I fell on my face so many times in the first few months, of starting North and Orange. (still falling on a regular basis) My patience level was steady around 15/100. I was so amped on getting things going. Having the experiences that I have had in my career; I was always taught to just get in and get your hands dirty as long as it was calculated. I’ll be honest, I have never worked for an Agency. But I knew it was the right platform to bring the most talented people I know together and help others. These are my learnings and I hope this helps move your needle when starting your business or brand.
You’ve heard the saying, “if you build it, they will come.” The idea of starting my own business was super exciting. I have had the opportunity to be a partner with other businesses, but never drive my own. If you’re like me, you have thought about your first customer before even buying a business license. Who will it be? What service will they need? Will they tell their friends about their experience? How long before I have a global following?
Customers, partners and clients (you’ll notice we use these words interchangeably) are, of course, essential to your entrepreneurial success. And the time and effort you spend readying your business for its debut is critical to building a following of happy, loyal customers. In fact, the more you strategically fine-tune your brand before you hit the market, the more likely you’ll be to land your first customer – and make the first of many sales to come.
Here are five things I have learned that will help you ensure your business really is customer ready.
Are all systems go?
People who work for themselves know it takes a special combination of confidence, courage and crazy to start a business and then share it with the world. (Still debating if self-employment is for you? This article I really liked and may help you decide.) If you’ve done your homework, people will understand from the get-go exactly what you’re offering. More importantly, they’ll know why they should buy from you – and only you.
Your business is customer-ready if you’ve carefully considered these five things:
1. Your pricing: When it comes to charging what you (and your products and services) are worth, a little research goes a long way. Conducting a thorough competitive analysis is pretty simple. A quick and easy way to check your prices vs. your competitors is to do dive-in to Amazon and Google, depending on what you're offering/selling. Consider what type of customers you want to market to and what they will be willing to pay. (I found some good info on how other small business owners approach pricing in this post.)
2. Your market: Who is your ideal client? It pays to think beyond the obvious here. For example, if you sell handmade scented candles, you’re helping a multitasking mom instantly mask the odor of stinky pets and musty teenagers in the living room. You’re helping make her dining room “dinner party ready” in mere minutes. You’re providing a sweet “hostess” or teacher’s gift she can always have on hand. Your candle, in other words, is making one woman’s busy, hectic life a little easier. And that’s a solution any customer will be happy to buy. (I say this because my best friend is starting a candle business and I hope he reads this :)) Positioning is everything. First, you need to do the groundwork to make sure people will pay for what you’re selling. Then the key to business survival is positioning your offering so customers know its long-term value.
3. Your product or service: Of course you know what you’re selling. Question is, have you identified the specific problem your offering will solve or the real, lasting value you’ll provide? You have to understand your problem/need and how accomplishing it enables them to achieve their objectives. A customer is basically buying an outcome, not a service. Understand what that outcome is and deliver it, and you’ll be successful (and so will they).
4. Your competition: Let’s stick with the homemade candle analogy here (although we could easily replace “candles” with “digital marketing services,” “bowling alley” or “beer delivery,” since the same thinking applies to just about any product or service). How do you differentiate yourself in a saturated marketplace? A key word to remember is authenticity. Make sure you build a business that reflects who YOU really are and what you stand for. Authenticity helps you make real connections with customers. It really does change the way you think about marketing, too. You become part of the conversation, instead pitching it.
5. Your systems: This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s essential to make sure your backend and operating systems are fully functional before your first customer hands over his or her credit card. Whether you’re using Square, PayPal, an ecommerce platform or something else entirely, Make. Sure. It. Works. After all, we only get one chance to make a great first impression, so make yours positive -- and positively professional.
If you're checking these boxes already, BOOM. Get out there and make things happen! But if you're not, give us a call and we can certainly help!