This article is part of our “Business Startup Guide” – a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time!

Zanade Mann has always had an entrepreneurial streak. It all started when she was 8 years old: The young entrepreneur started selling candy bars door-to-door, and never lost the bug.

Lack of market research sunk Zanade Mann's business, but she learned from her mistakes and you can too.

Lack of market research sunk Zanade Mann’s business, but she learned from her mistakes.

Like many entrepreneurs, she wound her way through the corporate world for a few years, with a stop in the insurance industry. When she was laid off from the job, she decided to use her severance package to return to her entrepreneurial roots and start a business.

She started Zanade Enterprises as a social media firm. She was dabbling in this “new media” for a few clients and decided to launch a business around it, but things didn’t start out well.

“I had no clue who to market my services to and that decreased my income,” Mann says. “I accepted everyone as a client. Anyone with a budget was perfect for me.”

She failed to do market research. She didn’t identify her clients and didn’t know their buying habits. Without having a potential client base, she didn’t know who to market to. Her lack of market research ultimately crushed the business.

To help other entrepreneurs avoid the same mistakes, Mann offers these four tips:

1. Do a ton of market research

After reading Mann’s story, this piece of advice is an obvious one, but it can’t be stressed enough: If you plan to launch a business, you need to know everything there is to know about the industry.

For starters, know your customers. Who will buy your product or service? When they do buy from you, and what kind of buying habits can you expect?

Aside from knowing your customers, you need to know your competition, too. Are there businesses in the same area that offer exactly what you plan to offer? If so, is there enough room for both of you to survive? You need to know your competition to distinguish your business from it.

2. Find a niche

Offering a bunch of services to bunch of people isn’t going to work. Your business plan should focus on a niche. To be successful, you want to offer a niche product or service to a niche customer base.

“‘The riches are in the niches’—it’s an old saying and it couldn’t be more true,” Mann says. “Carve out your own slice of the business world.”

How do you find your own niche? It all goes back to market research. If you know what’s already out there you can find an area that’s untapped.

3. Provide killer customer service

Once you start recruiting customers, give them rock star treatment, Mann says.

Find small ways to up your customer service game. For instance, once a project is completed, send a handwritten thank you card. Yes, handwritten—not an email! People appreciate these personal touches. Whether you provide a product or a service, if customers can rave about your service, they’ll come back.

4. Market to new and existing customers

You need to keep customers in the pipeline, so you should spend some marketing dollars to entice new people to check out your business. However, you don’t want to forget about your current customer base. You should still market to existing customers to keep them in the sales cycle.

Since Mann’s failure, she learned from her mistakes and re-launched the business. Now, she teaches social media skills to teachers and students. She kept the name, but refined her services and her customer base, which has resulted in a successful business venture.

AvatarLisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.