5 Things You Must Do To Survive Your First Year In Business
Why do Startups Fail?
Lack of sales, too much competition, bad cashflow. These are some of the usual reasons that startups fail.
These are always going to be the headlines, but they can all be traced back to one or two crucial areas , customer service and marketing.
So here are five things that you can do, which will massively improve your chances of success in your first year in business.
- Customer Service
- Content Marketing
- SEO Basics
Let’s look at each in turn so you can make sure you hit the deck running.
1. Customer Service
One area where you can get a massive advantage over your competitors is in terms of customer service.
When we started out we used LiveChat to offer customer service pretty much from day one.
I think without a shadow of a doubt Live Chat is the single best Customer Service tool we use.
I am a passionate advocate for it and it is always one of the first things I mention to people when they ask for recommendations.
Unfortunately, many people will then list a whole range of reasons why they can’t use Live Chat. Here are some typical responses:
- It doesn’t work in my industry
- It’s too expensive
- I don’t have time to take chats
- My clients don’t like using chat
- It’s just not right for me (no other reason given)
But think about it. We live in the instant age where everyone has WhatsApp installed on their phones.
These days people love to chat. They want to chat. They expect to chat.
You can use it for pre-sales, post sales, billing, technical support, whatever. People love the instant, anonymous nature of live chat. You can even handle several chats at once, try doing that on the phone.
Sure, you can still use the phone and other channels, but Live Chat just has to be part of the mix.
Using a helpdesk is another way to give you an advantage over your competitors. Remember that customer contact is like gold dust especially when you are just starting out.
Never do a task yourself that you can get someone else to do for you.
In your case, there may not be anyone else (except maybe your spouse or partner), but the lesson still stands, you need to focus on the bigger picture.
That means you should always look to improve your efficiency. One way you can do this is to automate repetitive tasks as much as possible.
I can remember in our hosting business in the early days we would create invoices manually, print them off, fold them, put them into envelopes and post them out. Yes, in the real post. Now I really am showing my age.
Imagine how much time we wasted doing that.
Then we would register domains manually and set up hosting account manually and send the welcome emails manually.
It felt great because we were so close to the action and we could feel the business growing just on the amount of time we spent on these tasks. But that’s all they are, tasks.
They aren’t adding much value to the bottom line. Invoices, welcome emails, setting up accounts, they’re just the entry points for doing business.
So we started to look for options to make our lives easier. At the time, end to end billing software wasn’t commonplace and most systems were aimed at corporates.
So we built little systems to auto-generate stuff like welcome emails, anything to take the pressure off us and save time.
Eventually that type of end to end billing and provisioning CRM software came on the market and we switched over as soon as we could.
I can still remember the sudden improvement in revenues. It was just a massive jump.
But not only that. There was a massive improvement in quality and consistency. Errors due to human error and the time taken to rectify them was dramatically reduced through automation.
The reason was because we were devoting less time on the day-to-day admininistrative stuff and more time doing what we should be doing; marketing, developing relationships with or clients and suppliers, developing new products and services, upselling and improving our website.
3. Content Marketing
The reason that content marketing is so important is that it is the point at which blogging, SEO, social media and even paid search converge.
And most of your competitors will either make a half-hearted attempt at it or they just won’t bother. So it represents a huge opportunity to get ahead of the pack.
Don’t believe us? Go and check the blogs of your competitors. Are they blogging regularly? Are they getting any engagement with their blog posts?
What about social media? What channels are they using and is there much action going on?
Content marketing is not just a buzz phrase. It’s how serious, savvy businesses are getting a serious advantage over their competitors. Content marketing is a huge area and we can’t begin to cover it here.
But here are the headlines:
- It builds authority
- It increases conversion rates
- It helps you build relationships with Influencers
- It encourages social sharing
- It works over the long term
- It does not have to be expensive
This is what you need to focus on in your first year:
- Create an Ideal client persona and a buyer’s journey.
- Identify influencers (non-competing bloggers or businesses that share your ideal client).
- Build relationships with your Influencers – social media, subscribe to their blog, subscribe to the email list, interact with their community blog posts, engage in social media.
- Create content for authority (and backlinks) – definitive guides, list based content, comparisons.
- Create content for conversion (how-to guides, buyer’s guides, case studies, videos).
- Making your content visually appealing and optimized for search and sharing.
- Repurpose your content to cover multiple audiences.
There’s no mystery to it. Every industry or market needs a voice of authority. It might as well be you.
But it isn’t a game of chance. If you just follow the steps above then you’ll find this is a predictable way to build your online authority.
It needs you to commit to creating great content and to outreach and build relationships with Influencers.
How many times do you find yourself saying to a family member, friend or colleague something along the lines of, “I know this great (accountant, financial planner, plumber, gardener…). They did a great job for me. You can trust them. Let me get their details for you”.
The fact is that referrals are one of the easiest ways to grow any business.
According to a report by Google , word of mouth (at 74 percent) is the number one factor when deciding which brand to use and people are up to four times more likely to buy if they have been referred according to Nielsen.
They’re also likely to spend 16 percent more over their lifetime with you than non-referred business according to Wharton School of Business.
The problem is that most businesses are notoriously bad at asking for referrals.
So you just need to make asking for referrals an automatic habit in your business.
The best time to ask is when you have a happy client in front of you. There’s no need to hit on them in a high pressure way.
Just explain that you’re really glad that they’re pleased with the result and that you really appreciate them as a customer.
Explain that growing your business relies on genuine recommendation from your happy clients.
If you have some kind of referral pack you can hand to them at this point then do so. It could be a referral card or a fridge magnet. Whatever you think is appropriate.
5. Getting the SEO Basics Right
I love helping people get more out of their online presence. But despite the vast amount of free knowledge on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) out there, many websites still fail to get the basics right and this holds them back.
So here’s a handy checklist with a few pointers. The list is pretty much in order, but you don’t have to follow it slavishly in this order.
The important thing is to run through them and tick them off once you’ve implemented them.
- Local Listings set up and optimized – Google MyBusiness , Yahoo Local and Bing Local
- Get reviews – Google, Yahoo, Bing and third party sites like TrustPilot
- Get Name, Address and Phone (NAP Citations) – start with the main ones then add them consistently. Make sure your NAP is Identical in every listing
- Identify relevant Industry/Niche Directories and get listed there
- Identify full list of keywords
- Create a separate page for every product or service you offer
- Create long form pages – minimum 500 words per page
- Optimize every page (keywords, metatags, URLs, Headings, keywords in text, link to other pages, optimize images)
- Get some backlinks to your website – start with some easy wins (testimonials to suppliers, sponsor local charities, join relevant associations, Authority Directories)
- Configure and install Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools (aka Search Console), XML SiteMap and robots.txt
- Check Site Load Speed and optimise your website for speed
- Check your site is mobile friendly – ideally Responsive Design or if cost is an issue a side by side mobile version
- Get secure SSL hosting and add a Security Seal to your website
- Set up a blog and post epic content (see above)
- Optimize all blog content (attention grabbing headline, keywords, metatags, URLs, headings, keywords in text, link to other pages, optimise images, social sharing buttons)
- Use video throughout your website – if you’re happy to appear on camera, great. If not you can do screen capture, talking presentations or even cartoons
- Optimize all of your videos and use them in your product pages and your blog posts
- Create trust with the use of professional accreditations, supplier logos and guarantees
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