This is the second of three parts. The first part appeared here a month ago. All three were published first on Entrepreneur.com, and are based on the book 3 Weeks to Startup, which I co-authored along with Sabrina Parsons. That book, published by Entrepreneur Press, came out in the autumn of 2008. It’s built on the idea that most how-to-start books fall back on the older, pre-Web ways to get things done; and that today, because of the tools available, 3 weeks is still credible.
Day 8: Plan your marketing strategy.
Think about your target market. Imagine a hypothetical, ideal customer. Determine his or her age, gender, job, favorite media and family situation. It’s important to know your customer well.
What’s your message? Can you say it in a single sentence? What if you have just one sentence that your customers will listen to? Where would you send that message? How would you reach them?
Think about your marketing strategy and implementation details. Take the time to go through a short but focused marketing plan to make sure you understand what it will take to market your business.
Day 9: Develop your look and feel.
Start developing a sense of the look and feel of your company as your buyers will see it. What will your logo look like? What sense will it convey? Old-fashioned? Trustworthy? Leading edge? Everybody has a brand. What will yours be? How will you get that idea across to customers and potential customers?
Develop your look and feel through logos, signs, letterhead and graphic standards. These are your branding essentials, and you need to have them in place before you get much further.
Day 10: Start building your website.
Have you started your website already? Have you been thinking about it? Today’s the day to get going with that.
If you’re building a Web 2.0 application or any website that’s core to your business, then you might have to settle for simply having begun by the end of the three weeks.
For most businesses, you can have a website built very quickly. Think about the basic elements of your website, and at least get a site up with basic information about you, your business, your products, and your services.
These days there are some good shortcuts available: take a look at TypePad, WordPress, and blogger platforms, for example. These were built for blogging but can apply to many small sites, with little to no formatting work.
Day 11: Think about how you’re going to get paid.
Think about how your customers will pay you. If you’re going to be selling to consumers, then you probably want to establish a merchant account so you can accept credit cards.
These days, because of the online vendors, there are a lot more options. In the old days you had to go straight to your favorite local bank, which had a detailed and time-consuming process. These days, you have the option of setting yourself up with some Web stores (like Amazon, Yahoo!, and others) that can handle that part of it for you.
If you’re selling to businesses, then think about invoices and credit policies for business customers. There’s no underestimating how important getting paid is.
Day 12: Try making a sale.
Have you been able to make a sale yet? Maybe you should take today to peddle your goods. Even though you’re not fully established yet, lots of businesses (maybe most of them) start selling before they’re fully launched.
This is where you get to make sure that people want to buy what you’re selling.
Even if you can’t make a sale, because things are ready, talk somebody through it. The selling will continue for as long as your business is open, but we wanted to include it here as well because so many businesses are born at the moment the first customer says “yes.”
Day 13: Get an insurance policy.
Time to talk to an insurance broker, and get your business insurance started. These days, you can do a lot of research or even do the whole thing online. And if not, remember the old-fashioned telephone tree-style of finding the right people. Talk to any insurance broker you can think of, ask some questions, and if he or she isn’t the right one, ask who else you should talk to. Find the right person by asking the wrong person who else you should talk to.
In the doing, you’ll find out what kinds of insurance are appropriate for the type of business you’re starting.
Day 14: Build your dream team.
Have you been thinking about how to build your team? Do you know the people you want to bring on? It’s time to start ironing down the team and the employees, and start the recruiting process. Depending on your specifics, you’ll likely need job descriptions, and you’ll need to place ads on the right websites.
Start thinking about your employee list. Who will you need to help you out when you actually open for business? Will it be just you and your business partner? Do you need to hire service people? Drivers? Designers?
To get started, take another look at the financial planning you did in Week 1. See who you can afford to hire and start looking.