Who is your audience and ideal customer? When starting a business you need to know your market inside out. Research into your target audience will inform you in how you should run your business, customer profiles, how to reach customers and how they respond to your brand, products and services. Market research can include surveys, focus groups, interviews and internet research. During your market research phase you should also research your competitors and businesses similar to yours. Study how they operate, how they communicate with their market and what methods they use.
Write a Business Plan
When starting a business, you should have an idea about what services or products you want to sell or provide. Having an idea is a good place to start, but that won’t lead you to success alone. Creating a business plan is a good way to get into the nitty gritty of your business idea. A business plan will take a while to complete if you do it properly. Some of the items you need to include is your business name, a cashflow forecast, products and services descriptions, your market research, your audience, marketing plans and much more. A business plan template can be useful if you’re not familiar with the format, you can download a Business Plan template from the Prince’s Trust website here.
A business plan should include:
- – Company name and description
- – Market Research
- – How your business is run and structured
- – Products and services
- – Customer information and behaviour
- – Marketing plan
- – Logistics and operations plan
- – Financial plan
Grants and Funding
There are many funding opportunities available for start-ups, SMEs, sole traders and more. Starting a business will include start-up costs. If you require stock to start trading, will you require capital to invest in your in your stock? Think about your operating costs, do you require equipment, training, staff? What will your ongoing operational costs be? Work out your initial start-up costs and what you need to be able to start trading. See our article ‘Available Grants for Start-Ups and Small Businesses’ for more resources on where you can apply for funding, and details on how to apply. Most applications will require a full breakdown of the amount you require, what it will be used for and why.
Business Name and Branding
Thinking of a business name is an important part of your business’ identity and brand image. When creating a business name try to keep in mind your audience and market. For example, a legal firm would would require a completely different brand and logo than is required for a toddler play group for example. Your business-name and branding is the first thing people see when interacting with your business. When deciding on a business name, always make sure the name you decide on is available as a domain name. When purchasing the domain name, you should ideally purchase all of the variable domains to strengthen your brand, i.e .com, .org, .uk etc.
Branding and brand identity is how your business looks and how it is perceived by an audience. It includes your logo, wordmark, typography, colour palette, taglines, slogans and comms. All of your internal and external documentation whether it be print or digital need to maintain brand consistency. Your brand is the ambassador of the business, through graphic design and photography you can create a visual brand that engages your audience and portrays trustworthiness and delivers your vision and values accurately.
Once you have finalised your business name, don’t forget to register it at Companies House. You may also want to trademark your logo or business name. Although this is not necessary as a start-up, it is something to consider as your business grows.
Marketing and Social Media
Marketing is a key part in launching and growing your business. Plan how you will launch your brand and think about what marketing channels will work best for your business and bring the results you need. Social media is a popular way to market a business, you can communicate and engage directly with your audience and develop your brand identity. Whether your services/products are being sold online or not, you should make sure you have an online presence by building a website and having a presence on social media platforms. A website is one of the best ways for a customer to find you and connect with your brand and with search engine optimisation (SEO) you can increase your ranking in search engine results such as Google.
Whether you’re selling online or you have a premises that you operate from, you will need to choose a payment solution that best suits your needs. How will you be accepting payments? For an online store you will require a payment gateway that allows customers to place an order through your ecommerce website. For a shop or restaurant for example, you will require an electronic till system and card terminals to allow customers to pay by card and record takings, transactions, process refunds and gain insight into your business analytics. We have cost effective payment solutions that work for you and will grow with your business. As your business grows we know your requirements will change, that’s where we come in. We are with you from the start and support you through your growth. If you are new to card payments, online payments or payment services, get in touch to book a consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Starting a business doesn’t have to be daunting, stick to a plan, stay organised and focus on your goals. Begin with a business plan, strategise and stay organised. Remember that branding is your chance to make a great first impression, don’t neglect your brand identity and your marketing.