The continued rise of tech startups and work-from-home success stories may have given you the impression there’s never been a better time to start a business. While this is true in some sense, there are still plenty of roadblocks that can stop your killer business idea dead in its tracks.
Making sure your idea doesn’t go up in flames requires knowing how to spot a problem and opening in equal measure. Here are four tips along those lines that are essential for starting a small business in 2020.
The modern customer is very different from their traditional counterpart.
Modern consumers are looking for convenience above all else. They want retailers to guide them directly through the processes of their online stores, while feeling like they have the choice to shop how they please. Your business must be both incredibly simple and straightforward, but fitted with all the systems and operations that inspire them with confidence.
Not all businesses work directly with conventional customers though. Other businesses will come to you for your services. Businesses have modern needs too, particularly in the sense of knowing the people they work with have the appropriate knowledge and won’t waste their time. If you’re working with other businesses you need to understand how to present yourself as respectable, informed and at the cutting edge of your industry.
Appealing to modern needs generally comes through your most public-facing asset, your website. Your website needs to fit people’s familiarity with conventional design and provide options that enhance accessibility (such as providing text-to-speech options and translating your website into other languages, giving it a broader appeal, especially if you want to start a business abroad).
A great idea doesn’t have to be complex, in either conception or execution. Many businesses will be hampered by excessively overthinking both their ideas and how to approach them. It’s vital you understand how to practice self-control and keep them simple to avoid disaster.
You need to minimize room for failure in the early days (or years) of your business. Push your simple idea to its limits, but don’t tack of lots of unnecessary elements that will slow your progress down and add risk, such as launching with multiple product lines or introducing community platforms for an audience that won’t be big enough to properly utilize them yet.
It’s okay to think ahead, but don’t plan for expansion in the first month. Monitor the growth of your business throughout the first year and try to pull together reasonable expectations that can form a realistic multiple-year plan.
Keeping things simple often applies more to how you manage the business than what you present to the public.
For example, if you’re looking to run a small ecommerce store from home, you need to make considerations about where you’re going to keep your stock. This is partly why the dropshipping model has become so popular in recent years, as it removes a significant problem home-ecommerce professionals face.
You need to find similar methods for your sector that simplify your everyday processes in the early days and remove what would otherwise be a considerable investment.
A business is only good as the team behind it. While you’ll bring in experts and poach people for specialist positions down the line, the most important hires you’ll ever make are your initial team members.
The first round of hires you make set the tone of your business. It crafts the first public-facing perception of your operations, generally through customer service and marketing, which can have a considerable lasting impact on how people view what you do. Without investing in marketing it can be hard to change how the public perceives you.
It can also set the internal tone of your business too. If you hire a team that cuts corners and isn’t committed to advancing the business you can establish a poor work ethic and a culture of not committing to tasks at hand. Much like public perception, this can be incredibly hard to shake without a significant re-tooling of your operations.
Most importantly though, the right team brings the right ideas. Sometimes a business owner can be so blinded by the creativity and inspiration of their initial idea that they struggle to see it’s minor faults or the best way to execute it. A creative, driven and industry-wise team can help shape your idea into something more appealing to the public, refined for modern circumstances and robust enough to survive future issues.
Despite being around for over a decade, social media is only growing in strength. As a business owner, it’s the absolute best tool you have for marketing and customer research, among numerous other uses. It’s essential you understand how to use these platforms effectively.
Harnessing the power of social media doesn’t just mean setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and leaving them to their own devices. You need to take initiative with your social media, making a concerted effort to reach out to your existing audience and potential customers.
Likewise, it’s vital you choose the right platforms to promote your business. There’s no point putting significant effort and budget into marketing through Facebook if your audience is most easily reached through a more visual medium such as Instagram or Pinterest.
Once you have a platform, you need to understand how to maximize it properly for your business. Much in the same way that certain audiences will congregate on particular social media platforms, those same audiences will react to different kinds of social content.
Investing in a paid campaign that promotes products to people interested in a particular brand might not be as effective as creating accessible content that covers your business or its collaborations with local charities.
You should also look to provide translation options across your social media. Don’t always rely on hit-and-miss translation algorithms, invest the time into translating your social content properly if you want to make your mark in a foreign market.
If your business is related to an international trade, make sure you oversee the translations of the manuals and marketing materials that come with the products you order or design. Multilingual translations of manuals is a complicated work and it’s quality is one of the most important aspects of customer’s evaluation of the product.
Social media offers you incredible access to an engaged audience uniquely familiar with the platform. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of content and interaction to see what sticks and how your particular audience prefers to converse with you.
Starting a business is not simple. An idea is just the start, and if it’s good enough it will keep pushing you throughout the hard times. Following these steps will help you get ahead and hopefully make those hard times much less frequent.
HI-COM is an international communication and localization agency with years of experience in the Chinese market. With offices in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Nice (France), HI-COM serves its loyal customers in more than fifteen industries, including tourism, hospitality, e-commerce, and retail.
Contact us for more information about localization and communication in China!