How do you start any big, important project? By getting organized. Starting your own business is no different. To give yourself the best possible chance of success, start by making a list of the things you need to do before you can start your business.
Do your research
Before you hit the “go” button on your startup, start doing your research. From marketing to mentoring, if you know what your options are before you get into trouble, you're much less likely to get into trouble. While you're writing up your financial plan is the perfect time to start researching supply chains and product lines, invoicing schedules and paperwork vendors.
You should know what your funding options are, and what kind of paperwork you may need to secure a traditional loan, an alternative loan, or angel investing. You should think about whether or not crowd sourcing would work for your business concept. You should consider what three months of business expenses would look like, and if you have that much cash on hand.
It's certainly possible to overthink your research and paralyze yourself, but in general, more research is better. Connect with the local SBA or Chamber of Commerce if you need some hands on help.
Understand your customer
For your business to succeed, understanding your customer is key. In our modern marketing world, where permission marketing is the name of the game, you need to know as much as possible about your ideal customer, so that you can make sure your marketing is where they will see it. It's not enough to just know that your customer is a young mother, you should know that they're a young parent with more than two kids, college educated, who's taking a break from work to raise her kids, but is planning on going back to work when the kids are in school. The more you know about your customer, the more clearly you can target your marketing, and the easier it will be to reach your customer where you live.
Build your brand
If you think you start building your brand the day of launch, you could not be more wrong. Your brand is what will help your business to live or facilitate its painful death, so you should start building your brand the day you start to research your future company.
Look at your competitors. Evaluate what they're doing, and think about what you can do differently. Consider both the point of view of the marketer and the salesperson to look at the market and understand what segments of it are not currently being served. This will help you understand how to target your business specifically to help you gather those crucial first 100 customers.
Build your audience
Just like your brand, connecting with your audience doesn't start the day you launch. As you build your business plan, you should also begin to construct a website. On that website, you should include product or service information, product videos, and a sign-up form where interested people can give you an email address so that they can learn more about your product as your business begins to develop. You should know your CTR from your SEO, and know how each affects your search engine rankings. Josh Kennedy-White, graduate of Harvard Business School, created Predikkta, Nobel Prize winning science called “discrete choice modelling” that helps startups to optimize their online presence and CTR. If you do this well, you will have many of your first hundred customers on launch day!
Work social media
As part of beginning to build your audience and connect with your future customers, set up accounts for your business on all the major social media networks. You don't have to maintain accounts in all of these areas, but you should at least reserve your business name, so that no one else can create a page with a name too close to yours.
When that's done, also begin to look at less known social media networks. Yarn companies and pattern designers, for example, need to have a presence on Ravelry, and companies that are selling fountain pens and similar accessories should start conversations on Fountain Pen Network. Publishing companies know that the first place they should make an account is AbsoluteWrite.
You may not have heard of any of these networks, because they are small, highly targeted, and don't serve broader interests. But I can just about guarantee you, whatever product you want to provide to the market, there's a social network out there for people who love it just as much as you do. By establishing yourself there as a helpful professional, you being the crucial work of establishing yourself as trustworthy in your field.
Fill in your weaknesses
The most crucial and important thing you can do while you're building towards launch day on your start up is to honestly pay attention to what you know how to do, and where your weaknesses are. Not great at accounting? Get some high quality software and take a night class. Need to find out more about how marketing works in the modern sharing economy? Sign up for a seminar held by your Chamber of Commerce to find out more.
Once you actually start your startup, you want to hit the ground running, so the more you can do before you launch, the better. It's much easier to learn when it's the only thing demanding your attention!
There's no way to guarantee the success of your business, but if you treat the build up to your official launch as just as important as running the business itself, you will have conquered at least one major obstacle, and be well on your way to finding success.