By Pamela Webber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs
For all the new freedoms and exciting milestones that entrepreneurship brings, there are also a number of unexpected road bumps that come up along the way. The good news is that there are also a ton of online resources that can help you get started and (hopefully) steer clear of common early-stage missteps. Plenty of highly qualified people find themselves held back by the same easily avoidable problems — laying out potential obstacles can help you plan your path around them. So let’s take a look at what you can do get ahead now, so you’re not gasping for air later.
New business? New (unexpected) problems.
1. It’s all about you.
You’ve always been a multitasker, but when it comes to your own business, you will have a hand in everything. From administrative time-consumers such as tax returns, bills, and payroll, to more strategic challenges like logo design, marketing, and branding — everything that gives a business its credibility, experience, and overall perception will now be entirely up to you. Let that sink in for a moment. Too many entrepreneurs let indecision and perfectionism slow them down. Consider your options, make a decision, commit to it, then tackle the next item on your list.
2. Planning matters.
No entrepreneur is going to stand up and cheer about writing a business plan. Even so, it isn’t as bad as you think. A business plan serves as your foundation. With it, you can go after funding, attract partners, and better sell your idea. It’s a handy reference to see what you have, what you want, and where your business is headed. Your pitch is your launchpad. From there, you can write your business plan to include the items that best fit what your business is about.
3. Want to be remembered? Build a brand.
With so many tasks to check off your never-ending to-do list, good old branding is sometimes tossed to the side. But long-time entrepreneurs know that creating a strong, trustworthy brand is one of the most important factors of a successful business—especially when you’re just starting out. Consumers relish in connecting personally with different companies, so don’t be afraid to show them what you’re all about. No matter how you choose to brand your business, you will need to keep a consistent tone and aesthetic across every marketing channel you use. Don’t muffle your message. Make sure your branding instantly reflects your business, and your passion, loud and clear.
4. No landing page means fewer leads.
Landing pages are highly targeted pages that lead away from your social networks, pay-per-click advertising, and content marketing efforts, and go directly to a page on your site with a specific call-to-action. Most entrepreneurs have a website, but far too many overlook how important it is to create landing pages. You might use it to generate leads (a great way to snag email addresses from potential customers) or you might gently push what you are about, before sending them down along the sales funnel. A landing page is a sure-fire way to get your product in the face of new customers or go after new clients.
5. Culture is more than marketing speak.
Employees want work/life balance. Will they find it at your startup? If having a dedicated HR team isn’t in the budget, you can at least put HR processes in place to help your team feel at home. Make sure everyone knows your story and the company values, and as you grow, you can expand your HR strategy so everyone is on the same page.
Now go build a better business!
It’s no secret that starting a business is a lot of work, and even the most solid plans can go astray. But recognizing what needs to be done and taking the reigns early is one of the most powerful ways to maintain momentum and adjust your strategy as you go. And remember: the internet is your friend (well, most of the time) — check out the Small Business Starter Kit from 99designs for more inside tips on how to hit the ground running.
Pamela Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs where heads up the global marketing team responsible for driving customer acquisition and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and to find “aha moments” that impact strategic direction.