So, you’re ready to start a company: You have a great product or service you think people will love, and you’re ready to dive in. There’s just one problem: Where do you start?
Building a company from scratch is no easy task -- especially if you intend for that company to reach beyond "small business" status. As Guy Kawasaki, Alltop co-founder and entrepreneur, has said: “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”
Estimates are that about 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first four years. So ,how do you ensure your own success?
The answer is to make growth an inherent part of your company. To do that, your organization and employees need to be laser-focused on growing the business, growing it fast and sustaining that growth. But we all know that that’s easier said than done.
Follow these five steps to ensure your company is focused on growth.
1. Have a plan.
Before you can even think about growing your business, you need a strong foundation. That means investing in the right product, the right team and the right strategy. If your idea has already been done or is something people don’t really want, you won’t be able to scale. You need to be different from what’s already out there. What do you have that no one else does?
Once you’ve defined your value proposition and established your foundation, you can build your strategy. Start by setting measurable goals you can strive to achieve. Then, go out and make it happen. “See things in the present, even if they are in the future,” Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, has said.
Always be thinking about the long term and how what you’re doing right now will help you reach your goals. Your strategy is more than just the act of envisioning success. You need to come up with a detailed action plan.
2. Do more with less.
When you’re just starting out, you have to know how to get big results with little effort. You’re probably working with a small team and a small budget, so figuring out how to stretch those boundaries without overdoing it is key.
For 82 percent of businesses that fail, the main reason they do so is cash-flow problems. You need to run a lean and efficient business. That means cutting back on extra expenses such as team lunches, and thinking through all purchases. Do you really need those expensive office chairs?
There will always be time to upgrade and be more lax with purchases later on. But, if you’re focusing on growth, you need the money now.
3. Stay targeted.
Growing your business and selling your product or service is impossible if no one's heard of them. You need to get your brand in front of the right audience. But, how?
Start by researching your target audience. What are these people's habits, preferences and pain points? Study the demographics to get a clear picture of your ideal customer. Put yourself in their shoes to see how your brand could help them. What problems can you solve? How can you make their lives easier? Build a buyer persona that will help you zone in on the right brand message.
When developing a brand message, focus on telling a story instead of just selling. Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, has said, “If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.”
A brand story should appeal to your target audience on an emotional level and make its members feel connected to your brand. The more you make people care about your brand, the more you’ll be able to grow your business.
4. Increase brand awareness.
The sooner you understand your customers and what they want, the sooner you can market to them. That will mean it’s time to spread your brand message far and wide. Shout it from the rooftops if you have to.
Also, focus on engaging your audience across a variety of channels and through multiple tactics. Generally, prospects need to interact with a brand six to eight times before making a purchase.
Make sure you stick to your plan of staying budget-conscious, too. Marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be effective. While paid advertising adds up quickly, using social media and creating content is free -- all you need to worry about is internal labor costs.
When creating content for your blog or social media, think back to that buyer persona you created. Produce valuable content that your audience can relate to and that positions your brand in the right way. You want to present a problem your audience has and offer your products or services as the solution.
According to a Twitter comment from Robert Rose, chief content advisor for Content Marketing Institute, “Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world you are one.”
Make sure you have a variety of strong, relevant content. This could be blog posts, ebooks, videos, infographics and more. The more types of content you create, the more likely you’ll be to interest your audience and position yourself as a leader.
5. Be flexible.
In the world of business, things can change in an instant. Make sure your team is able to adapt quickly and ramp up no matter what is thrown at you. Having the right people on your team is key to making this possible.
When hiring, set the bar high and be diligent about evaluating potential employees. Of course, you want the best and the brightest, but you also want people who will collaborate and be the right fit for your business.
As the leader of your company, you need to stay laser-focused on growth. Your team will look to you in times of hardship, and you must remain positive. There will be plenty of ups and downs throughout the process, but you need to keep your end goal in mind.
As IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad has said, “The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.”