customer base keeps your business up and running, so it is important to identify your target audience before launching. When you are trying to identify your niche market, start by simply taking a moment to sit down and look over what you are offering, then think about who would be the perfect customer for your product or service. Broad answers like males, females, or teenagers is not enough. Narrow your audience down by thinking about what type of person you want your business to attract. For example, if your audience is primarily women, ask yourself these questions:
- Is she single or married?
- What type of career does she have?
- Is she a mother?
- How does she like to spend her free time?
- How much money does she make?
- What type of people are in her close circle of friends?
Answering these questions will narrow down your audience, enabling you to create a business tailored to their specific needs and wants. Having a niche market will also help to distinguish you from your competitors, which will be crucial when you are just starting out and putting down roots.
While you are in your thinking mode, go ahead and create a business plan. Along with your niche market, a business plan will be your roadmap to success and provide a tangible plan that you can look back on when obstacles arise. Additionally, a well thought out business plan will help you when you are trying to secure investments, showing potential investors, and the bank, that you have put serious thought into your business.
Decide which platform(s) you will use
Once upon a time, starting a business meant opening up a brick-and-mortar store in a preferably high-traffic part of town. Fast forward to the millennial age, and you will find that many successful companies not only have a physical address, but an online store as well. In some instances businesses are run completely from home, especially when you are first starting out and working with a limited budget. In the beginning stages of planning your business you will need to decide which platform will suit your niche best. Sometimes the choice will be obvious. For example, if you want to start a catering service, a physical location is absolutely necessary so that potential customers can come in for a taste test. However, if you want to start a clothing boutique, you may find that your target audience prefers to shop online as opposed to going to an actual storefront.
In order to establish an online image, you may choose to create a website, or do what many businesses are doing these days, which is create an online presence through social media pages like Facebook and Instagram. Marketing through social media saves a ton of money in marketing costs because these types of pages are free and they reach a wide range of people. If you are going to establish a business website, be sure to make a website that is appealing and will set you apart from others in your industry. Your website will often be the first impression your customers get of your new business, so put forth the extra effort to make it look professional or hire a website builder if html isn’t your forte.
Do Some Offline Networking
In today’s society, we tend to do a majority of our communication via technology, whether it is emails, text messages, video chats, or social media, but as an entrepreneur you have to break out of your comfort zone and network. You need to put a face with a name, tell your story, and explain to others why your business plan works. In return, you meet like-minded entrepreneurs who you can learn from and potentially work with.
So, how do you go about networking? First, find a networking event through your local Chamber of Commerce, social media, or utilize apps such as MeetUp. Before you attend, practice your pitch to avoid fumbling over your words, and make sure you stock up on plenty of business cards. Rather than going around the room handing out business cards, take the time to engage with each person. Follow up on any contacts you make within the first 48 hours while you and your business are at the top of their mind.
Owning a business will have its challenging moments, which is why it is best to be as prepared as possible. Remember that knowledge, preparation, and persistence are the key ingredients to starting a successful, lasting business!