In today’s dynamic business landscape, there is a wealth of opportunities for new startups. At the same time, many entrepreneurs are kicking around similar ideas and striving to invent the next Uber, Airbnb, or Amazon.
If you can’t describe your entire operation in a 140-character sentence, you haven’t thought it through enough.
Before take-off, it’s essential to establish a one-page business plan or business model canvas to answer key questions such as:
- What is the market need you will be fulfilling?
- Will your offering be a radical revolution, an incremental step up from existing solutions, or a traditional product fulfilling a new gap or niche?
- How does delivering your product work logistically, and what are the key partners?
- What skills do you have to achieve your business idea? What are your weaknesses? What opportunities and threats lie ahead?
- Who will buy your product and how will you reach them for promotions?
- How do you maintain lasting customer relationships throughout the product life cycle?
- What are the upfront and recurring costs? How will you make money? What are the quarterly projections toward positive ROI?
This is where you think about the approach you will take: How is your business going to fulfill its promise and be successful? Raise several core pillars that represent the business and suffuse all your activities with them.
For example, a jewelry business leveraging the power of 3D printing for customized wedding rings may want to focus on co-creation and innovation, on self-expression and individuality, or on luxury and exclusivity.
There are plenty of other popular buzzwords: authenticity, immateriality, inclusivity, boldness, wonder, joy, sustainability, data-driven, efficiency, simplicity, etc. But the thing is, the more you talk about them, the more their power fades. So it’s key to act upon them as soon as possible.
Also ask yourself how your customers will view your business. In other words, what is the personality or soul of your business?
For example, are you a powerful enabler, a trusted caregiver, an unbreakable hero, a relieving comic, or a fair-playing everyman?
Thinking about immaterial values this way will help carve out a niche in an ever-more competitive world.
Don’t sell people what they want or what they say they want, sell what they buy. When studying buying behavior, you may find that people intellectually want one solution, but invest in something entirely different.
One way to gauge people’s willingness to spend is to set up a simple survey through Google Forms. Here you can also offer alternatives to your product or even your entire business idea to probe for potential matches. Don’t be surprised if you gather dozens of responses in a snap.
Viral marketing is all the rage nowadays. If leveraged well, it can make an impact that your audience will remember for years.
Keeping your newly gathered audience on social media engaged is key, so be sure you maintain an active presence despite the time demands of developing your business and products.
At the same time, it is necessary to establish yourself as an authority in the field and carefully curate your content. But the message stays the same: you have to be part of the pack you’re leading.
No matter your initial plans, one of the unwavering rules of a new business is that it has to spark cash flow. There’s no point trying to develop a top-of-the-line product if you only have a starting capital to last for a year. Look for the minimum viable offering instead.
If you can set a realistic promise, you can even start selling before manufacturing is complete. This is all about developing sales skills, homing in on where the money is, maintaining relationships, and finding ways to scale quickly.
And if it isn’t working out yet, make sure to hold on to your day job or other streams of income for the time being.
You can also consider offering freelance services such as tutoring or content writing. But as the old wisdom goes, find ways to filter out the $100 clients and start racing with the real traffic.
Many starting entrepreneurs believe in passion as the recipe for success. And while it provides the essential kick to start running, passion is not enough to complete the marathon of successful entrepreneurship.
Once you see what the total picture encompasses, it’s time to start envisioning things in the long term — business strategy, technology roadmapping, customer involvement, R&D, marketing, life cycle management, data analytics, and the tedious administrative tasks that will never stop piling up.
There’s two types of organizations: the hierarchy, with upper management at the top, governing everything down below, and the holarchy, where every worker is equal as a self-directed node in a collaborative network.
Instead of implanting yourself as the sole owner of your business, consider opening up for early partnerships — provided that your mindsets and lifestyles are compatible, or at least within mutual tolerance limits.
For other than core operations, condense critical quality where absolutely no compromises can be made to maintain your brand promise, and seek ways to outsource or automate the rest.
Successful entrepreneurship means connecting your ingrained passion and skills to a need and perceived problem inside a target market.
The best way to start a business is not to conjure up a master plan from within the rectangular confines of your desk.
As soon as you have developed a few tentative plans, you have to step on the road and immerse yourself in the market itself.
You will often find it to be much more dynamic (and unforgiving) than you initially thought, requiring you to let go of old reins, pivot, and adapt on the fly to seize opportunities when they arise.
Instead of trying to be the next billionaire entrepreneur and safeguarding what you’ve achieved so far, you may need to abandon your intellectual fortress and focus on being first to market with a real solution before others catch up.
Similarly, a few small steps toward a real sale can mean more than endless efforts of optimizing or expanding internal business processes, or planning and contemplating new ventures.
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So it’s paramount to engage in sales as soon as you have some kind of presentable minimum viable product (MVP), even if it’s just an artist impression or mock-up.