Starting a business is an exciting rollercoaster ride filled with new opportunity and wild imagination, but once the honeymoon phase wears off you have to make it work. In a time when everyone and their brother are creating startups, most won’t get past the first two years. So what can you really do?
Know Your Customers
During my time as president of Startup Connection, I learned a lot about branding and marketing. You might be surprised to learn that customer service, research, and pricing can be more important than your traditional understanding of “branding.”
As it turns out, listening to your customers, developing relationships with them, and knowing them well enough to give them what they want is the best form of branding there is.
They know you and your values and can trust you to deliver. No amount of advertising or logo design can buy that.
Know Your Competition
This is something that’s easy to forget, and we often do it on purpose.
We either get so wrapped up on what we’re doing, that we don’t have a clue about our competition. Or worse, we’ve taken the idea of “not listening to our detractors” to a dangerous level. The simple truth is that if you ignore your competitors, you’ll be blindsided by them.
Use Google and Amazon regularly to scope out what competes with you – directly and indirectly. Direct competition is pretty easy to spot and compare: What’s their quality? What’s their price? Does it solve problems that my product doesn’t?
Indirect competition is harder to spot but equally important. For example, Dominos competes against Papa John’s, but they also compete against other delivery services out there, and they compete against any products that make it easier to stay in and cook.
Be Honest With Yourself
Too often we build up a fantasy that rationalizes our business failings and those ingrained issues that hold us back. Take a hard look in the mirror. The only way to truly fix your problems is to identify them.
Sometimes that means changing your method, or even your attitude, and other times it means making hard decisions like letting people go or pivoting to a more sustainable business model. Don’t let pride come before the fall and don’t fool yourself.
Identify your strengths too. Without reflection you won’t be able to recreate past successes. Plus, it feels empowering to know what you truly have under control.
By running a simple profit model, you can learn invaluable information about the structure and mechanics of your business. Some businesses are set up in a way that makes it very, very difficult to them to succeed. The sooner you can find that information out, the better off you’ll be.
Armed with knowledge, self-awareness, and exposure, you must be BOLD.
Presentation graphics, videos, packaging, and incentives are all keys to stand out. Early on, the money-back guarantee was a great way to get someone to try your product because it takes the risk out of the transaction. It still is a great idea, but you see some companies going even further and offering 200% money-back guarantee, meaning that you would get a refund plus the value of the product.
While you might think that it’s a crazy idea, there’s no question that it’s bold. It gets your attention.
When starting a business, you invariably get a ton of advice. Some things work, and some things don’t. Focusing on your customers, your competition, your results, and presenting it all in a bold, memorable way? Those principles never go out of style.
Dr. Bert Shlensky, president of www.startupconnection.net, offers experience and skills and a team devoted to developing and executing winning strategies for businesses of all kinds. This combination has been the key to client success. His books for the business entrepreneur: Marketing Plan for Startups & Small Business and Passion & Reality for Small Business Success, are available at www.startupconnection.net.