You’ve got your business licenses in order, all of your initial overhead out of the way, and you're ready for customers. Now what?
You may have officially launched your business, but you’ve no idea what to do to keep that business running. You need customers, orders and revenue. And you need them fast. Here’s what successful entrepreneurs do to ensure that things go as smoothly after the launch as during the process of starting the business in the first place.
Get Your Marketing Plan Together
A successful business lives and dies by the numbers. In other words, you need sales and profit in order to stay in business. For that to happen, you need a good marketing plan. If you’re struggling to get your new business off the ground, it’s usually not because of a lack of funds. It’s because your marketing was doomed from the beginning.
Some of the most successful home-based and small businesses start with a marketing budget of $1,000 or less. That kind of money is really pretty easy to come by. With that kind of budget you might have to do a lot of work yourself and be quite creative in coming up with solutions to different challenges you face, but it’s not impossible.
A good marketing plan for many small businesses will include a website, blog, and some local advertising mixed with social media marketing. Those marketing tactics tend to give you a bang for your marketing buck. A classified ad, or even Google Adwords, can bring in the initial foot traffic you need for those important first sales. If you run a home-based business, local word of mouth can be especially important, as well.
Plug yourself into the blogosphere in your niche. Consider doing some guest blog posts on high-traffic blogs. That’s a reliable method for generating some exposure for your business and traffic to your website. It also opens the way for natural backlinks to your site, which are useful for SEO purposes to help you rank better in the search engines.
Solving The Initial Backend Challenge
Once you’ve got your marketing plan out of the way, it’s time to tackle the backend of your business. A lot of brand new companies don’t have a solid order fulfillment or customer service department in place to handle the orders that come in. Instead, they are completely reactive and wind up scrambling to get deliverables out the door. Instead, take the time to map out the entire process from receipt of order all the way through to shipping of the deliverables and post-shipment customer support.
Service after the sale is an important aspect of long-term sustainability. You can probably handle this yourself initially, but once the orders start flowing, you’ll need a full-time person dedicated to this aspect of the business in order to keep your customers extremely happy and to turn them into evangelists for your business.
Whatever you do, make your business scalable. Home-based businesses often have a hard time with scalability because the business is run, well, out of the person’s home. Scaling isn’t something that you may think about when your office is in the living room or spare bedroom.
Most of the time, scaling problems can be solved by having a system in place that is easily replicated – like a franchise model. If you can break down your business into defined, easy-to-replicate tasks, then aspects of your business can be outsourced, enabling your business to get more done with fewer internal resources. Outsourcing your customer service or relying on an online customer service platform such as ZenDesk, for example, might be necessary as your business grows. Entire companies exist that can take over those headaches for you when you grow beyond a simple one or two-person operation.
Automate To Dominate
Automate whatever you can't outsource. Automation does wonders for freeing up your time as well as enhancing your scalability. Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you need to be married to it. Working harder does not necessarily lead to business success. For example, if you find yourself sending the same emails over and over and over again for different situations, develop email templates or automate the delivery schedule of such emails. Focus on making the company as productive and efficient as possible, as this is a likelier path to profitability.
There’s a certain kind of satisfaction you will get from knowing that your business will run just fine regardless of whether you show up for work or not. Automation is that missing piece of the puzzle that will not only give you lasting success, but control over your company’s future.