Maybe you’ve just had a great idea, or maybe you’ve been thinking about starting your own business and being your own boss for some time. Either way, more and more Australians are embarking on small business ventures than ever before.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show startups are on the rise. During 2015-2016 the business entry rate increased from 13 to 14.6 percent across Australia, with NSW experiencing the highest growth in new business. Combine this with strong economic conditions and the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s callout for innovation, and there has never been a better time to be in business. While it’s tempting to jump in headfirst, if you’re contemplating taking the plunge it’s important to plan your efforts to achieve the best outcome. After all, you want your small business to be a success.
Knowing your customer is imperative
Understand your Customer DNA
You’ve got your product in mind – but who is your customer? Knowing your customer is imperative if you want to have a successful business or brand. Once you have a complete picture of your customer profile you will be better prepared to launch a strategy that will target them accurately. By understanding what is important to your customers, their buying behaviour, interests and attitudes, it is easier to develop opportunities to grow your relationship with them and your business. A customer profile should be an essential part of any marketing strategy you develop.
“As a new business, you don’t have an existing customer base, so find out as much as you can about your competitors’ customers,” says marketing expert Claire Southall of The Customer Profiler.
“Develop an ideal customer persona – this will help you find a voice for your brand. Consider doing some market research or focus groups to help define your customers. Talk to as many people as you can. You want to be certain your new business idea or product has legs – test the waters by having conversations. You don’t want to spend 1000s of dollars setting up a business or developing a product that no-one is interested in.”
Know your brand inside out
Understand your product
What are you selling and how relevant is it to your market? These are two very important questions for any small business. Whether you’re selling a single product or multiple product lines you need to be a product expert. This means not only understanding your product but also that of your competitors. What are your competitors doing well and how can you do it better? Have you considered developing a premium version of your product? Are there any ways in which you can improve your product? Is there anything customers want from your product that you aren’t offering. Do you stock imported products? Why not explore the options of importing these products directly, or building relationships with wholesalers to identify new products you could offer?
Oscar De Vries’ subscription razor service is keeping men well-groomed
What makes your business different?
As individuals, it is our differences that make us unique. The same homily goes for small business. What can your business do that no-one else can? Find your unique service proposition (USP). Often successful businesses have seen a hole in the market and stepped in to fill it. Don’t forget to set up your shop where there is a market. If an online store would work better for you than a bricks and mortar retailer, then that should be your first option.
Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) viewer Oscar De Vries, founder of popular subscription service Oscar Razor started his business in 2014. Frustrated by a lack of quality low cost product in the men’s grooming market, De Vries launched his razor subscription service to deliver a quality razor direct to his client’s door.
“Typically, men look for three things when it comes to grooming: high quality, low cost and convenience. I founded Oscar Razor because I believed none of the razor companies satisfied all three,” De Vries tells KBB.
De Vries says being a subscription service is a win-win for both him and his customers. “We get the relative security of recurring revenue and they never have to worry about running out of razors.” he smiles.
Two years post-launch having found their niche, De Vries says business is booming. He attributes the success to a “relentless focus on quality, cost and convenience and putting our customers first”.
“By selling direct, our customers save money and time. And we end up with tens of thousands of customers, who are loyal as long as we keep prices low and deliver on time. With customers preferring to shop from their keyboard rather than queueing up on the road, in the car park or at the check-out. What’s not to love about shopping direct!?
Make sure your brand presence stretches across all channels
Create a mobile-first strategy
If you are planning on setting up your business online make sure you can deliver a great customer experience and remember to think mobile-first. What do we mean by this? Make sure your website is responsive and that it works well on mobile devices. In 2016 mobile web browsing overtook desktop browsing for the first time and Nielsen statistics suggest the majority of Australians (63 per cent) now do most of their surfing from a mobile or tablet. If your site isn’t optimised for mobile, you’re going to fall behind your competitors.
Another great source of information for anyone contemplating embarking on an online store is IBISWorld’s report into online shopping in Australia. It provides key industry analysis and statistics, as well as market size, industry trends and market share.
Whilst we’re on the subject of online retail, be certain your customers have a seamless shopping experience – one-click and the product are in their shopping cart. With Amazon set to open its Australian marketplace, it’s even more vital to get your online store right.
“Amazon is a threat as much as it is an opportunity,” says Amazon expert Jeri Murphy. “It’s not going away. You either have to learn to join it or be like it or do nothing and go out of business.”
A well-developed marketing plan is essential for business success
Develop a marketing strategy
Whether it’s digital marketing, direct marketing of a social media strategy, your new business needs a marketing campaign to raise awareness. A website and digital presence are increasingly important no matter what type of business you are in. Social media can have an enormous impact on establishing awareness of a new product or service so make sure to set up key social media such as Facebook and Instagram and use them to your advantage. However, there is no point setting up an account if you don’t intend to keep it updated. Engagement is key. Communicate with your followers every day and really hone your tone of voice to make sure your key messaging is authentic. Ensure consistent branding across your digital assets and social media accounts for greater impact.
It’s not what you know but who you know…
Network network network
Established businesses can be a great source of advice as can professional networks and members of local small business precincts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your business needs an office space consider a co-working set up as you will immediately become a part of a community. Look for Facebook and MeetUp groups that might be in your area of interest. Find a mentor… One of the key challenges facing a start-up is making the right contacts as soon as possible, so get yourself out there and start schmoozing.
Streamline your accounting process with a cloud-based solution
It’s all about the money money money
Understanding cash flow and forecasting sales are essential when you are first starting out as it can take time to grow your business. Consider opting for cloud-based accounting solutions and inventory programs to ensure you always have access to real-time data to make informed business decisions. Stay up-to-date with the current ways to pay. If your customers want the latest mobile payment solutions, you need to offer them. Set up direct debit systems for customers so you don’t have to chase payments. Use accounting software to keep everything up to date and compliant.
Starting a small business can be challenging but the rewards can be immense. If you think you’re ready to start on your small business journey then your next stop is business.gov.au This government website can guide you through the process of setting up your business name, applying for an ABN or ACN, registering for GST and more.
“Does your small business have not-so-small ambitions? Head to NAB to find more info, tools, articles and tips to help you achieve your business goals.