You may be thinking of taking matters into your own hands and starting a business of your own. Or, perhaps you want to strengthen the one you have.
Either way, a solid foundation enables you to continue to build your business brick by brick, and gradually craft and curate an entity that will sustain you and delight others. Where there are challenges, opportunities abound, and building a foundation that is inclusive of a variety of factors will enhance your chances for success.
Show you the money: Remember when the character in the movie “Jerry Maguire” told his agent, “Show me the money!” as needed proof to validate how valuable he was being told he was? It can be hard to get start-up funds. Demonstrate to potential investors what the market demand for the product or service will be and how you intend to unveil and nourish the business.
There are a number of options to financially help you prepare to enter the market, from governmental entities, financing from family and friends, traditional bank loans and the crowdfunding alternative. Regardless of the choices, have the financing in place before you open and consider all the start-up costs that come with a new business, such as training, printing, signage, website development, branding, marketing and more.
Branding and marketing: A logo is the most recognizable form of branding, and many have become iconic over the years (Coca-Cola, UPS and McDonald’s among them). Branding is much more than that. For a restaurateur, branding can engage all senses: the vibe you hear (or don’t) when you enter. The visual décor and the delicious aromas that permeate the air. The predictable feel of the dinner rolls and delicious taste are branding elements.
Most consumers choose brands that are authentic to them: what the brand promises in its marketing it actually delivers in real life. Have you ever been to a lodging property that “didn’t look like the picture” because the proprietor used stock photography? Consumers operate from an expectation of “what you see is what you get.” Have your photos depict your actual venue or product, not an aspiration. If customers feel as though they’ve been fooled, word travels quickly.
Your website is one of the initial and supreme calling cards for your company because it can be accessed so widely. Make sure there is consistency in messaging, from the colors, verbiage and tone to the strong, impactful visuals that introduce your brand and potentially set it apart from others.
Social media is more cost effective than many traditional means. It is only one component, but a crucial one. Studies show nearly half of the world utilizes some form of social media every day. By looking at the different platforms and which appeal to which demographic, you can effectively target your ad dollars and reach them to cultivate brand awareness, then brand loyalty. Social media lets you meet your customers where they are, and often their heads are bent down staring at their screens. Social media can offer more immediacy and flexibility than other options. Do your research, then start posting.
Every picture tells a story, but it is also important to tell the story in words. What is the inspiration for your company? Who runs it? What are your goals? How are you different? If you have a unique selling proposition, share it. It can be a simple gesture. For instance, a neighborhood pizza shop may sell branded T-shirts and offer an extra discount to customers wearing their T-shirts when they pick up their meal. It’s a win-win that builds brand awareness. People like doing business with people they like and trust. Provide an insider’s look at your business to make connections with your customers. The value of caring is especially evident today.
Surround yourself with like-minded teammates providing stellar service: All employees are a representative of your brand, from the person owning the company to the one answering the phone. A brand reputation can fall apart in the eyes of the consumer if the brand promise is not met by the staff. Employees need to be knowledgeable about the company and its products and be empowered to right wrongs at appropriate levels.
Position the values of your company upfront and the type of job candidates you seek. Show your intent to become part of the fabric of the community and then do it. If your employees are enthused about working for you, their outlook will become wonderfully contagious. The human touch is a differentiating asset and should not be a lost art.
Service received – or lack thereof – can make or break someone’s day. The smaller the business, the greater the impact, good or bad. Walking in the shoes of the customer should never be forgotten, and there are ways to flip a negative experience and delight the customer. For example, a front-desk reservationist discounted the stay by 50 percent when a hotel guest casually mentioned upon checking out that the room had not been tended to by housekeeping the prior day. Offering an extra incentive can develop loyalty and empower the staff.
Identify your audience: Researching your potential audience can reap rewards. There are obvious choices, but perhaps your product will be embraced by another age group or gender. Knowing and understanding target audience demographics can help you appeal to them in the most effective message and medium. You’ll be able to see which areas provide the most room for your brand growth.
Remain resilient: Even the best plans require revisiting. The reasons may have nothing to do with your business plan, as the pandemic proved. Be ready to pivot in your company’s best interest, whether it means focusing on a product that is an unexpected best seller or making online sales even easier for the consumer.
Considering all of these factors will help you ride a road to success, while always pausing to examine the path and refueling along the way.