There’s no need to wait to launch your business until things are 100 percent ready to go. In fact, if everybody waited for everything to line up before getting started, there would hardly be any entrepreneurs.
Still, there are some things you should have sorted from the beginning. If you can answer the following three questions, there is an excellent chance that you are ready to start your own business.
1. What can I do to get started with minimal funding?
Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs are stopped in their tracks because they don’t want to (or can’t) move forward without funding. It’s not surprising—many of us are raised to believe that if we want something, we should get the money together first.
The problem with this is that investors often want to see evidence that you’ve made an effort to get started before you seek them out for funding. They also want to know that you’ve gained some traction, meaning that you’ve generated revenue. This tells them that you have established “proof of concept”.
There are several things you can do get started on a shoestring budget. These include:
Selling products through online marketplaces
You’ll still have the expense of manufacturing or otherwise preparing your products for market, but you can use online marketplaces as an inexpensive or even free means to sell your product. Craigslist, Etsy, eBay, and Facebook marketplace are just a few examples of marketplaces available to you.
Depending on your niche, you may be able to find online markets that specifically cater to people who buy and sell products in your category. There may also be online marketplaces created specifically for people in your geographic location.
Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the terms of service of each marketplace. Many have specific rules including how often you are allowed to run ads.
Setting up an ecommerce website to sell products
This requires more time and resources than simply advertising through an existing marketplace. Still, there are many free or nearly free options here. This makes this a pretty workable option for most entrepreneurs.
Ecommerce platforms such as Shopify make it very easy for people to create online stores and conduct transactions, but there are many ways to set up an ecommerce website. Within a few hours, you should be able to configure your ecommerce website and be ready for business.
Picking a limited selection of products and services
Sometimes the best way to get started on a limited budget is to leave some things behind. Instead of launching with every product and service you want to offer, you may be better off selecting the few you believe will gain the most market traction in the shortest amount of time.
For example, if you sell gourmet foods online and it’s close to summertime, you might want to focus on offering summer friendly foods such as cocktail mixers, barbecue sauces, and ice cream toppings, as opposed to your entire range of products.
Recruiting friends and family to help with your promotion efforts on social and elsewhere
Advertising is costly. Social media marketing works best after you have established a presence. What do you do to get the word out in the meantime? You recruit friends and family to help.
Get them to like your business page. When you share content, ask them to like, comment and share. These efforts shouldn’t stop where the internet ends, either. If you have loved ones who are willing to help, stock them up with your business cards, and ask them to pass along referrals to you.
2. Who is my ideal customer?
On one hand, this is quite simple. Your ideal customer is the person who is most likely to be interested in your products and services.
However, from there, it gets complicated. You may actually have several different “ideal customers,” each with different needs, pain points, and motivations. You have to figure out who they are and how to reach them.
One place to start is with simple, demographic information. In many instances, it is possible to create reliable customer segments just on demographic data. However, if you can gather more information such as interests, which social media platforms they use, and what interests them about your products and services, that is even better. You can then use that information to begin creating your initial marketing strategy.
Ultimately, it’s important to answer one question: “What problem am I solving?” Then, identify who is most likely to have that problem.
3. Who or what are my barriers to entry?
It’s important that you are prepared for any difficulties that can hinder your ability to make your business successful. Any individual, business, or situation that gets in the way of your success if a barrier to entry. These include:
Existing competitors may have already gained a competitive foothold. They may have obtained patents. The might have even established exclusive agreements with suppliers and retailers. To be successful, you have to identify opportunities in spite of this and find a way to gain a competitive edge.
You can do this by identifying target markets that they are ignoring. You can improve upon what they offer. You might even exploit something that they haven’t considered. For example, you could tweak your products so they become a luxury offering, or bundle services to make them more budget-friendly.
Discouraging people and negative self-talk
Some of this process is psychological. If you can’t shake off negativity and keep moving forward, you might not be ready to start a business.
If negative information crops up, to put it in perspective. Is it pragmatic realism that keeps you on the right track? Then absorb that information and work with it. Is it simply negativity? Push it aside. This goes for negative people as well as your own inner dialogue.
Rules, regulations, and administrivia
What do you need in place before you can launch your business? Will you need special licensing? What about permits or certifications? Are you subject to any sort of oversight or regulation? Learn about these things ahead of time. It’s much easier to prepare for these things than to react to them.
Consider researching your competitors. Learn which associations they have joined. If you plan to open a brick and mortar business, stay in contact with your local business. They can help you to understand any regulations you may need to follow. If licensing and certification is required, start working on that immediately. This way any delay in launching your business is minimized.
Finally, consider the barriers to entry that you can create for future competitors. Remember that the longer you are the only business in your space the better. You can create barriers in the same way that you can circumnavigate them. Simply identify ways that competitors could stymie your growth, and address them proactively.
None of these questions are designed to discourage you from starting your business. Instead, they can help provide the serious motivation you need to move from business conceptualized to business actualized. If you can answer these questions, you will be on your way to great startup strategy and launch.
When your business is up and running you will be more competitive, more financially sound, and most likely to be successful sooner than later. This will make your company more attractive to potential investors and better poised for growth.