Whilst on a recent holiday, I received a text message from a friend saying “I've been writing lots of ideas about a new business venture and I can't wait to get started”. If there is one thing I love about starting a new business, it is the excitement of creating something new. The ideas about your new venture will pop into your head constantly, which fuels the next stage of the business.
Yesterday I was chatting with a lady who has recently started her new business adventure, and she is keen to get going. As I was challenging her on the marketing side of things it made me realise that there really are five key things that you need to establish before you should be taking on clients and customers. The five key areas below are not the basics such as CRM systems, accounting systems, cash flow forecast, business plan, etc. – these should already be completed. The five key areas below are purely focused on a sales and marketing perspective. If you want new customers, then work through the following five steps:
Step 1 – Deciding your business name
Your business name is crucial to the success of your company. Ideally, you want a name that has a story behind it as this can be used in your marketing moving forward. Many people know the story of how Green Umbrella was created (the story of the trailer tent), but my initials are also JD, if you put the D on top of the J then you have the shape of an umbrella (clever eh? – Mark Mundin is rather brilliant!). But, I didn't really think about my target audience when I set up the company. Over 60% of Green Umbrella customers are recruitment agencies and an “umbrella company” was not such a clever idea – if you are in the recruitment world, then you will understand why this was a bad choice of name. When we present at exhibitions, or I am presenting at recruitment shows, then we first need to get over the issue of “we are a marketing company, not an umbrella company”.
Top tips for your company name:-
- Avoid initials or your own name if you are thinking of selling the business at a later stage
- Choosing a colour as part of your name works well (look into colour theories before deciding on a colour)
- Choosing an object also works well (Think of Purple Brick or Red Letter Days)
- Avoid a name that people struggle to spell or pronounce
- Ensure that you have a story behind the choice of your new name
Step 2 – Create a range of logos
Creating the logo is actually one of the most exciting areas of your business, and it is also the most significant. The logo needs to stand alone and be bold enough to say “This is who we are and what we represent”. The biggest mistake I see is that people fail to produce a range of logos that work well in different scenarios. For example, please, please, please ensure that your designer has created a square version of your logo. The square version will be used as the avatar (profile picture) on all of your social media accounts, from Facebook to LinkedIn Company pages to Instagram – square is good! Ask your designer to produce 3-4 different versions of your logo, including a transparent version of the logo, as I guarantee you will use this one the most!
Top tips for creating a logo
- Always have a square version of your logo created
- Logos should be simple and not too wordy
- Words are good, but please do not use “word art” it is so 1990's!
- Your logo is going to be with you for the life of your business, so invest in getting it created properly from the start.
- Make sure that you know your hex colours (ask your designer) as you will need these later on with your other marketing activities.
Step 3 – Create a website
Before you move on to create any social media accounts, the first thing that you need to do is to create a website. You may be thinking to yourself “do I really need a website? Can't I just use my Facebook page?”. Social Media Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are excellent channels to tell the world about what you do, but you have no control over these platforms. What happens if Facebook decides that from next month all businesses on Facebook need to pay a min of £500 a month? Or, like last week, Google Plus just decided that it was no longer viable and shut down. I remember building testimonials on my LinkedIn company page a few years ago, and then LinkedIn decided to pull the plug on that aspect of a company page – 112 testimonials went down the drain! The bottom line is that you have no control over these social media sites, but you DO have control over your website. Use social media to drive traffic back to your site as that is where you are going to get most of your conversions.
Top tips for creating a website
- You need a site that YOU have control over, not your web developer
- Build a site on an open source platform such as WordPress, Joomla or something
- A site should be editable by YOU.
- A startup does not always need an all singing and dancing website. Start with a small site, but you need to make sure that you can add to it over time. I guarantee that the site you build today will need to be altered and changed in the next 6-12 months.
- Please ensure that your website has a blogging element or a news page – adding new content to your website is an essential ingredient to the success of your website and is one of the best strategies to gain traffic to your site. – This blog is an example – you are on my site because you are reading this blog :-).
Step 4 – Think about your “tone of voice”
What does “tone of voice” actually mean, or is it just marketing speak? Establishing your tone of voice is important as it is fed through your business like blood through your veins. It is the heart of the business, and if you do not voice your values, ethics and establish ground rules, then the company feels rather disjointed before you even start. So yes, thinking about your tone of voice is essential. Your tone of voice is the brand personality of the company. What type of business are you? Are you an innovative brand that is creating new ideas and products? Perhaps you are a “trust brand” – the company that people go to that they trust 100%, if so then your content needs to be very much revolved around testimonials, case studies, giving advice, etc. You may be a “power brand” – the type of company that is a thought leader in your industry, therefore your content should be driven by opinions and new ideas.
Your tone of voice needs to be reflective in everything you do. From the way you and your team answer the phone, to the voicemail message, to your email signature, to the communication and content that you provide online. Everyone that is involved with your business needs to understand your “tone of voice” as this soon becomes part of your brand, along with your logo.
When you look at Green Umbrella Marketing, you will hopefully understand our tone of voice.
Top tips for creating a tone of voice:-
- Complete a brand personality assessment; this will give you a good idea (click here)
- Ask friends or clients to give you three words to describe your business
- Ensure that your tone of voice is reflected in all aspects of your business – from your email signature to how the phone is answered.
Step 5 – Create your services
Sometimes we over think our services and this makes it complicated for the end user. It is important to make sure that you are seeing your business and your services from a clients perspective. The minute that we introduced three simple packages at Green Umbrella and removed lots choice available, the easier it was to secure a new customer. How are you presenting your services to your clients? Do they understand what you are offering? If all else fails then do the “mum” test. If you are not sure, then ask someone (I usually ask my mum) to have a look at your offerings and see if they can explain to you what it is that you do – if they struggle to relate your offerings then you need to go back to the drawing board. In the words of Kelly Johnson… “Keep it simple, stupid”.
Top tips for creating your offerings:
- Think about the customer journey – how do they book? It is obvious what you do?
- With your services, ensure that you are writing the content through your customers' eyes. For example, use words such as YOU and YOU'RE, rather than words such as “WE or US or OUR”.
- Remember, the more clicks, the more friction you are causing – keep it simple.
- Do not ask people to “email for more information” or “Call us now” – replace with a live chat or have the answers online in an FAQ page. People are time-starved and want answers immediately.
Step 6 – Bonus tip! Start your email list at the very beginning
The best form of marketing is email marketing. Social media is huge, but you can not beat the conversion rates from a well-structured email campaign. If I could turn the clock back for all of my businesses then the best advice I would give myself is to start gathering emails and data as soon as you can. This may be in the form of people subscribing to a webinar, taking a survey or perhaps some type of eBook or giveaway, but gaining data from the outset will be the one thing that you will not regret.
Starting a new business is very exciting, and I am envious of anyone who is about to embark on this incredible journey. I have created numerous businesses (not all of them successful), but each time I wish I had listened to my own advice. I wish I had collected email addresses from the start of Green Umbrella and I also wish that we had not waited as long to create a simplified version of our services, both of these elements, once changed, made a dramatic improvement to our bottom line.
If you are at the stage of thinking about launching a new business, then I would highly recommend a book called “Will it fly” by Pat Flynn. This book walks you through a set procedure to test your idea and see if it will be successful without spending a fortune on set up costs.
I hope you find the above tips helpful.
If you are an established business owner, or perhaps a business coach then I invite you to share your advice in the comments below.