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How to Start a New Business in 2021

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It's time. You're ready to start making money overnight and learn how to start a new business. The pandemic of 2020 brought on a lot of changes for businesses with many relying on online stores, fast shipping, and new digital-based models. Do you have a business idea that will make it in 2021?

The Road After 2020

We’ve streamlined all of the entrepreneurial start-up business tips into one guide that takes you from business idea all the way to your exit strategy (should you need one).

If you're ready to take on these challenges and become an entrepreneur, this guide is packed with the latest advice and expert tips. For many entrepreneurs, the risks are worth the reward. So long as you use this guide and develop a winning business model, you’ll likely see your investment of time and money pay off big time.

How to Start a New Business in 2021

Congrats, you’re on your way to being a successful entrepreneur! So, what does that success look like exactly? Well, if you’re starting a new business, it means you've got a great idea and a plan to ensure its success. We'll share a step-by-step approach to setting up your business and planning for the future.

Start a New Business Today

Your New Business Idea

Here’s where it all begins. If you already have a good idea, then skip on down to Step #2. If you’re still mulling over a bunch of ideas, we’ve done some research on the most successful business models, as well as why you should avoid some “get rich quick” methods.

Start with a Proven Business Model

Offer Your Skills & Wisdom as a Consultant

Starting a consulting business is a great way to go if you have in-depth knowledge in a specific field. For example, you may have 10 years of marketing experience and skills that would help small or medium businesses trying to grow online.

Becoming a highly paid consultant has some huge payoffs, like picking your own clients, creating your own schedule, and gaining recognition for the excellent work you do in a specific niche.

You’ll need a website and great rates to attract clients at first, but as you build up your clientele, it will be important to start networking and manage your social media presence to coincide with your consultancy.
Consultancy Business Model Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Allows you to advance rapidly within a field
  • Build a powerful network of clients
  • High compensation
  • Manage life around your work
Cons
  • Requires time and money to setup
  • Necessary research into your niche
  • Could be highly competitive
  • Travel and networking requirements, best for those with good communication skills

Start an eCommerce Store

You can sell anything online, but you have to do it the right way. Dropshipping, MLM, and affiliate marketing blogs are scammy and don’t earn the way a legitimate online store can in today’s digital marketplace.

So, what kind of online store should you open? It really depends on your interest. Online clothing brands do really well with the right designs and marketing. However, there are also different models that are less traditional, such as a box subscription model like JerkyGent food subscription or Ipsy beauty products.

Perhaps you want to sell art online or join a marketplace like eBay or Etsy. If you have something in mind that you know people will buy, starting an online store is just the beginning. You’ll need to think about designs and products just as much as branding, inventory management, and shipping.

Some websites out there help with all of those issues at once, such as Shopify. In other cases, you may want to create your own shipping process and policies.

Being successful with an online store really depends on how quickly you’re able to translate an idea into a product that a target audience wants to buy.

Pros
  • Become a CEO quickly
  • Start your own brand and THRIVE
  • Easy online store builders help you set up fast
  • Build a loyal following of fans and customers
  • Sell unique products that no one else can offer
AD: Automatically upload products, sync inventory & route orders with dropship suppliers to virtually any online store, marketplace or ecommerce platform. Create a Free Account
Cons
  • May require hefty upfront investment depending on products and niche
  • Lots of market research required to understand audience
  • Continuous improvement to keep audience engaged and happy
  • Must plan for shipping, customer service, and marketing

These are just two ideas that are quick to get into and typically low-cost, depending on the niche and product. Some other ideas you may want to consider include:

  • Sell your developer skills
  • Ad management business
  • Vocation rental service
  • Business coaching or training service
  • Start a podcast
  • Become a streamer on YouTube or Twitch

Market/Opportunity Analysis

There are plenty of business ideas out there, but sometimes even the best laid plans don’t work out. To understand whether your idea is going to work or not, the next step is a market and opportunity analysis.

A simple way to do this is with a SWOT analysis.

Note: This just gets you started, we’ll cover more about market analysis down below.

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

A fun exercise is to just get a sheet of paper or set up a table with two columns and two rows. Label squares for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

In each box, you’ll list the answers to these questions in regard to your business idea. Remember: you’re ascertaining whether this is a good investment of your time, money, and energy. You may discover a huge threat during SWOT that makes you change your mind (and save you thousands of dollars!).

Tip: Depending on the business idea, you may want to do some further research on competitors, products, and marketing strategies before conducting a SWOT analysis.

Strengths

What would your business be known for?
What do you do well that contributes to this business?
What unique resources do you have to support this business?
What would third parties see as your business strengths?
What is your most valued audience and what does your business provide for them?

Weaknesses

What confuses you most about this business model?
Is anyone already doing this idea and what are they doing better?
Are there any resources you’re lacking to get started or be successful?
What equipment or other tangible assets will you need?
Do you have an ideal location for your business?
Who will you need on your team to make the idea work?

Opportunities

What market opportunities are present?
What strengths can you leverage for higher profits?
What trends are present you can take advantage of?
What’s something you’ll do that no one else is doing?

Threats

How well is your competition is doing?
What’s engagement like on social media for this niche?
Do your weaknesses expose you to high risk?
Do you have any budget constraints? Will you need investors?
Are there any legal complications or regulations that would get in the way?

You’ll start to see a strategy emerge after a SWOT analysis based on your answers. Essentially, this forces you to look at your business from new ways and think about it like an investor.

It’s best to bring in a couple of supportive minds to help you brainstorm and rank your ideas in a realistic way. If you see very little weaknesses and threats, then you likely have a great business model that you should get started on immediately.

Now that you’ve done some more research on your idea, it’s time to think about your audience with some more research and a market analysis.

How to Conduct a Market Analysis

When you’re planning your start-up business, you’ll need to think about how you’ll get your audience to purchase your products. It’s the basic goal of any business.

A market analysis helps you understand the brand, market position, and product development so that you ultimately create a business that customers will love.

There are four simple elements to a market analysis:

  1. Niche or Industry Overview: Take a look at what industry or niche your business will be categorized in. What’s the state of it now? What are the trends? How does your business add or change this industry?

  2. Target Audience: Who is your business for? What problems do your products solve? You should list out all of your customer types and include demographics like age, income, location, employment, etc.

  3. Market Competition: What competitors will you have to beat in this market? Are they large, corporate businesses? How do they position themselves in the market? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

  4. Pricing and Projections: How much will it cost to make your product or conduct your services? What profit margin are you looking for? What is the forecast for your market, and how much of the market do you want to control?

The goal of a market analysis is to really understand your audience and what challenges you face in terms of market competition. However, a major component is whether the return is worth the risk. One thing to always consider with a new business: will it be profitable?

If your SWOT analysis and market analysis show strong indicators that you have more opportunities than threats, as well as an eager, massive audience, you’re likely headed towards business success. Now it’s time to get serious about your plan and setup.

Business Planning 101

Brainstorming and analysis are the first steps to business planning, but at some point, you’ll need to actually formulate your ideas into a plan. Even though it’s more of a traditional approach to business planning, these documents can help you see your business exactly as an investor would see it--even if you are the only one investing in it.

When planning your business, you’ll want to cover the following, some to a great depth than others:

  • What's your business name?
  • How will your business be funded?
  • Main objectives of your business
  • Mission statement of your company
  • Keys to your brand’s success
  • Industry analysis
  • Market analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Core strategies for success
  • Marketing strategy
  • Management and business structure
  • Key operations needed
  • Projections and pro forms
  • Break-even analysis
  • Financial needs (start-up and ongoing)

That’s why this document is so crucial to launch your new business, whether you plan to seek out investors or not. Business planning helps you get organized and see what resources you need. Additionally, some fundraising environments are different and like to see unique factors in formal plans. You should look at business planning examples for similar companies or research what investors like to see in your industry.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to get started with business planning:

Know the Difference: Business Plan vs Pitch Deck vs Executive Summary

Harvard Business review stated that the most successful entrepreneurs were those who wrote a plan between 6 and 12 months after deciding to start. These plans led to increased viability success of 8 percent.
However, there are many ways to plan your business, and if you’re not seeking formal investors, you don’t need such a formal document. Instead, you want to use this document to get organized and match your business idea with goals and timelines. After all, if you don’t get organized and set deadlines for yourself, you may not get your idea off the ground.

So here are three ways to plan your business:

Traditional Plan

A business plan is a detailed document that shares how business will be vested, how it works, and what the future looks like. Any time that you are seeking loans or investments, you’ll need this formal document.

These are the key elements in your plan:

  • Executive summary (cover page)
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Marketing plan
  • Operational plan
  • Management and organization
  • Startup expenses and capital
  • Financial plan
  • Appendices

Pitch Decks

Business planning documents aren’t the same as pitch decks, which are used to “pitch” or present your idea. If you’re looking for partners or investors, this needs to be like your plan but much more exciting.

That’s because a pitch deck includes prototypes, metrics, and costs, more than planning and capital needed. Instead, you’re showing the bare bones of the operation with a lot of visual optics to keep your presentation interesting.

Plans and pitch decks often go together as most investors still need a formal plan, but the pitch deck is what sells your business one-on-one.

Typical pitch decks include:

  • Prototypes of products
  • 12-month expense projections
  • Marketing strategy
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Average customer value and customer lifetime value
  • Any testing results, including key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Proof of trends and consistent improvement
  • Knowing what your burn rate
  • Defense against falling below 6 months of cash (how you’ll keep making money

There are a number of pitch deck templates out there to help you get started.

Executive Summary

Every plan needs a cover page, which is your executive summary. It’s not a standalone document but many are confused about what it does and how long it should be.

Most executive summaries are no longer than one page. It should summarize everything about your business and plan. This gives you, your potential partners, or investors a look at your business is while teasing why they should invest in it.

Launching your business without a plan may seem like the fastest way to get started, but it’s also a quicker way into failure if you don’t see the threats coming towards you. Even if you know where your funding is coming from, do you know where it will go and how much you’ll need? That’s just one part of business planning that you’ll need to think about.

If you get bogged down in the details, just remember business planning is about naming the resources you have to allocate, the products you intend to sell, how you’ll cover production costs, and who is going to pay you for those products, as well as how much they’ll pay for your products.

Basically, does what your customers pay collectively cover your costs and generate a big profit? Then you’re on the right track!

Legal Compliance & Incorporation


There are always other risks that you have to consider in business planning. For that reason, we’ve isolated this section so you can conduct separate research into any legal risks and compliance requirements. You also legally need to set up your business at some point.

Five Legal Risks to Consider

It’s best to talk to a lawyer if you know there will be some legal issues. In some cases, you can protect yourself through contracts and filing to found your business in the right location.

These are some of the most common legal risks that face businesses today:

Contractual Risks

Most businesses have to enter agreements with third-party vendors or deals. These contracts are unavoidable and protect you against non-fulfillment. However, both you and the other party have risks of defaulting in a contractual agreement. If you plan on entering into large contracts, be prepared to have legal counsel if you are challenged on non-performance of the contract.

Personal Injury Risk

Will you have a need for manufacturing or a physical store front? Even if you have one employee, there’s a risk of personal injury. There can also be personal injury risk for the public depending on your business’ operations. This is why you’ll need to protect your business with legal representation.

Compliance and Regulations

There are rules and regulations for every type of business in every state, country, and region. It’s best to search and conduct research on any compliances related to your industry. For example, running a restaurant requires following certain food and hygiene regulations.

Much of this is avoidable if you are running your own business from your own, but if any part of your business materials are questionable or imply some hazardous risk, you’l lwant to consult a lawyer or even discuss with someone on Legal Zoom about compliance risks and fines.

Cyber security compliance is a huge one for any company operating online that collects consumer data and private information. There are also several policies regarding cookies and the collection of data. Websites must comply by asking your permission to collect private information, which you’ll think about when building your online store.

Data Theft

Considering opening an online store? Many companies have experienced data breaches, and they’ve been in business for decades. Target and Wal-Mart have suffered data breaches due to poor cyber security protocols. What will happen to your store if it was attacked by a hacker? These days you can implement security software for your website with a click of a button. It’s extremely important that you keep your customer’s data private and confidential, lest you face hefty fines for collecting consumer data without ensuring it won’ be released.

Scams and Fraud

Your business rating is built upon customer trust, so what happens when you ship something that breaks within the first day? If you don’t offer a return or replacement policy, you may be accused of scamming customers. This leads to a ton of problems for online reputation but also your Better Business Bureau rating. However, if you’re sued for scamming customers, you’ll likely not be able to continue your business at all. The only way to ensure that you don’t get accused of scams and fraud is to be completely transparent about your operations and make it impossible for fraud to happen. You definitely don’t want an FBI subpoena showing up at your door.

Why and How to Incorporate

It’s essential to incorporate your business to protect your personal assets while officially setting up a business that can purchase property and hire employers.

Every state has different processes for filing articles of incorporation, also known as incorporation your business or how you get that “Inc” after your company name.

One thing we suggest doing first is to simply look up your state and how to file articles of corporation. This will lead you directly to the website with specific information on how to start your business and what it will cost to file your articles of incorporation.

So, here’s a brief breakdown of what you’ll need to incorporate your business:

  • Find a name that’s available. Seriously you can’t incorporate a business that already exists. There are online databases for all 50 states.

  • You’ll need create “corporate bylaw” documents for incorporation, but LLCs require LLC operating agreements.

  • File your articles of corporation. Each state has an online portal where you can download these documents and then file in person. Some states also allow you to file by email, online, or fax machine. There are also different fees in every state, including one to expedite your certificate or recept that confirms your business’ legal incorporation.

  • Hold your first meeting. You’ll need to document the founding of your business with an official meeting. This means that you’ll need to record the names of people present, what money and assets were exchanged, as well as who owns the company or how it’s organized. Anyone who is a partner will need to sign the bylaws or operating agreement.

  • Set up your EIN. Most businesses require a federal employer identification number called a FEIN or EIN. You can apply for an EIN through the IRS’ website.

When to Hire & When to Outsource

It’s official! You’re incorporated and ready to grow as a business. So who is going to help you? Once you start building your business, you may find that you can’t do it on your own. If you’re not sure how many employees you can afford just yet, that’s not a problem. You really need to decide if you can afford to run your business without essential employees who would help your business grow, improve products, and make more money.

One huge determination in hiring employees is whether you’re looking for long-term hires or short-term help that can improve your business.

Big Question: Hire Employees or Outsource?

There are some benefits with each for businesses. You may want to hire dedicated employees if you need ongoing, serious help, such as a bookkeeper to help with all those accounting issues or maybe it’s an operations manager to keep production running.

In other cases, maybe you need to outsource your website development to get your online store up and running as soon as possible.

So, here’s what you consider when looking at who to hire:

Pros and Cons of Hiring In-House Employees

Pros

  • Dedicated workers who make sure your business runs successfully
  • Keep control of essential, core business functions
  • Talk and interact with employees directly, in-house
  • Learn of problems and risks faster

Cons

  • Higher costs for health insurance and benefits
  • Hiring under-skilled employees may lead to more costs
  • Difficult to find candidates for the right fit and salary
  • Develop and maintain a work culture

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Pros

  • Better for completing temporary tasks and projects in faster time
  • Global hiring pool
  • Access to cheaper labor costs
  • Maintain a 24/7 presence by hiring contractors in different time zones
  • Lower expenses and risks

Cons

  • Exposes your intellectual property to temporary contractors
  • Freelancer may lie about experience, wasting your time
  • Opens up security risks, particularly with web development and database management
  • Some investments into software or app development more costly than others

There are a number of services and third-party vendors out there that can take care of certain tasks and even manage parts of your business if you need help. However, they won’t be as accountable or dedicated to your brand as an employee.

Then again, you may not need a full-time web developer. You may need someone to build out your store, set up your online catalog, and secure your databases, but hours will likely reduce once you only need website management and updates.

You’ll need to think about who is essential for your company to run correctly and how much you can offer employees. Hourly and salary employees also have different requirements, as well as benefits based on part-time or full-time positions.

In the end, outsourcing or using a vendor may be better if you are setting up a completely online business. For example, if you’re a designer, you may choose to sell your products through a site like Society6.com, which does all the production, printing, and shipping for your art. These vendors do take a percentage of your profits, so it’s always better if you can cover the costs yourself and increase your profits per sale.

Choosing a Headquarters Location

When launching a startup, you may want to stay at home and figure out headquarters later. That may not be such a bad idea if you’re limited on funds and have everything you need, but what if you want to sell in-person? You’ll need a great market and a city that supports your niche.

In other cases, you may want to move to a city you love that has plenty of opportunities. Where you start your business may also change depending on how you grow, but it’s an important thing to consider before launching your new brand.

Here are three questions to consider when choosing a headquarter location:

What city can you afford?

While Silicon Valley and New York City seem like great locations for start-ups, especially when trying to raise venture capital, these are also incredibly expensive locations for start-ups. You’ll want to look at the cost of office space and operation locations, as well as the cost to house yourself and hire the top talent if looking for in-house employment.

Where is your industry most popular?

There’s a start-up every 100 feet in San Francisco, and it’s a fast-moving, advanced city. However, is it where your fashion line headquarters would do best? Fashion designers looking for other industry leaders should probably think about New York.

Even if you have an online business, you may still want to set up a physical storefront in your biggest market. For example, Warby Parker started out with just one location as their headquarters while increasing their business through an online store.

What are the limitations of your potential city?

Do you need a warehouse? Are you a fan of long commutes and traffic? Some areas may seem like they have it all, but what would your day-to-day look like? If you need a large space on the cheap side, then you’re likely not going to find one in a densely populated, high-rent area.

Much of where you ‘ll start depends on the talent pool and market demands. It’s best to launch in growing areas that are close to a metro or market that will be beneficial for your business.

Setting Up Domains, Emails & Phone Numbers

Every business needs a website. Even if you chose to do a consultancy, you’ll need your own websites to share your business information, portfolio, history, proof of work, and other ideas. If choosing to build an online store, you may want to work with a website builder, such as Shopify or Magento.

Getting Started with the Digital Side of Your Business

There are a lot of steps in between, but this quick start guide will go over the most important parts of setting up your website, company email, phone number, and other considerations.

Register a Domain

Before you build your website, you’ll need to register a domain address, such as www.yourbusinessname.com. The best domains typically end with .com, but you’ll find others out there that make sense such as .us, .co, or .net. The best website names are easy to type and phonetically spell without any dashes.

It’s also important that your domain connects to your brand. If selling a baby’s clothing line, XYZClothes.com is not going to work as well as XYZBabyClothes.com. The name should relate to your product and audience.

Setting Up Company Emails

A professional business also has a professional email address with your company’s domain name at the end. It builds more trust and sets your digital business up for success.

You only need a domain name, website, and email service provider to create your business email address, but the technical side can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar.

Once you register your domain, you’ll also want to start up your company email. When you purchase hosting, you’ll likely also see business email hosting. You can pay for this service, or you can opt for cheaper business email through Gmail.

You can also find a guide to setting up your business email for free.

Setting Up Your Business Phone System

Do you plan to have a customer service line or accept phone calls from vendors? You’ll need separate lines for your business, customer service, vendors, and sales. Digital phone systems can route these calls to different phone numbers and devices.

A virtual phone system is often a reliable and affordable solution for small businesses. Multiple VoIP and virtual phone systems also have call management, multi-line management, extensions, and customer support.

One of the most important things to do is consider your customer support and sales options. If you rely on B2B communications and outbound sales, then you’ll need a phone system that supports customer management through a CRM as well. You’ll need to look into how your CRM and phone integrate to properly set up your sales and customer service teams for success.

In other cases, you may want to look at virtual customer service options or outsource your customer support if you’re fully ready to commit resources to hiring these individuals or invest in a full phone system.

Choosing a Host & Building a Website

A cornerstone of your business will be your company website or online store. To get started, you’ll want to find a host that can support your business’ traffic and storage needs. If you’re a startup with absolutely no following or current customer base, then you may not need an enterprise host with its own dedicated server.

Buy and Set Up Web Hosting

However, hosting plans should be considered by cost and scalability. Prices are typically determined by bandwidth usage, storage & RAM. Basically, how much traffic do you plan to receive now and in the future?

You also want to look at how much handholding you’ll need when setting up your server and website. If you’re not familiar with web hosts and setting up servers, you may want to hire a web systems manager to help you get started or look for a host that makes it easy to set up a website with a builder.

The cheapest type of hosting is shared hosting, which means you’ll be sharing a server with other website owners. This can be risky and limits your capabilities with server settings.

The next step is a VPS or virtual private server, which is a virtual machine that runs on a box. These are like shared services but offer more security and performance since they are isolated in their own boxes. You’ll need to understand server maintenance, security, and management to set up this hosting.

There are also cloud servers that can be customized to whatever settings you wish. These are also built to scale, where the host is ready to supply more storage and bandwidth even with surges in traffic. Amazon Web Services is a type of cloud server host.

Not looking to share any servers or boxes with others? Then you’ll want a dedicated server. This is the most expensive option but also the safest for cyber security reasons. It will require its own setup and management unless you choose dedicated server management services.

Host and Build Your Website

If you don’t have any experience with buying a web host and building a website, then you may want to look at package websites for small businesses through Shopify or WordPress. This website and most of our others, are hosted with CloudWays. These all provide you with hosting and a website builder for a quick start.

Otherwise, you’ll need to configure your server to build your first website and select a language to create your website in. This is where it helps to have a web developer on your team if you’re not familiar with building your own website.

Quick Start for Online Stores: Find an eCommerce Website Builder

Sometimes the best way to start a website is to just find something quick and get started. This is especially true if you have your idea and lots of demand. If you want to get started quickly without any programming knowledge, you’ll use a website builder.

In this case, we wanted to find the best online store builders because it’s the fastest way to start selling your products online.

Here are the top website builders currently:

WordPress with WooCommerce

A product of WordPress, WooCommerce is a great add-on if you’re already building a WordPress website and want to start a store. It has advanced features and product catalogs to set up your online store, as well as customer and store administrator account organization.

Shopify

It’s the highest-rated online store builder with thousands of themes to choose from to customize your store. It’s easy to use, flexible, and scales with your business. There’s also tons of support and apps that you can use to take care of shipping. However, Shopify can get pretty expensive per month, and there are transaction fees.

Squarespace

This website builder can work for creatives who want to sell online but don’t require a huge product catalog or customer account organization. You can sell products, services, and subscriptions, but it doesn’t have a lot of scalability.

GoDaddy Store Builder

For a very simple start with zero coding knowledge, you can use GoDaddy’s online store builder and get started for free. There are a number of store options, mobile-responsive themes, social widgets, and content modules that you can place with drag and drop functionality. It may be a cheaper way to get started, and it comes with 24/7 support.

Should You Hire a Developer and Build Your Own Website?

The first thing to consider is that if you want a customized website and store, you’ll likely need to work with a developer. You can outsource through UpWork to find a freelance developer or look for a local developer to work with.

In many cases, entrepreneurs partner with web developers and offer a revenue share to make up for upfront investments if lacking. In other cases, you’ll need to have a budget that includes website design, wireframing, development for your store and site, backend development, frontend development, and other core functions.

Ideally, a custom website comes with better options for scalability, but you also have to be careful of hiring custom development overseas without knowing how to use your website. If you don’t use a content management system like WordPress, then you’ll need to learn how to update your website or you’ll end up hiring a website manager or content manager who can do it for you.

The best way to build your website is what matches your budget and skill level. If you want to describe a site and have it designed for you, hiring a creative digital agency may be best. Agencies can design and build your website, while also connecting other pieces such as customer service chat programs, search engine optimization, social media marketing widgets, and customer relationship management (CRM) tools.

Advertising & Marketing

Marketing is usually an afterthought once you set up the business, but you’ll need to get a plan together to help others see your business and products.

If you were able to score a large investment for your startup, then you’ve probably got more than enough to get started with advertising and marketing your new business. However, we want to help you keep your start-up costs lean and green.

All new businesses need marketing to grow and let everyone know it exists. The majority of new businesses don’t have a lot of money to hire a marketing consultant or engage an agency for a market launch strategy. If you do have the budget, then let the professionals guide your brand through digital waters and get as many passengers as possible.

However, if you want to do it on your own, these tips can help you avoid the pitfalls and mistakes of marketing your brand for the first time.

Unify Your Branding

Now is the time to look at your website, branded graphics, product images, social media images, and videos to see how they communicate your brand. A quick way to start is to run a brand architecture exercise. Not only will this help with your branding and marketing strategy, but it's beneficial for social media marketing, advertising campaigns, and other content marketing strategies.

This determines the core of your brand as well as value proposition and brand voice.

  • Brand Essence: What is the core of your brand products and services? Think about your niche or industry.
  • Brand Values: What is most important to your brand and products?
  • Brand Promise: What’s your mission? What do you promise to your customers and followers?
  • Value Proposition: What sets apart your brand and products? Why is it valuable to your customer?
  • Brand Voice: What does your brand communicate and how do they speak to customers? If your brand had a voice, would it be silly and operatic or refined and cool?

Here’s a sample brand architecture chart to help you get started:

Once you have a defined brand architecture, you’ll want to put all the pieces in place with brand style guidelines. This covers how your brand looks, logos, color palettes, marketing materials, banner ads, and other graphics or videos. Once finished, you should have cohesive branding you can use across all channels.

Define Goals and KPIs

What does success mean to your brand? While making money is important, you likely have other goals that matter to your success such as building your social following or lead generation. It’s best to list out these goals and also look at key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter to your business. Shopify named 67 Key Performance Indicators for Ecommerce that you can use to get started.

Determine Your Budget

When it comes to marketing, you’ll need to determine how much you can spend per year, as well as how much you can spend per day. How much is a lead worth to your business? What’s the average customer lifetime value? What average order value do you need to hit?

You should answer these questions and understand what you’ll need to start advertising online if you plan to use any of these advertising channels:

  • Paid Facebook advertising
  • Paid Instagram advertising
  • Google text ads
  • Google display ads
  • Mobile banner ads
  • Other social advertising

In addition, content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) are other ways to market your business that may cost less. These methods rely on optimized content and inbound marketing to generate traffic, leads, and sales.

Follow Your Audience

When marketing online, you’ll want to determine your specific niche and audience. You may want to create buyer personas based on demographics, as well as follow your audience on social media to see what the trends are and what your audience engages with.

Digital marketing allows you to target your niche and audience so specifically that you can literally upload email address and phone numbers of potential customers to set up your audience list.

You can also use market research and targeting factors to narrow down your audience. For example, Facebook advertising offers over millions of data points to select and build audiences. Google also allows advertisers to target audiences and specific niches based on all kinds of demographics and behaviors.

Once you define your audiences, you can segment and assign audiences to specific campaigns, which makes better use of your budget rather than trying to cast a wide net such as with a TV commercial.

Publish Quality Content and Audience Interaction

Marketing isn’t all about advertising and paid online media. You also want to create high-quality content that your audience will like and engage with. Through blogging, brands can establish authority on keywords and subjects that their audience searches. You can also link to these blog posts via social media to spread more awareness and gain traffic.

It’s important to publish content consistently to all social media channels where your audience lives and interacts. Most people visit social media on their phones, which is why it’s also important that your site, product pages, landing pages, and blogs load quickly for mobile users.

When developing content, you should always include visuals or videos that your audience will relate to. High quality content typically has 1 or more photos or videos to communicate ideas, while also partnering with the perfect caption or messaging to capture interest.

There are a number of social media management and content marketing apps that can help you build your presence and manage your content online. For example, Tailwind can help you aggregate and schedule hundreds of posts, while optimizing your posts for the best times for engagement.

Engage Influencers and Create Demand

It always helps to have an influencer partner with your brand. Influencers use their social media power and engaged followers to support brand partners. Sometimes it’s an ongoing partnership under contract, and in other cases, you can partner in exchange for products that they review on their social media channels.

If you’re a new brand, these relationships are important as you want the trendsetters to like your product and support it. However, you also should be careful to have a contract in place that specifies how many posts you’re looking for and when they’ll be posted.

It’s best to partner with influencers who have over 10,000 engaged followers and who match your brand values. If there any brand guidelines you want influencers to follow, you should share these before confirming a contract.

When done right, these relationships can be mutually supportive and lead to incredible virality on social media. There are also a few websites you can use to find influencers, but it’s better if you follow your audience and look at who they engage with the most.

Set Up Your Tracking and Analytics

Google Analytics is free and essential to tracking everything with your website. From traffic to referrals to conversion goals to bounce rates, Google Analytics can tell you a lot about your website performance. You can also sign up for Google Search Console to understand search performance, and it’s free.

If running any type of marketing campaigns through Facebook, Google, or other platforms, you’ll also want to install conversion tracking pixels, also known as cookies. To use cookies and tracking on your website, you’ll need to comply with The Cookie Law.

There are a number of tools out there that can help with other marketing. For example, SEMRush is a great platform for search engine performance, analyzing keywords, and understanding your rank.

Learn Your Best Channels and Optimize

With your analytics and tracking in place, you’ll start to see where your best traffic comes from within Google Analytics and any other analytics tools you use. You should pay attention to the channels with the most active users and see which referrals actually convert into customers.

Google Analytics also allows you to set up conversion goals that show attribution whenever a specific conversion takes place on your website. After tracking your website’s traffic for 30 days, you should see what your highest performing pages are and optimize those pages for higher conversions. You may even want to build promotions around these higher-performing products.

What About Print or Direct Mail Marketing?

Local store owners looking for more foot traffic or if you have a location-based business can take advantage of print marketing better than other businesses. However, you can just as easily set up geo-targeting and geofencing for your online offers.

Constant and Never-Ending Improvement

Your online business may have just started, but that doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. The best businesses that bring in the most revenue are constantly looking for ways to streamline, improve customer experiences, and sell to new markets.

Once you build out your website, it’s important to track bounce rates, cart abandons, and pages with poor traffic so you can see what your audience likes. You can improve these pages and enhance products that your customers really like by offering add-ons or complementary products.

Email marketing is another tool that you should capitalize on. You can use email for sending customer order information, but it’s also a tool for nurturing leads and enhancing the customer journey. You’ll need email marketing to improve engage and share direct offers with your most loyal customers.

The Exit Strategy - Sell, Franchise, or IPO?

What does the endgame look like for your business? Hopefully, you’re rolling in the dough! Whether you want to continue with the same business model or change it to maximize your profits, here are three exit strategies if you’re looking to step back and make money without being so involved.

Sell It

Many businesses sell to the highest bidder, especially when the market is changing or when the offer is just too good to ignore. Facebook bought Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013. It soared to $31 billion during its IPO in 2017. However, it’s lost some worth since then. Should Snapchat have sold to Facebook? Well, it really depends on your goals as an owner.

If you want to keep expanding your business and create a legacy, you may not want to cash in on the first offer. Here are three of the best reasons to sell:

  • Running a business is risky. If you’re in danger of failing, then it may be time to sell when a top offer comes by.
  • You’re tired of running the business and dealing with damage control. Maybe it’s time to sell and start something that you truly love.
  • It’s simply too good of an offer to ignore. If it’s time for a change and you want to seek new opportunities, then accept those billions to get going on something new.

Franchise It

If you do want to keep going with your business, then there are always ways to make even more money through franchising opportunities. When you franchise a business, you bring on local partners who will use your business model to open up a new store using their own funding. The deal is that you provide branding and marketing while the franchisee helps your business grow, mutually benefiting off of profits from the franchisee’s stores. You’ll be responsible for recruiting, training, and offering support to franchisees.

You’ll also need to establish a separate franchise identity, trademark your company, and file a franchise disclosure document (FDD).

Take It Public

For the truly ambitious, you may want to consider taking your company public or an initial public offering (IPO). This is when you take your business to the stock market and get investors to buy stock in your business. This is only for businesses who have proven their business model works and have tons of capital. If truly considering going public, you may want to read this Guide to IPOs.

How to Start a Business: Next Steps

Is Your Business Going to Be a Success?
If you’ve followed this guide and considered each step, you’ve got all the planning and motivation to move forward with your business idea. In most cases, all an idea needs is someone with time and motivation to make it work.

However, you should never be discouraged by obstacles and challenges. These are chances to overcome and show yourself that it’s worth investing in your ideas and your dreams.

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