This is a call or email that I often get from people who had recently lost a job and have been thinking about starting a business, but want to get it rolling right away. If you’re ready to be your own boss, but not sure how to start, I’ve put together a cheat sheet that will help you launch. Starting a business is easier than you think, but building it up will take some work. I am going to give you ten things you can do today to start your small business.
1) Figure Out Your Cash Needs If you’re out of cash, you’re out of business. Know how much you need to personally survive the next 90 days. Then, put together a cash flow statement, and project your sales and expenses for what you need to launch the business. Then determine your monthly burn rate or how fast the company will go through cash and how much you need to stay in business. That will help you develop your 30 day sales goal.
2) Develop Your List of Products and Services & Pricing When you’re meeting with a potential customer, you should be able to talk about your services and products confidently. Know your cost of sales which is the amount of money that it takes for you to create and deliver your product or service to the customer including your labor. I have seen business owners at all stages underprice because they didn’t know their numbers. Don’t be one of them.
3) Determine Your Target Customer Not every customer is right for your business. First, determine a niche in the marketplace and then identify your most likely buyers. For example, you don’t just want to be a general bakery. Create a bakery that is focused on the niche market of vegan or gluten free. People love to do business with someone that specializes in what they want. If you were getting married, wouldn’t you rather hire a photographer that specializes in weddings over a general photographer?
4) Develop Your Pitch. Every small business owner should have an elevator pitch — this is a 30 second commercial that clearly communicates what your business does, who you serve and the results you deliver. People’s attention spans are short and if you nail a good pitch, it not only helps people to remember you, but also to send people to your business. If you are not closing a sale, at least get yourself a referral source.
5) Develop a Contact list of 25-50 People. You need to contact people who give you business or access to their network. When you first get started, your network is your net worth. Put together a list of 25-50 people that you can contact for business referrals. Let them know what your business does and ask if they know anyone that they could make an introduction to. This is the best way to get your first customers or bring in additional sales if business starts to slow down or plateau.
6) Build Your Recommendations on LinkedIn. It’s common for potential clients to research you or your business online. Since LinkedIn is the preferred network for business, that’s where you want to build some social proof of your expertise. Ask people that you have worked with or done business with in the past to write you a testimonial. You can also make it super easy for them by drafting the testimonial for them and asking them to edit as they see fit. Recommendations are important, don’t neglect using it to close the deal or to find potential customers.
7) Develop a Helpful Website. If you are starting a professional service business, blogging is the best way to build your expertise online. Research your top 6-8 keywords used to search for your product or service. Then start developing sales copy for your website. Testimonials are important on a website, too. If you don’t have existing customers, then invite a few people to try your products or services for free or a discounted price in exchange for an honest testimonial. Be sure your website describes the benefits of your product or service, and not just features. You want to highlight how your company solves problems and then makes an irresistible offer for them to buy.
8) Start Developing an Email List. On day one of launching a website, start building an email list. This will serve as a crucial asset in the business to keep the relationships going with existing and potential customers. You need 3-5 ways to build your email list. You can offer a product sample, free quote, special report, free book chapter, etc. When you have a good list, you can connect to them once a week through email so that you’re top of mind when they are ready to buy. You want to consistently deliver value over time before you ask the customer to buy anything.
9) Claim Your Social Media Profiles. You need to claim your social real estate on Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, even if you are not going to use them all right away. You don’t want someone else to get your brand name. Social media is a great way to build a community around your business. Brand each of your profiles so they have the same look and feel on every site. That means that the colors, profile pictures and company information should all be consistent across profiles.
10) Reach Out to 5 People a Day. You need to start to get information and start building your business. Don’t wait for the business to come to you. Every small business owner should be reaching out to a minimum of 5 people per day. If you have a business that has a longer sales cycle then you should be talking to more people. Don’t focus just on selling. Gather information that will help you understand a potential customer’s most urgent needs so that you can better position the business.
If you have an urgent need to get your business started, use this step-by-step list and you will have what you need to make your idea a reality. The key is taking the first step. Remember, you are running a marathon not a sprint. If you want a through plan to launch a small business try my bestselling book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; a month-by-month guide to a business that works.
“Businesswoman Off The Blocks” courtesy of Ambro / www.freedigitalphotos.net
What have you done to get your small business started?