I've had the opportunity to witness many new companies start up. I've noticed a few things that I feel could be done a bit better. It's easy to cut corners when you're working for yourself but here are 5 things small businesses need to do when they are starting up.
1. Invest in a website.
The scary world of web design is not so scary anymore. You don't need to hire a developer or a designer, website platforms are DIY friendly and inexpensive. Some are even free like weebly. We are partial to Squarespace for beginners. It's back end is user friendly and its very easy to customize. But for the love of Pete, please invest in a domain name! Nobody wants to type in YOURBUSINESS.SQUARESPACE.COM so get a domain name (we like Go Daddy because it's so user friendly and it carries .ca domains) and connect it to your new website. Also, it's straight up unprofessional to have a .hotmail or .gmail email address. Squarespace actually gives you a free month ($5 value) for a professional email through G Suite (Gmail) when purchasing your website from them. I sound like a Squarespace sales-person, but it's because I think its a great option for those who want to be more hands on with their website.
2. Make a branding board.
A branding board is sort of like the blue prints for your brand. It helps keeps all the visual content consistent as you go on and grow. Branding boards contain brand logos and variations, colours, fonts, textures and inspiration images that can be used for any graphic design work for your company. This is helpful because if you do hire someone to build your website or design a brochure, you just send them the branding board and you know their work will be in line with your brand vision. You can design your own branding board using Canva, an excellent and user friendly graphic design application (I'm all about keeping it simple). Look for branding board inspiration on Pinterest and you will be sure to find something that catches your eye.
3. Start a mailing list.
A lot of small business owners immediately start working on getting their numbers up on social media. While social media should be one aspect of your marketing strategy you have to remember, Facebook, Instagram etc are businesses too and are in it to make money. It seems like every few months there are updates in their algorithms that make it harder to reach followers and engage with them organically... unless, of course, you are willing to pay for it. The one thing that these social media platforms can't touch is your customers' email addresses. Start building your list and plan on sending out newsletters with links to your website, news, freebies and promotions on a regular basis. Be sure to follow your local regulations in regards to the method you collect these email addresses. Subscribers have to opt-in. There are lots of strategies to getting subscribers to opt in which we can talk about another time but in the mean time make sure to include a nice big SUBSCRIBE box on your website and take names at every event and trade show you attend. You can manage email addresses and send newsletters from Mailchimp and ConvertKit (for bloggers). Check them out.
4. Set Goals!
The biggest mistake I see with small business owners is they get so caught up in the day to day activity that they lose sight of their big goals. It's very easy to do. You work so hard but you aren't getting to the next level like you had hoped because you just don't have time to think about it let alone execute. You would think goal setting is an obvious practice that all business owners should follow but many of us are falling short. What I like to do is set multiple levels of goals and build a plan. I start with the big goals that I want to achieve in 5 years, then I work my way backwards. I break each year up and set goals within each year that help me get to my big 5 year goals. Then I go back one more level to monthly, then weekly and then daily. Sometimes these goals turn into task lists but that's good! It means you are taking baby steps towards your big goals. Of course, you can't plan out every step for the next 5 years but reminding yourself of the big picture while you're working on the little things will keep you motivated and accountable. In fact, I am going to work on a goal setting sheet to share with you, stay tuned for that!
5. Ask for Help
This is an area where I struggle with. I have to tell myself all the time that there is no shame in asking for help, especially when you are just starting out. When your business is new and young it needs a little boost. You need to put yourself out there and network, make connections and sometimes ask friends and family if they would like to use your services or have use for your products. You never know if you don't ask. Be confident that whatever it is you are offering them, is something that they want and would be happy to pay for! Even if they say no, they will probably tell someone else who does. Involve those people in your processes and ask for honest feedback. If you need volunteers to help you at a trade show because you aren't sure you can afford staff, then ask your buddies. There is a very good chance that they want to see you succeed and if you invite them to be a part of that experiences then they also share in the win.