Jessica is a digital expert & founder of Valux, LLC, a digital marketing company that helps businesses complete the digital transformation.
“Last night, I had a difficult conversation with my husband. I broke down crying because starting a business, in the middle of a pandemic, with a toddler, is hard. …”
This is from a group post I saw on Facebook the other day. As a single mom of two toddlers and the founder of a digital marketing agency, not only can I totally relate to this post emotionally, it’s also similar to what I’ve heard from clients: “Starting a business now is so hard.”
Yes, it is extremely hard to start a business during an economic crisis, but many still want to do it. Perhaps starting your own business could be a way out of unemployment. However, many of our startup clients don’t know where to begin, and that makes it even more difficult.
“I need to do social media marketing. Can you give me a quote?”
“How much will it cost me to have my company shown on the first page of Google?”
“What’s the cost of email marketing?”
These are the questions I’m often asked by clients during our initial meeting. Good questions, but I typically respond with more questions, like: “Do you have a website yet? Do you know what you want to sell and how you want to sell it? Who are your competitors? What’s your target market?” Most of the time, the answers are “no” or “I don’t know.”
Many startup owners think of marketing first because it drives sales, which is the ultimate goal of growing a business. But there are actually many steps that need to be taken first before you can market your business.
For instance, if you are selling a product, you should plan out your sales channels first. Before bringing in traffic to the store, is your merchandising ready? Your payment funnels? Your inventory controls? Your fulfillment processes? Return, refund and cancellation processes and fraud control? How about customer services? Do you have your basic essentials for your online presence, such as a website and your local search engine optimization (SEO) setup? Can your potential client find you online?
If you are providing a service, perhaps you should answer these questions first: What’s the value my services provide? What kind of experience do I want my customers to have? How do I distribute the experience? What’s my customer journey? How do I explain my services to clients? Do I offer membership? Subscriptions? A loyalty program? How do I drive leads? What does the post-service experience look like? What’s the medium for me to communicate or provide services to my client?
Starting a business is difficult, no matter when you start it. This pandemic offers some unique opportunities to learn from other companies about what types of business models can handle disruption and which ones are vulnerable.
However, you still need a strong short-term and long-term business plan and a well-defined operation model. Make sure you carefully think through your business opportunity before you take the plunge.
Before you pick up your phone to speak with a marketing agency or professional, do some research and know the market you are getting into. Have your business plan ready, including the financial plan, sales goals and operation model. Find out your competitive advantage and challenges. Identify top competitors and potential partners, and locate your target market. Most importantly, have clear goals, targets and priorities in mind with your budget. These are the basic questions an agency will ask before it can give you a quote with a strategic proposal.
What else do you need to know to start a new business in times like these? Let’s take a look.
Consider Market Opportunities
You never want to see another business fail, but the reality is that there are lessons you can learn from these failures. Think about what caused other businesses to struggle and how you can avoid the same issues.
For instance, you might want to open a restaurant, but you’ve seen the weakness with the standard brick-and-mortar model right now. Maybe you consider opening a food truck instead — going where customers are and serving them takeout directly.
There are many openings in the business world right now. At the same time, there are lessons you can learn from companies that recently failed. When you learn from these examples, you’ll be able to better position yourself for success.
Focus On Online Sales And Service
The majority of consumers start product shopping online today, so if you don’t have a digital marketing presence, you almost don’t exist. The pandemic has shown us that having a high-quality remote shopping experience helps a business stay flexible and continue to serve customers in any environment.
Keeping in mind that people are not as likely to want to leave home right now, a successful new business should focus on creating a strong digital presence with online shopping options.
Offer High Levels Of Security
Many people are conscious of safety and security due to the pandemic. It’s essential to address these concerns, both in person and online. Your website should offer excellent cybersecurity, especially when it comes to protecting personal data and payment information.
If you plan to open a physical store, make sure that your protocols are up to date based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local government. When you offer proper security and safety, consumers will feel more confident shopping with you even in a challenging market.
Are you interested in starting a business but not sure where to start — or if this is even the right time? I hope after reading this article, it will give you some ideas on how to begin. There’s never a perfect time to start a business. Now is just as good a time as any.
I wish you the best of success!
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