However, there are certain facets of starting a new business that an entrepreneur can’t afford to let slides, like marketing strategy, income protection, and shipping details. Although these areas might not have a lot in common, they are three things that you as an entrepreneur should NEVER overlook!
1. Marketing Strategy
You need to have a solid marketing plan to succeed as an entrepreneur. Marketing is so very important that your marketing strategy must be well in place much before the launch of your product.
Obviously, as your business grows, your marketing strategy will change and evolve to suit your needs. In today’s dynamic world, marketing can get really complex really fast. As an entrepreneur, let’s discuss some marketing tips you should most definitely keep in mind:
i. Clearly define your mission:
For some reason, mission statements always find themselves filed away in an old cabinet — exactly where they shouldn’t be! Having a clearly defined and publicized mission statement is a great way to show customers why they should choose you over others.
Your mission statement or value proposition should be leveraged as a marketing tool, effectively summon up what differentiates you. Think about the benefits of your product, your unique business approach and what problems you hope to fix with your product or service while crafting your value proposition.
Then, rather than having it stored away in a rarely opened file, make sure to use it in all your marketing endeavors; from website headers to packaging to video content, make sure people have a clear sense of why customers should pick you.
ii. Include digital marketing:
Really, this should go without saying. But for those entrepreneurs who think they can successfully promote their product using age-old marketing methods alone, think again. While there is a place for traditional marketing in your overall strategy, leaving out digital marketing aspects would be a grave mistake.
If used effectively, digital marketing will yield high conversion rates, keep your audience engaged and updated, and allow you to reach millions of potential consumers with no geographical boundaries.
These are just the obvious benefits of digital marketing, but as I’ve written about before, digital marketing allows you to integrate many methods to disrupt the competition.
iii. Ask for feedback:
All your marketing efforts might be going to waste. Yet, you’ll never know this if you don’t ask. Make sure to ask customers for constant feedback so that you know what’s working and where you can improve. It’s good to remember that ultimately, marketing is about the customer.
Rather than playing the guessing game, ask you, customers, what they want - more often than not they’d be willing to tell you.
2. Income Protection
Another area that many entrepreneurs overlook is protecting their income and cash flow. Unexpected events can ruin a small business; in fact, an estimated 25 percent of businesses don’t reopen following a major disaster. It’s crucial to plan for the unexpected so that in a worst-case scenario, your business won’t be toppled by an event you didn’t foresee.
One of the first things you should do as an entrepreneur takes out business insurance. While this may seem like an expense you’d like to avoid, it will be your saving grace in case of an emergency. Secondly, before launching your product, be sure to thoroughly evaluate any threats to your business.
Don’t think about threats simply in the form of competitors, consider things like your office location and what weather it is exposed to, whether staff work from home or come into work and if you largely rely on external services that might fail.
Once you’ve considered all possible threats, come up with an effective way to address them. Things to ask yourself include:
- Where can I temporarily shift my office in case my primary location is inaccessible?
- How can I ensure quick billing to that I have a steady cash flow?
Having a source of backup funds is always a good idea, whether it’s family or relatives willing to loan you some money, or asking the bank for a line of credit (which needs prior preparation).
Make sure your recovery and continuity plans are very comprehensive - don’t be afraid to invest time and effort in creating contingencies. Put together a list of emergency phone numbers to contact, outlines of immediate procedures and that need to be enacted in case of emergency, and checklists to follow in different situations. Have these distributed to all your staff as well as posted in an accessible location for reference?
Even though it may seem like a burden to plan for things that may never happen, as an entrepreneur, it’s important to minimize your risk wherever possible. Safeguarding your income is the foundation to a prosperous business, so it should be thoroughly planned and prepared for.
3. Shipping Details
The average consumer has come to expect quick low-cost shopping as a given with any purchase. Gone are the days where quick shipping was a luxury. As stated by Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce, "When it comes to customer loyalty, shipping speeds and costs are more important than ever.
Most shoppers still choose 'free' over 'fast,' but with a growing number of retail outlets – Amazon, eBay and others – now combining those options, retailers of all sizes have to find ways to cater to every customer's interests."
As a consumer, it’s easy to take these amenities for granted. As an entrepreneur, however, you can’t think like a consumer and assume that shipping procedures will just fall into place. On the contrary, these hassle-free services are made possible via a rather complicated backend that you will need to familiarize yourself with.
There’s no doubt that shipping options are aplenty in today’s ever-connected world. Choosing the right shipping option, based on costs, type and size of items, legal compliance is the first step to providing your customers with efficient delivery service. Shipping alcohol is a good example of this. While most states allow you to ship alcohol directly to consumers, very strict guidelines need to be followed to do so.
Additionally, shipping companies themselves differ significantly in the rules they internally follow to ship alcohol across state boundaries. Some carriers require specific spill-proof packaging, while others will only ship business-to-business.
In this way, a microbrewery in one state with a similar business structure to that of one in another state might choose a very different shipping company solely based on the location. Thus, small businesses need to find the right shipping company to cater to their needs based on a variety of factors.
Some tips for those new to the shipping game include researching options like third-party logistics or drop shippers, as these are useful in keeping costs low.
Additionally, using technology to track and monitor your shipping helps create a system of accountability and efficiency. Obviously, distance plays a huge factor in shipping costs, and so choosing a drop shipper in areas close to your main customer base is prudent.
In terms of packaging, it’s best to use the minimum amount of space possible. A successful shipping process is one that is re-evaluated every six months or so. Since businesses are constantly evolving, your shipping choices also need to consistently adapt to provide your customers with the best possible service.
So amongst the various other things, you’ll be considering as you start your entrepreneurial journey, don’t let these three take a backseat. Even though entrepreneurship is extremely time-consuming and requires a lot of research and preparation, the rewards and personal satisfaction gained from calling something “your own” are well worth the effort!