Managing a Startup Business

If you can’t find a way, then make a way!

Starting a business, any business is a brave step. But how do you manage a start-up business as well as find customers or put in place a customer acquisition strategy on tight or even zero budgets. Working with early stage and start-up companies I know first-hand how limited resources can be. The tendency for many small businesses is to focus on the product. They add in more and more features or take comfort in a well designed website or just even they talk about strategy rather than putting in place a plan to find and sell to customers so the business can getting on track to achieving  business success AKA revenue generation. The below list is some actionable business tactics to get your small business sales pipeline moving and put you on the track to success.

business-startup

Know your Target market – don’t try to sell to everyone

Product to marketing fit is critical to any business success however a business start-up should never try to be a great product to satisfy all buyers’ needs, this will simply not work as no one product will be for everyone. So step 1 is to try to focus in on one customer target group. It will make the business look more focused, knowledgeable, and professional plus it allows the business to channel its efforts into making one target group happy. The key now is to do a customer targeting exercise (figuring out who your customers are and what they want). I am not saying this is easy, especially if your business is new or you only have 1 or 2 beta customers. Brainstorm on what set of buyers or people who might need your product now by matching it back to what problem your product solves, this is sometimes called your USP- unique selling point or Value Wedge. Also check if it is a fluid market (low hanging fruit to be gathered) by doing some Google searches on related keywords. Balance the fact that you don’t want to define your target market so small or so tightly that it’s something people won’t search for. Think in terms of keywords, search terms or existing topics being discussed on forums or industry buzz.

One Swallow does not make a summer

The lesson here is stay focused on executing the business model and don’t get distracted. A good example of this is a company in the SaaS space I work with, received  a phone call from a big company about doing a demo of their product at their offices which would include a customization element. Even though the meeting went ahead, it came to nothing because my client company was not big enough nor could afford to serve companies in the non-SaaS way. They simply were not big enough to fulfil all the product amendments for this one customer or have a dedicated team to work on the project at the stage where they were trying to find the best product to market fit. This distracted the team for over 6 weeks when they could have been doing more productive lead nurturing work.

business-planning

Make a plan

A business plan will at the very least serve as a guide or a roadmap along the way. Too many small businesses talk about being agile or nimble. That is a process or a culture; it is not a business model. What this can often mean is that their limited resources are waiting to respond to the next challenge thrown before them. I am not suggesting that this is wrong as sometimes it is necessary but not all the time so try to build a business plan. The goal is to develop a sound business strategy that provides a reference framework to keep the business on track to grow by building its awareness, developing brand consideration, attracting new customers and closing sales deals.

Tip: Use this Free Business Tools to focus on your business plan to success, time is precious, do not waste it.

Develop a clear brand for your business

A branding is not just for large corporations; from tiny acorns big trees grow! This does not mean spending vast sums on branding but rather it reflects your mission, values and what your product stands for. The major action here is to determine the core attributes of your brand and promote this .Always strive to present your company in the same way, carve out an awareness level on what your brand represents (product innovation, cost leadership, service leadership ) so that it contributes to the overall business in a cost effective way.

Publish great articles

The old adage about content is king is true. Along with being a product or service company also think of your business as a content publishing house. Articles get search traffic via targeted keywords (SEO) but just as important it positions your brand and business as thought leaders. But you have to stand out from the crowd to get attention. Articles need keyword optimised titles PLUS great content, make them factual or research based to further boost readership. No point in publishing articles as a box ticking exercise, make sure the articles you publish are the best so people want to read or download them or don’t bother. Blunt but true.

A few tips on great content angles:

  • Be highly creative or controversial
  • Be the most knowledgeable
  • Have the most research
  • Write strange articles on your industry

Be Social Media Aware.

As a start-up you probably will read loads on inbound marketing, social media or social selling. Being social media aware is more than a few twitter posts or Facebook likes. Every business needs to have a presence and visibility on a variety of Social Media platforms. Create a social media plan (based on article sharing) and then schedule your social media activities so that you build relationships with social influencers, potential prospects, customers and the public. Learn the art of social selling – share to receive.

Keep it lean and mean – know which plates to spin

Like most start-ups you have a lean team so make sure you know what everyone is doing. Who is driving customer acquisition, marketing and sales? Revert back to your plan and prioritise the key initiatives (revenue and product) including major tasks such as content creation, social media interaction and social selling. Time management and knowing which plates to spin can sometimes be complicated for a small business as they dash around from pillar to post. Find and use the right tools, free business tools like Zoho or Trello should save you time or tears. Finally from me to you, a message of sincere best wishes in your business venture. Happy hunting!

Business Consultant

What does a business consultant do?
A business consultant works with a company or small business to review the existing practices in the areas of sales, marketing, product or finance amongst others and then to work with the management to make recommendations for improvements. Most business consultants specialise in one or two areas of business management, such as sales. For example, a software company might hire a sales and marketing consultant to help develop its market reach or customer acquisition strategy.

business-consultant
A business consultant brings expertise, experience and knowledge to help a company improve performance metrics or key performance indicators through the thorough analysis of existing business problems. The business consultants then develop plans for improvement alongside the management team. A business may consider engaging the hire the services of a business consultant for a number of reasons, for example, to get an external view on the business, to receive objective advice and recommendations, to tap into the business consultants expertise, or even as a temporary resource to help with aspects of the business where hiring a permanent employee is not needed.

A business should expect due to the business consultants relationships with numerous markets and industries, the consultant can transfer knowledge and insights that will be beneficial to the company’s growth or profitability. A consultant may also provide organisational change assistance to up-skill existing staff, coaching to staff, business strategy development, or improvement services in a department. A business consultant usually brings methodologies, templates and frameworks to uncover the identification of opportunities and then to act as the basis for recommendations for more effective or efficient ways of performing the business task.

The term “Business Consulting” is overused and can refer to a very broad range of services. There are numerous areas of specialisation with business consulting, in the area of IT (information technology) consulting, HR (human resource) consulting, Sales (sales and business development) consulting and others, many of which overlap like marketing. Business consultants range from the large diversified consultancy companies offering multiple services right down to owner run ’boutique’ consultancies which specialise in one or a few of areas.
The work of business consultants is also becoming more popular in non-business related organisations as well. As the need for professional advice and specialised knowledge grows, other industries such as government agencies, charities, universities, and other not-for-profit agencies are now turning to consultants to uncover opportunities that have helped private industry for years.

A small business consultant such as The Bitter Business will focus on helping smaller business and growth focused companies to improve their operations in sales, marketing and go-to-market strategy. While a consultant may specialise in a specific area they usually have insights in all areas of the business functions. The overall goal of a consultant to the smaller business is to help make the business stronger through identifying opportunities, addressing problems and recommending solutions for implementation.

The practical role of a small business consultant involves communicating with management and staff, reviewing strategy and process, watching the day-to-day business activities to understand what problems exist and why they exist. The small business consultant will work with the business owner or team to create viable solutions to problems, use analysis and research to present findings to the business owner. Also the consultant should be hands on, has the business skill to work closely with all the business stakeholders and staff to gather information which will be used to assess what changes need to take place to improve business performance, improve the business results and reach set goals. Once the gathering and analysing of information is complete, the consultant may develop the actual plans for the business detailing resources, actions and programs to be put in place

Some of the common business consultant’s tasks are:

Analyse and evaluate the business strategy against competitors and within the market.

Recommend strategies and tactics to increase business opportunities.

Create action plans and identify gaps in the business model.

Identify and implement business actions.

Conduct market research and information gathering.

Document findings and then present findings together with options.

Identify business requirements, resources, partners, channels, and routes to market.

Perform sales and marketing analyses and make reports.

Drive process improvements and efficiencies in sales, business development or social marketing.

Implement plans while evaluating the business prospects, goals and objectives for growth.

A business should not wait until it has problems to engage with a business consultant, rather a small business should be proactive in using their knowledge as an external lever to uncover how to make the business better and more successful.

Business Mentoring

Business Mentoring

Business mentoring does not have to cost business money. At some stage in a business lifecycle some free and confidential advice from a business mentor on business or business strategy maybe the boost a company or business owner needs.  Whether a business is in start-up mode or an existing business hitting some bottlenecks sitting down and using a business mentor as a sounding board away from the coalface could be invaluable.

business-mentoring

Business mentoring is not business coaching or a business consultant looking for a day rate, it is also not someone dispensing generic management jargon with little relevance to the business. What a business mentor is about is listening and nurturing, someone with the battle scars (of success and failure) who will take the time to make an emotional investment in the business and person success.

The value of a Business Mentor.

A business mentor is someone with the entrepreneurial business experience that can be relied on as trusted sounding board, independent thinker and a sense checker who is willing to build a relationship, mostly free of charge (coffee is always appreciated). A business mentor could also fill a gap in knowledge or experience without incurring expense.

Think of business mentoring as a business helper, someone whose motivation is to take an active interest in helping the business owner or start-up succeed. The motivation for a business mentor is to keep their own saw sharp and to keep learning while they give.

Maybe this sentence sums up a business mentor, “‘a lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

To make a business mentoring partnership work, both parties relish in leaving the ego outside the door. They are there to chat, explore, discuss, educate and enjoy the time away to think. One big mistake many new or growing businesses make is to “cocoon” themselves where they forgot to reach out when things are not working.

To help find a business mentor, maybe the guide below might help.

  • What do you need mentoring on?  Decide what aspects of the business or skillset a business mentor can help with?  A retired CEO of a large company probably isn’t a good mentor for growth hacking a business on a small budget. So have an objective whether it is for sales, marketing, management, finance etc.
  • Listen and Learn. A business mentor will always seek to understand before being understood. So if a business mentors listens is the business willing to learn?. Business mentors are passionate about helping a businessperson or company who loves to learn and grow. It also means that a good business mentor understands that on-one in business takes every bit of advice blindly, so build the relationship by being honest and open if advice is not practicably.
  • Time – quality over quantity. Both sides need to invest quality time with focused sessions where the real business issues are aired and discussed in confidence. Ensure the time you need and the time the business mentor can give matches each other’s expectations.
  • Driving the discussion. The businessperson or owner drives the discussion and agenda, the business mentor is there to listen, respond and offer up feedback. Business mentoring is at its most effective when the entrepreneur sets the agenda and requests specific insights while also getting broader or deeper insights from the mentor.
  • Business mentor or business coach. The value of a business mentor is to tell it as it is not what a business might want to hear. A business coach or consultant is paid to focus on helping the business or person with specific actions or skills like selling, marketing, business development or presentation skills. Business mentoring is to advise on specific situations or business strategy issues. So sometimes a business needs a mentor, sometimes they need a business coach.

Do take the time to seek out a business mentor, someone who will genuinely care about the business and the person. A business mentor whose motivation is to see business success, business growth and the person flourish. A business mentor who brings passion, emotional involvement and real concern for the business are the keys to real business mentoring success.

Lastly, business mentoring is not a flippant decision for either the business person or mentor. The experience has to be a learning path for both sides. However, the fundamental reason for business mentoring is everyone needs a helping hand, no matter who the person or business. Business mentoring is about building relationships, they can’t clear all the obstacles a business or start-up faces, but a good mentor can certainly show a better route to get to where the person or business needs to get to.

Author Note:  If you would like to chat about business mentoring or have a business idea or plan, I am always interested in meeting. Feel free to contact me. Brian.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.