Whether or not you get a small business loan, you need to focus your startup efforts so you have a better chance of surviving those crucial first five years. Here are three tips to help you:
1. Figure out where to sell your product. Are there specific stores or e-commerce sites you’d like to get your product into? Start by finding out where these retailers buy their products. They may purchase through manufacturers’ sales reps, directly from manufacturers, or from regional buying co-ops. Once you have this information, you’ll know whether you’ll need to hire a sales rep, find a distributor, or if you can sell your products directly. You can also look at trade publications or websites for your industry; most will have ads for new products. Contact noncompeting companies that are advertising new products, and find out how they distribute their products. Since you’re not a competitor, you’ll be surprised how many of these business owners will be happy to talk to you.
2. Be prepared for publicity. You try and try to get press, but you never know when it’s going to hit. That’s why, even if you’re not actively seeking publicity, you need to be ready in case it comes. A mention in a blog that you don’t even know about could draw hundreds of new visitors to your site—including a reporter who then decides to write a big article about you. Being prepared for media attention means knowing how to deal with press inquiries; having a press kit and suitable photos ready to send out at a moment’s notice; being sure your website can handle increased traffic without crashing; being prepared to fill a sudden rush of orders; and having enough product on hand to meet demand. Depending on the results of your 15 minutes of fame, you might even need to hire more staff—or at least temporary workers. Create a “publicity plan” that covers how you will handle all this.
3. What’s your unique position on customer service? Customer service is where your small company can truly distinguish itself from the big guys. What steps do you take to make doing business with you memorable? It could be the friendly greeting that clients receive when they enter your office, the refreshments you offer in your waiting area, or the way even the smallest purchase is carefully packaged in a gift-worthy bag when they leave the store. Do you take the time to listen to what customers want? Are your employees empowered to make clients happy—even when it means breaking the rules? Customer service boils down to attitude, so make your business a friendly place where people want to come back.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.