You don’t need to be born into a business family or go to business school to start on your small business idea and get it off the ground. We’ve all had great, game-changing business ideas but most of the time, we give up on them because we have no clue where to start.
With these five steps, as well as hard work, patience and lots of research, you can convert your brainwave into a proper, thriving business.
1. Do Some Background Research
Instead of keeping your small business ideas to yourself, talk them out with others to see what people really think about them. This will help you examine your ideas from different perspectives and identify gaps.
Friends and family know your strengths and weaknesses. They usually have your best interests in mind so you can count on them for honest feedback. Reach out to your friends in professional networks or post questions on networking sites such as LinkedIn to gain authentic and expert opinions on your ideas. If you’re not part of any professional network at the moment, this can be a great networking opportunity for you.
Lastly, whatever your customer segment ends up being, you’ll most likely find them on social media. Getting feedback from real customers will help you see how feasible your idea really is by answering the most important question: are people willing to pay for what you’re selling?
Pro-tip: Set up a domain for a feedback form so you can capture client feedback in a professional manner.
2. Study Your Customers
Now that you’ve had open discussions about your small business ideas and incorporated the necessary tweaks, it’s time to delve deeper into your customers’ minds to learn how you will sell your ideas to them. Creating detailed buyer personas will help you identify how different customers will react to your product, what makes them tick and what is the best way to communicate with them.
For example, if launching a new affordable fashion brand for women that has the look and feel of high fashion, an in-depth buyer persona could look something like this:
Katie is a 27-year-old single woman who works as an account manager at an advertising agency in New York. She earns $4,000 a month. She is saving up money to make her first big investment (buying a house or a car) so she is very particular about where she spends her money. She keeps quite busy with work and likes to be productive even in her free time, but likes going out with friends for brunch, dinner, or parties on the weekends.
As far as fashion goes, she is not exactly brand-conscious but likes to be trendy and looks for value. She does most of her shopping online and is always looking out for brands that offer free shipping and easy returns. She especially loves shopping on sale days on websites that sell premium brands at discounts. She is a social media addict and loves browsing through Instagram and Pinterest, mostly on her commute to work. Her favorite pages are those related to fashion, travel, and home decor.
From this buyer persona, you will know which aspects of your brand or idea appeal the most to people who fall under this category, such as affordability and free shipping. You also know that posting high-quality images on Instagram and Pinterest will help you generate brand interest.
Pro-tip: You can use your domain as a jumping-off point and use it to point to any place on the web, like your Instagram, Pinterest or any other site that features your service, product or portfolio.
3. Study Your Competitors
As great as your small business idea is, it’s highly unlikely that you’re the only one who has ever had it. Does that mean that you should abandon it altogether? Definitely not! Instead, you should study your competition in great detail to learn how to differentiate yourself in terms of your idea’s unique selling proposition (USP), your brand’s positioning, indicators such as pricing and delivery, and your marketing plan.
Direct and Indirect Competition
Start by making a list of all your competitors. Divide them into direct and indirect competitors. Direct competitors are businesses offering the same thing as you will be, while indirect competitors are those who are offering alternatives. For instance, if you want to start a beauty salon, other beauty salons will be your direct competitors while brands selling DIY treatment products such as hair spa kits or facial kits will be your indirect competitors.
Find Your Positioning
Make a list of all the characteristics of their offerings, from product features to pricing to customer service, and identify their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you narrow down on your business idea’s USP.
For instance, can you find a way to make your product more affordable? If not, are there any additional benefits that you can offer? Can you offer superior customer service and quick resolution of customer grievances? It can even be something as simple as improving your website experience to offer easy shopping and tracking of purchases.
Identify Marketing Pegs
Study what your competitors are doing on social media.
- What kind of images and copy are they using?
- What are some of the underlying themes of their posts?
- Do they have a blog and/or a YouTube channel?
- How is the audience reacting to their content?
- What sort of emails are they sending to their subscribers?
You can find this out by visiting their website and subscribing to their mailing list.
Pro-tip: Use tools such as Sprout Social and SEMRush to easily track what your competition is up to.
4. Create a Small Business Plan
Having a business plan in place will help you prioritize what you need to do, focus on what’s important and work toward future growth. Shopify has a great template for you to use, but here is a brief introduction before you get started.
You don’t necessarily need an elaborate plan to get started. Several entrepreneurs draft a basic one-page business plan that summarizes a sound business strategy. Here are a few things your brief plan could include:
- The problem: The needs of your customers or any gap in the market, supported by the findings of your market research.
- The solution: Your small business ideas and how they plan to tackle this problem.
- Costs: Expenses you will incur on setting up your business, buying production equipment, hiring staff, and other production costs.
- Revenue model: The price that your customers will pay based on your costs and the results of your competitive analysis.
- Target market: A brief summary of your target customer segments.
- Marketing: Different platforms that you will use to get the word out to your customers, such as your website, social media, pay-per-click ads, email marketing, content marketing, TV ads, print ads, events and so on.
- Short-term goals: Goals that you want to achieve in the first year of your business, such as $50,000 monthly revenue, 20,000 customers in the first quarter, or 80,000 products sold in a year.
- Long-term goals: Goals that you aspire for once you are relatively well-established, such as adding new products and geographical expansion.
Pro-tip: Choose a valuable domain name to stand out from the competition.
5. Build Your Online Presence
You don’t have to wait for your product launch to build your brand and your brand’s presence. In fact, the sooner you do it, the more buzz it will generate around your small business idea, service or product. It’s never too early to create a website and set up social media accounts to get people interested and talking about your business, service or product.
You can also direct investors or people from crowdfunding platforms to your website for all the information they need to invest in your business. Consider the following aspects when building your online presence.
Ideally, you should pick a company name that is readily available for use as a domain name in order to keep your branding consistent. Opt for a name that is short, simple, and memorable. You can use new domain extensions to further establish your niche, such as .TECH for technology-related products or services, .STORE or .INC for eCommerce and sales, .ONLINE or .SITE for a more open and versatile presence, .ART or .DESIGN for anything creative, and so on. The possibilities are endless and Hover offers over 400 domain extensions to choose from. A domain name on a new domain extension can also help you find available social media handles.
Pro-tip: Choose a valuable domain name to stand out from the competition.
Even before you launch your business, your website can host your brand’s journey, details about product features, pricing, contact information or pre-order options for those who want to be the first to get their hands on whatever you’re selling.
While your content should be accurate, informative and engaging, your design and layout should be simple, attractive and in line with your personality. Think about including product pages with high-quality pictures, 360-degree views, zoom options, and details presented in an easy-to-consume way.
Pro-tip: There are many free and inexpensive tools to help you create a website, and we’ve compiled 50 tools to create a website to get you started.
Now that most of the groundwork for your small business idea has been laid out, it’s time to put your plan into action. While you may feel understandably anxious about the outcome, have faith in your instincts and ability to make the right decisions even when things don’t go according to plan. Try different things, adjust based on feedback and repeat—trust the process. Best of luck!