Starting your own business is an incredibly exciting, yet daunting, adventure. While taking the leap from idea to execution is often the most difficult part, the hard work doesn’t stop there. To ensure your business is successful, you need to have a long-term strategy.
How Do I Stand Out Against Competitors?
Whatever business you run, you’re going to have competition – and it’s not enough just to continue doing what you’re doing. To one up your competitors you have to closely watch their efforts, focus on what they’re doing well, and then do it better.
Embrace What Makes You Different
If you managed to start your own business, it’s likely that you have a viable product or service that there’s a place in the market for. What makes you distinctive isn’t always easy to identify, but once you do, you have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that you can market. You should never forget to promote this, as it can make the crucial difference between your company, or your closest competitor, getting custom. If you’re in e-commerce, it might be that you deliver first-class, without fail. Your USP could lie in your supply chain. Where do you source your products from? Are they ethically made? Perhaps you help out small businesses by sourcing your stock from independent companies. Whatever it is, make sure it’s the first thing your customers see, because if their values align with yours, you’ll have customers who will keep coming back for more.
Use Social Media
Social media is a fantastic way of reaching out to your existing customers, as well as targeting new ones. Customers like to be treated as human beings, not a sales ticket. Actively asking your followers for their opinion, and sharing content that is relevant to them and resonates with them, will make them more likely to be loyal to your brand. Shares across social media equals exposure, so the more people that are aware of your brand, the more business you’ll have flying through your door.
Bonus: How Can You Effectively Use Social Media?
Twitter has a great tool that allows you to monitor the influence of your tweets. Twitter calls this “impressions”, and it’ll tell you which tweets got the most attention and shares. This way, you can monitor what sort of content your followers like (it might be specific topics, or content types such as lists, videos or infographics) and produce more of the same.
What Is A Long-Term Plan, And Why Have One?
Without a plan, your business can go south very quickly. While it’s never possible to account for every contingency, having a goal will help you focus your efforts. The best way to create a plan is to take it step by step. Start by looking at where you are now. What resources are taking up your time, and should you refocus that time on areas that are neglected? Then, look at where you want to be. Don’t be too ambitious here by saying you want your company to be grossing a certain amount in five years time. Try looking six months into the future. What do you want to have achieved? It might be increased exposure online, or a mail list of customers you can target with thoughtful copy and exclusive offers.
Once you have your main goal in mind, you can brainstorm solutions to help you attain it, and then put those steps in action. If you want increased exposure, perhaps you should put more effort into creating an effective marketing campaign. If your goal is to rank higher on Google, you can utilise SEO to optimise your website for keywords your ideal customer is using.
A long-term business plan will always be more effective if it’s put down in writing. If you have any employees, they’ll be able to refer to it so they know exactly what needs to be done to help your business reach its targets. This need not be overwhelming, though. Take your strategy one step at a time and create small, realistic objectives to be completed in a time-frame. As you work through these tasks, revisit your timeline and revise it if necessary, based on your achievements.
Do I Need To Be Innovative?
In the changing scene of business and the way we interact with customers, being able to dream up new ideas of how you run your business is crucial. Too many businesses fall into the trap of getting too comfortable, and without fresh ideas, your business could be doomed. This doesn’t mean you should change your business and what it represents on a regular basis. In fact, that’s a bad idea. What you should be doing, however, is generating a buzz around your product or service in ways that your competitors haven’t thought about. This could be taking a piece of industry news and taking a unique angle, or hosting a giveaway for new and existing customers.
When you’ve started your business, knowing what to do next can be an intimidating task. However, making it successful is a long game, requiring hard work to build a social media presence and define what makes your company distinctive. Constantly innovate, have a long-term strategy, and you’ll find yourself in the best position to take your business to the top.
About the Author
Pascal started Electric Tobacconist Ltd in July 2013 to complement his seasonal family business Fantastic Fireworks. After proving so popular and successful, he left the family business and has found himself with a growing number of staff and seven figure turnover.