How to Build a Successful Business - DIY Tips and Tools
Writing a Business Plan
A business plan is necessary if you want to secure investment money, but even if you are working with the money you have, it’s always wise to write out your plan. A business plan provides a direction and strategy for your business, including things like a mission statement, a description of your products or services, and how you plan to market your business. Having this all out on paper will keep you focused on your goals.
This solution by Ramon Ray details how you can use LivePlan software to create your business plan. The software walks you through step-by-step, with plenty of helpful information to guide your way.
Find a Business Mentor
Starting a business is a learning experience, and you need to soak up all the information you can from those who have found success before you. You may be able to find business mentors in your own town or by networking on LinkedIn. If you need more help, try out this solution by Alice Bredin. It details how you can use the MicroMentor platform to find other business owners from your industry who are willing to mentor you in your new venture.
Set Up an Online Presence by Creating a Website & Other Marketing Materials
Next, even if your business has a physical location, you’ll want to set up your online presence. Customers will use the web to research, discover and communicate with your business. You’ll want to make sure that they can find you and that you portray yourself in a professional manner.
This solution by Ramon Ray offers some free and inexpensive tools that will let you create stunning marketing materials on a startup budget. This includes using Wix to create a business website (which will even allow you to sell products online if that’s your thing) and Canva to create branded marketing materials such as your logo, business cards, banner ads and social media images.
Manage Business Expenses
If there is one thing that will bring your business down fast, it’s financial mismanagement. If you’re not good at finances, it’s usually wise to hire someone to help you out. There are also tools that will simplify the process for you.
This solution by Rieva Lesonsky is one example. In the solution, she explains how you can use the Expensify app as an easy way to keep track of all your business expenses. It integrates with other financial software, including QuickBooks and Xero, and allows you to take photos of your receipts so every expense can be verified with a matching receipt.
If you’re just starting out, chances are you don’t have a large marketing budget to pay for expensive ads. Your best marketing friend will soon become social media, where the cost of marketing is typically measured in time.
Since time IS money, however, you’ll want to make sure that your social media marketing efforts are organized and effective. This solution from Barbara Corcoran will help you do just that. Barbara advises that you spend some time researching what the best social media channels are for your business, then coordinate your posting via Hootsuite (which has a free option that allows you to manage three social media channels). To make sure your posts are engaging and effective, she also recommends tracking your progress with Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics.
Set Up Customer Service
Another important ingredient in the recipe for business success is excellent customer service. Remember, your customers are your best marketers – from what they say on social media and review sites to the conversations they have with friends and family.
There are several avenues you can take with customer service – at the very least you should have a contact page or email and be available to help customers on social media. To step up your game, you can try this solution from Rieva Lesonsky, which discusses how you can use ZenDesk software to channel all your customer service communications from all channels (email, website, phone, and social media) into one central location. There is also this solution from Ramon Ray which shows you how to use a program called Mention to monitor mentions of your company on social media sites so you can step in with answers and resolutions, even when the customer did not contact you directly.
Get Customer Feedback So You Can Grow
Finally, it’s important to always be re-evaluating your business – from the actual products and services you sell to your customers’ experiences with your brand, their pain points, and suggestions for the future. These things may seem like a mystery, but here’s a little secret – all you have to do is ask!
In this solution from Carolyn Crummey, you can learn how to use SurveyMonkey (which even has a free version) to get insights from your customers. Using this tool you can create a survey, collect responses, and analyze the findings to get valuable ideas on how your business can improve.
Building your business will take a lot of hard work, but luckily the tools available today make it easier than ever to succeed using a DIY approach. These Business Circle solutions give you a general map of the most important steps, but make sure to check the website to find solutions and answers to your other business questions.
Smart Hustle Magazine shares this content in partnership with AT&T Business Solutions. Smart Hustle Magazine is compensated for their time, but the opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and not AT&T. For more great small business information, visit AT&T Business Circle Solutions site at https://bizcircle.att.com/circle-solutions/