Success is the entire point of starting a business, nobody wants it to fail. The reality, though, is that there’s a romantic ideal around the concept of starting a new business that ends up leaving a lot of things to chance.
We’ve all known someone who was really good at what they did & they eventually decided to set up business doing that thing, only to have it fizzle out in near-record time. The results of this can be catastrophic for the business owner & concerning for their friends & family, as they begin to recover from the financial disaster.
So what’s the main reason for a new business that fails? Here’s a quick little story for you that we think provides a pretty good example.
The Story of the New Business Owner - Skilled in Trade But Not in Communication
A casual acquaintance of ours recently decided to start a new business & invited us to like their social accounts, which we were more than happy to do. We’re business people, so of course we were interested…so we hopped on over to their website to see what she had going on!
What we found, though, was confusing. The website presented a very unclear message – we aren’t really sure what it was being offered, what the price point was, or what the next logical step would be. The branding seemed a little mismatched, and there simply wasn’t a clear direction. Super confusing!
While on our morning walk, we discussed a bit about what was going on with that – it’s of particular interest to us, because we work with small businesses which are usually just starting out on their journey. We offer some key services for what this person would have needed to immediately put their best business foot forward, and we wondered how we could use this particular case as an example of how a new business owner needs to present their business.
This acquaintance of ours got excited about the possibility of serving folks in the area with the skills that they admittedly do have but the presentation on their website & social media was all over the place – the social handles (account names) were all different & not cohesive, the website had another business name in the byline, probably due to a shift in this person’s focus, and there was no clear “this is what I do, here’s what you do next” call to action (CTA) on the website.
Basically, this person assumed that their audience would automatically understand what they were doing & would understand intuitively what they needed to do in order to hire them for their services. They’re skilled at what they do but not very good at telling other people how to hire them, what to expect, etc. This is really, really common in new businesses & we see it all the time.
Start Your Business by Considering How It Will Be Perceived
The average person starting a new business experiences frustrations because they don’t understand that they need to remove themselves from the picture & think about how to explain to others what they do & how to work with them. It’s retraining yourself how to think about things & becoming more methodical across the board, not just your craft.
New businesses should:
- Define the business brand in clear language. I think that there are four questions that every business should answer for this point:
- Who are you?
- What makes you different?
- How expert are you at what you do?
- What assurances or guarantees can you give your customers?
- Provide an organized list of services with a clear call to action – can you think of anything more frustrating than reading up on a service that you’d like to use but there’s nothing saying how to use that service?
- Proofread the language on their website to ensure that it’s spelled correctly, grammatically correct, professional, and not confusing. There are tools that can help identify the proper language like Google Trends (which is free) or a free SEMRush account.
- Provide a way for people to give feedback or ask questions – if you’re not hearing from people, you’ve got no idea if your message is hitting the mark.
Avoiding the New Business Pitfalls
(Learn from the Experts)
It IS possible to do it all yourself as a new business owner – after all, isn’t that the point of being an entrepreneur? For your visual elements, you can work with a friend with an interest in graphic design for your logo and branded materials and you can use a free website builder to get started. You can craft your own message, and tailor it as you need. You can also wonder why things aren’t hitting just right, and you can also become really disillusioned with the lack of interest after the initial push from friends & family wears off. How are you going to be found? How are you going to maintain brand cohesion when your pal has to focus on their regular 9-5 instead of helping you? How are you going to knock your prospective client’s socks off with a website that doesn’t even tell you what the desired outcome is (click here, consult, etc.)
Or, you can hire experts to help you along the way. We’ve worked with thousands of businesses around the world & while it’s true that they’re all unique, there are standard items that can dramatically cut down on the new business learning curve & ease the pain of “OMG I’m a new business, what-the-heck-do-I-do-now-why-isn’t-this-woooooorrrrkkkinngg?” What we want for each of our clients – no matter how big, small, new, or established you are – is success. Sure you can do it all on your own, but how’s your sanity going to be? Will you even have time for family and friends? What about common mistakes & missteps that you may not be aware of that someone in our position has seen repeatedly & knows to caution the new arrival about?
Still Following the DIY Business Path?
No problem! There are resources that can help a new business owner but we’re not all wired to think the same, so why not start easy?
Start By Researching Your Competition
Research someone who’s been doing the same thing for years that you’re thinking of doing. Why would you do this? Because they’ve worked out a lot of the kinks over the years & they’ve honed their message specifically for their market, which will also be your market, assuming that you’re in the same area, and you can & should learn from experience … it doesn’t all have to come from the school of hard knocks.
Make a Plan to Create a Cohesive Brand Online & Keep it Organized
After you’ve done your initial research, lay out a plan of how you’re going to proceed. There’s a lot to keep track of, so good organization is essential! Make sure that your licenses & permits are all covered, that you’ve got a good accountant, and that you’re on your A game for first impressions.
On that last point, we recommend setting up social media accounts that will match your website’s branding with the profile picture & header image (where applicable) on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest & YouTube. It sound like a lot but it should only take a few minutes to set each account up. you might be thinking that you don’t need YouTube but if you think about the fact that YouTube is owned by Google, the SEO advantages of having that account become pretty obvious – also it goes a long way for people to see how a business’ people conduct themselves before they do business with them.
Plan for the Future
I will readily admit that this is a bit of a soapbox for me but I can’t stress enough that not all website plans or platforms are created equal & it’s really important to think about what all you think your website might need to do in the next ten years because it is a pain to migrate a website to a new platform after a few years. We prefer to work with WordPress & WooCommerce because these are very forgiving platforms & allow the greatest flexibility for website owners when they need to make changes, which happens all the time. All. The. Time.
There are platforms out there that do a great job of marketing their (FREE!) website builder but the capability is incredibly limited & we’ve seen people get outright defrauded by these folks. Other spaces that are square are incredibly powerful & nimble but if something doesn’t work right on their service as a result of their own code, they’re likely to shrug & say there’s nothing they can do about it even though you’ve prepaid for two years & it’s crippling your website. Still other shopping website platforms require a monthly subscription for nearly every new capability that the website incorporates.
So having a powerful, flexible, & forgiving CMS like WordPress & an eCommerce solution like WooCommerce is, in our opinion, the best way for most online businesses. Just make sure that you’ve picked out a good host. Most cheap ones aren’t.
Figure Out How to Get Discovered
Being online is easy. Getting found online is a little trickier. You’ll need to take a two-pronged approach to how your business is discovered online:
- Start out with ads. This is a cost of doing business, is usually tax deductible in the US, and will give you immediate feedback on how well your message resonates with people.
- Beef up your SEO. Good SEO is really what every business wants because it provides them with cost-free, pre-qualified website traffic. It’s possible to show your ads to the wrong person but nobody’s going to search for something online that they don’t want to see. It’s important to understand that good, solid SEO takes time because search engines watch how people interact with the search results that they see & change search rankings based on that all the time
Keep It Simple
The temptation is always there for a business to expand its offerings but there are few things that can damage a business reputation more than being a jack of all trades & master of none. Focus on your core offerings & make damn sure that they’re always solid before you even think about expanding the choices that people have when they deal with your company. Will that shiny new service cause your other services to suffer if it’s introduced? Don’t do it!
Monitor Your Results
Why do so many people starting out opt to go the route of a free website builder, incoherent brands, and website copy that doesn’t quite make sense?
We think it’s because they assume it’s too cost-prohibitive.