Starting a business has always been considered one of the more difficult career choices. However, the acute interest with which millennials are pursuing it has changed this perspective. Indeed, entrepreneurship has a charm that is hard to resist. Why shouldn’t it be? The promise of going after what one truly wants, personal and financial freedom and make meaningful contributions to humanity is something that we all deeply cherish.
However, behind all the optimism and notions of limitless potential lies an unfortunate fact — starting and running a company is (still) exceedingly risky. After all, there is a very good reason why 90 percent startups crash and burn by their second year. Reasons for such a startling failure rate are many, but fundamentally boil down to…
- Securing funds. In a survey in London, two-thirds of respondents said that getting financial backing was their biggest hurdle.
- Lack of planning usually resulting from no experience running a business.
- Trouble securing and maintaining a talented team of professionals.
- Not knowing what the market wants.
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to quickly become overwhelmed as they come face to face with the fact that running a company takes a LOT more work than they imagined. There are a number of variables that need to be taken into account.
One of the bigger assumptions that cripple businessmen and women alike is the notion that things must be done a certain way. It is all too common to see people with big ideas infatuated with having a large office, thinking they can do it all alone, running after VC firms for funding, having onsite staffs all the time and so on. These self-imposed restrictions do little to help them, and everything to hamper their efforts.
That being said, these problems are not new, and little do people realize that they have access to tools that can make thing a lot easier. In fact, with a bit of creativity, they can slash many of the more common problems that all entrepreneurs face. Here are four ways you can do just that.
Recruit smarter for a leaner, more effective team.
When you are strapped for cash, the risk of bad hires is too great to ignore. Full-time employees are usually more expensive as you have to pay monthly salaries and cover benefits. Not to mention, you will always find out too late whether they are any good or not. There is even evidence to suggest that an inhouse employees takes up to two years before becoming fully productive.
In such situations, startups can find great talent through the internet, too. Freelancers and contractors offer many advantages over in-house employees. Since freelancers work with multiple companies simultaneously, their employers needn’t cover their benefits or social security. They work on their own equipment which is another expense companies can not only forgo, but leverage as well.
An employer can test through multiple candidates and find the right ones at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time employee. As freelancers may be located anywhere, it’s easy to create teams in different time-zones and work around the clock, too. Freelancers usually charge per project which makes them cheaper, and are easier to on-board and ramp, making scaling large projects effortless.
The biggest advantage remote working brings to the table is the ability to hire talent that traditionally wasn’t even available to employers. As your workforce becomes remote, you will no longer need to invest in an expensive office, infrastructure and slash operating costs. More affordable options like co-working spaces, working from home (or coffee shops), small business incubators and virtual offices are great alternatives that will work just as well.
Discovering opportunities and finding what works.
Part of the challenge (and thrill) of starting your own venture is finding out whether your ideas have any real value. We all tend to think “of course my product is useful,” but is that how people in your target market feel as well?
Finding this key piece of information can make or break your enterprise. Fortunately, there are smart ways out there you can use to feel the pulse of your market.
Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketing, where a marketer or seller gets a commission for every product that he/she sells for a company is not only a great profession in itself, but is also an awesome way to test a market thoroughly before launching your own product, all while making an income.
Start by making a list of every major brand operating in your space. Affiliate program aggregators like Clickbank, Shareasale and Amazon Associates are great resources here, too. Now, look for those with an affiliate program. You can search for “company name + affiliate program” “industry + affiliate program” on Google to find them. Sign up with a few and start promoting products that are similar to the one you have in mind.
As you go along, you will begin to gather invaluable first-hand information on what the market wants, which marketing messages work best and which features are most wanted. At this point, it will be wise to make a list of email subscribers out of the people who are purchasing through you as well. Your list will become your most vital asset when you launch your own product. By the time you’re ready, you will have a battle tested game plan and will simply need to supplement the products you are promoting with your own.
Online product reviews: While product reviews are a great way to know whether a product delivers on its promises or not, it is also a free way to gauge what works and what doesn’t. Look for trends in reviews of products that are from your would be competitors. There are review portals for every kind of service so, finding reviews for research shouldn’t be a problem. Some review sites you can look into are…
- Amazon, Ebay, Jet: For consumer goods.
- Tripadvisor, Airbnb, HomeAway: For travel and tourism.
- Google Places, Yelp, YP: For small and local businesses.
Find a vacuum in your local market: Some of the biggest chains in the world started off small. Finding what your local community needs can be a great way to get your foot in the (business) door. That being said, locating a hidden niche in your neck of the woods is easier said than done.
Your own experience can be a great asset here. Are you aware of any products that you wished were locally available but you simply couldn’t find? You can also hop onto Google’s Keyword Tool and search for keywords related to such products specific to your city or town to see if there is any demand.
Automate that marketing.
So, you have a great team and you know what the market wants, and you’re all set to begin. But as you throw the on-switch, you realize there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. Marketers often find themselves juggling between different tasks and campaigns until they are ready to drop! Happens with the best of us.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of tools out there with which you can put many of your business functions on autopilot. Since marketing will be one of your business’s more important functions in its heydays, it’s best to automate as much as you can. This way you can spend more time developing your product/service and expanding your empire.
Marketing automation can help you save a lot of time. You need not login to your CMS everytime you need to post to social media, send an email or post a blog. All of these can be setup in advance which means you will have more time to tackle the real problems. The above infographic reveals that…
- Automating social media posts can save upto six hours a week.
- Reply rate can be increased by as much as 250 percent by automating email outreach.
- 80 percent of the time can be saved by setting up appointments through an automated tool.
Marketing automation tools also come with awesome dashboards which make managing and tracking marketing campaigns easier. More importantly, they provide the right information at the right time that allows for faster, more accurate decisions.
Finally, marketing automation allows you to personalize content to different user segments and remain in contact with them. Such a feature is crucial for companies that want to build a brand as they can design and distribute content for people in different stages of the sales funnel and help them when needed.
Become a social media ace.
By now everyone knows that social media is good for business. Unfortunately, few people know how to leverage it and turn social channels into effective marketing mediums. Part of the problem lies in the fact that businesses still think of social media as just another sales channel where people will respond favorably to pitches. Nothing can be farther from the truth!
Social media is best thought of as a gathering of family and friends rather than a tradeshow. People hop onto Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to stay in touch with people they know, to learn about what’s going on in the world, to consume funny or entertaining content and to meet new people. Notice finding products or services doesn’t feature on this list, and it’s best we proceed accordingly.
Brands that become social media stars know they need to engage with their audiences on a personal level. The 70-20-10 strategy is a well tested method for social media marketing. Here’s how it works…
- 70 percent of the content you share should be informative and insightful.
- 20 percent of the content you share should be from other sources.
- 10 percent of the content you share should be promotional.
The better you understand your market and its pain-points, the greater the chance of a first hit home run. Obviously, this means doing your homework before getting started. Founding a company in the traditional sense is at best a peripheral attribute of business which itself is best defined as a process to achieve desired results. How this process should look and work depends entirely on your own goals.
With the tools and methods available today, you can easily develop a small-scale prototype of the process that you intend to use. Once you’re confident that you have a working method in place, starting a company, securing funding etc becomes a lot easier.