I left my part time job in August 2015 to concentrate on working for myself and building my business. I was delighted to join a business accelerator in Belfast, Entrepreneurial Spark, in February of this year, and I have learned a LOT in the time since. I thought it would be helpful to others who are starting out, to share some of my learnings so far!
1. Choose Your Niche
As a small business owner you don’t have the time or resources to market widely. So you need to find your niche.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you want to sell your product to someone, anyone, that you have to market to EVERYONE.
But you are more likely to sell to no one. You need to narrow down your audience so that you can speak to them in a tone that resonates with them. You can widen your market later.
2. Identify your Ideal Customer
For some markets, this may be a matter of demographics e.g. women over 30 living in the UK. For other markets it may be behavioural – men and women who want to learn how to market their business online, at their own pace and in their own time. Draw up a picture of your Ideal Customer and then when you are writing to them, in emails, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, write as though you are talking to that person. Give them a name!
3. What is your USP?
USP is your Unique Selling Point. What makes your product or business so different to anyone else? It’s unlikely you have invented the first non-drip ice cream… so if you are entering a market with competition, what makes you stand out from the crowd?
4. Beta-test your product.
Find a small group of your potential market and give them free samples or early access to your product to get feedback. If you think your product is best suited to stay at home mums, find a local mums and toddlers group – take your product along and give samples or demonstrations. Ask for plenty of feedback – if necessary use anonymous forms – don’t ask for feedback from your family and friends as they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
5. Start networking online
Join online communities where you think your ideal client hangs out. This may be Facebook groups for business owners, for marketing gurus, VA’s, bloggers or LinkedIn groups for professionals. Post links to surveys and ask for feedback.
6. Don’t be afraid to change!
Sometimes the business idea you have, doesn’t resonate with your audience – or they like it but won’t spend money on it. Maybe you want to offer a subscription based service but your potential customers want to pay as they go. Investigate your market before you invest a lot of time and money developing your product or service.
7. Hang out with other business entrepreneurs.
One of the best advantages I have had over 2016 has been to be part of a business accelerator ‘E-Spark’ where I have been working alongside over 80 other business owners and entrepreneurs. Having that community to bounce ideas off, rant and rave when things go wrong, and celebrate when things go right – its much better than sitting at home talking to the dog. If you can’t get into a shared office space, try co-working days, local council networking events and local meet-ups.
8. Read, listen and absorb
There is a lot of great free content out there on the internet from people who’ve been there before you. I read a lot of blogs, articles, listen to podcasts and listen to what other people are saying in the groups I particpate in both off and online. Join our Social Beehive to meet other entrepreneurs and sign up for my free Resource LIbrary to get tips to get started. We have a new year just around the corner, so make it a great one!