Shall I start my own business

It’s a horrible fact, but a very high percentage of start-up businesses fail; about 90% with 10% failing within the first year of starting. Of the 90%, 42% of start-up businesses fail because there’s no market need for their services or products. 29% failed because they ran out of cash. 23% failed because they didn’t have the right team running the business and19% were outcompeted.

This means that starting your own business is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. But it also means that opening up your new venture is something that needs proper research, proper planning and proper investment.

But where should you start?

In my opinion, far too many people think that they are good at what they do as an employee so the transition to doing it for yourself should be simple. Wrong. Take a big step back and start at the beginning. Firstly, if you’re doing something new research whether what I am offering is in demand, where, why, by who, for how much etc. Also, what are your personal plans and what are your business plans?

If you’re breaking away from being an employee and starting up by offering the same sort of product/service, how am I different from the employer?

We’ve all seen Dragons Den where people arrive in the Den with what they think is a great idea only to find it isn’t. In a nutshell, ask yourself, boil it down and question, what problems am I solving and for who?

To ‘launch’ there are a wealth of practical elements you also need to consider. From what am I called to where am I working from. From how am I doing invoicing to do I need a website? From what emails do I use to how do I register with Companies House?

Start by thinking about what significant problems you could solve and how. Look for areas where solutions are already available but you can do better than existing companies either regarding efficiency, innovation or cost. You should look for areas where you can provide significant savings to the customer vs competitors. These types of businesses grow incredibly fast, particularly during recessions.

Hard to do I know, but try to think into the future, what will the world look like in 5 or 10 years? Thinking about the future will allow you to think about new markets and niches that may open due to innovations and new technologies.

The above are indications of questions to ask and elements to consider, but, to me, one of the major elements that quite often is not given the importance it should have, is the actual marketing of your business and this starts with putting together a marketing plan

Read next article on marketing planning >>


What to include in your marketing plan

Marketing plan is actually your how-to guide for your marketing, advertising and business development. This can be a few months or a few years depending on the purpose of the marketing plan and the company strategy so hang in there!

However you should be aware that not one universal marketing plan fits all businesses and all scenarios – Instead, I feel that the structure for any marketing plan for a business is based around the following planning elements:

Step 1 – The prospective target market or audience and the specific marketing objectives. In other words who your ideal customer is and what would you like to achieve – start as simple as that before you go into specifics of when, how often, where, how much etc.

Step 2 – The type and structure of your company will set the planning horizon as well as the marketing and business growth strategies and tactics.
For example, a small business requires a completely different set of tactics and approaches compared to a large global corporation that markets to customers in various market segments worldwide. The small business plan might be quite uncomplicated, specific and actionable in a few months because the small business is more flexible and adaptable whereas the large organization needs more time to change its marketing strategies because market development, product development, etc take months for bigger business. There is also the issue of internal communication i.e. the larger the organisation, the more the need for communication and “buy in.”

Step 3 – The market structure. You should carefully evaluate your key competitors and other stakeholders like vendors, legal, social influence…so that you have a clear picture of what you’re up against. Every market is full of “noise” so must know where to make yours and how loud!

The old adage of failing to plan mostly meaning planning to fail is very true when it comes to effective marketing.


Internet facts for marketing

According to a recent Nielsen consumer survey:

  1. 86.3% of people indicated the Internet is now vital to their lifestyle
  2. 74% of people determine who to do business with locally using online computerised search engines such as Google and Yahoo
  3. 50% use Internet yellow pages to find new and existing products and services
  4. 65% still use printed yellow pages

The Internet is now the most popular way your existing and potential new customers use to find you. The survey also found:

  1. 67% prefer online yellow pages to traditional printed books
  2. 84% say using the Internet is a much faster way to find local businesses
  3. 63% say the business listings on the Internet are more current
  4. 86% had already used the Internet to find a local business
  5. 78% use the Internet more today than they did last year (Internet usage is still growing)
  6. 52% use the printed yellow pages LESS than they did two years ago
  7. Of those who indicated Internet use is vital, 90% had used the Internet to search for local businesses
  8. 80% of Internet users research their purchases online and 70% then buy within 20 minutes from home

Did you know that your existing clients and neighbours are using online directories instead of the yellow pages telephone book to look up phone numbers and find new businesses?

Get your business listed locally and reap the rewards!


How do you set about getting “leads?” How do you qualify them? How do you quantify them?
There is an equation that can help you in the decision process – Q x 2 – Qualify = ensure that they are in the target group to buy from you; Quantify = has their organisation the budget? i.e i the suspect a proper prospect?

If you are a new business then you might be able to draw up a lengthy and detailed list of companies you want to talk to. Constructing your “wish list” should be relatively simple in the early stages after all, you know your market, you read the local and trade press etc. But, remember the list can be long; 100 + names as a minimum so as to give yourself a broad target to aim for and to allow for the contacts who may well be unresponsive at the first attempt.

I don’t think it is possible to have too many leads. In my experience when working for News International and Miller Freeman, leads were aplenty. The stumbling block was actually having enough leads as your list will shrink!

So, consider purchasing a database. Many are available for sale, of variable quality. Then there are platforms like online and paper directories where you can research possible leads. Having said that, leads can come from anywhere. Networking, the press, sign boards, sponsorship of events and even job listings. The key thing is that you find out as much information as you can before you commence your marketing activity.

But what activity to undertake? Have a read of these other posts as they might help you decide……

When is it right to say no to new business?

I think it is fairly true to say that times are not exactly easy at the moment and that the process of attracting and subsequently winning new clients has probably never been tougher than it is in the current economic climate, but, I feel that there are times when a business should be strong enough to say no.

But….when it that time? When is it right (….or is it right) to say no to new business?

Well, I dont think there is a formula for taking this type of action, but I have just found myself in a position where I was approached by a great piece of potential business. The company in question wanted to launch a new business and required a logo and a website all done within a fairly short timescale so that he could attend a function where he had these marketing platforms in place.

All was going very well in the meeting as I was able to show the prospect examples of similar work already delivered for similar clients. However, when the conversation turned to money, the figure specified by the prospect was probably a third of what Bath Marketing Consultancy would normally charge…….and we are a very “cost effective” company compared to some marketing companies!

Having slept on things, I decided to politely decline the business. The reaction from the prospect was a little frosty and the words “well, I will go and talk to someone else” were used, but a month or so on, I know I made the right decision.

In a nutshell, there are plenty of organisations who “buy” business. These organisations seem to put very little value on their levels of experience, their service levels, their staff or even the end products or services they deliver relying heavily on their costing structure to acquire new business. I see this approach to marketing as one that can only totally devalue a brand. After all, what happens when someone else adopts that marketing strategy and simply undercuts you? I know that customers who are happy to pay a premium for service and the all round package another organisation offers are in decline, but if you do want to use costs as a motive for others to work with you, market this as a one off “sale” and put a time limit on it.

I saw a company on Twitter recently offering a similar package to Bath Marketing Consultancy’s “Marketing Tool Kit” (offer on until end of October 2012) at just over £500. I dont actually know how that is even possible not only sustainable!!

To me, cheap very often turns out to be very expensive and when it comes to your brand or your marketing message, you need to make sure prospects see the whole picture and really see the value in what you offer. In addition, I dont know anyone who would ask a service provider like a dentist to do a cheap job or a Solicitor to “bang out a will” would you??!!!!