We are lucky enough to work with loads of great people at EngineRoom. One is Emma Wood, who runs INTOtheWeald; a website about events and goings-on in the Weald of Kent. Emma has provided our first guest blog post, about launching a business in the Weald. What she says is very interesting and can of course apply to areas all over the country…
In the past few years the business population in the Weald has altered significantly, with more than 86% of last year’s increase created by the registration of trading entities which do not employ people.
The impact of e-commerce, insecurity in traditional job markets and the ability to work remotely has led to record numbers of people wanting, or having no choice, to set up on their own.
Running your own enterprise needs self-discipline, hard work and commitment. Getting the ingredients right can bring personal and financial rewards, but it is critical to plan, equip and drive it efficiently if you are to succeed in establishing a sustainable business.
It does not matter if you are opening a store in Cranbrook or an internet trading business from home in Sissinghurst, it is important to ask: Who or what is your target market, how big is it and how are you going to communicate and sell to it? Learn what your competitors are doing and their charges. Be clear on how you are going to differentiate yourself and how to deliver your products or services to be profitable; and from the outset be well-informed on funding sources for your start-up.
Write down what you are going to do and how you will do it. Document your start-up costs including how much capital you need for initial purchases, as well as the cash to fund your operation until it breaks even and produces sufficient net income for you to live on. Prepare and maintain a five-year business plan incorporating your personal goals and a cash-flow forecast for the start-up period, a first full year after you have broken even and a rolling six-month budget verses actual. Keep it to a few pages.
It is critical once you have set this up that you test the down-side risks in case your launch does not go to plan and equally, if you are ahead, determine what to do next.
Seek advice by networking with people running their own businesses, even if they are different. They will have lots of contacts and there is nothing like word of mouth for generating interest. There are numerous events across Kent which will bring you into contact with others who have lots of experience.
You are now preparing for launch. Be clear about your target audience and how to engage with prospective customers. Implement your advertising to get the sales process going, but before you do consider these statistics first.
Three years ago the use of mobile surpassed desk top and other forms of media for searching for local businesses, accordingly to Smart Insights. Google stats show that 72% of consumers who do a local search visit a store within five miles. Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within a day, 78% of mobile searches result in off-line purchases.
In short it does not matter if you are a basket weaver, landscape gardener or shop you should have a mobile responsive and search-optimised website. To be frank if you are not on the World Wide Web you are doing your business a disservice.
Drive all advertising to your website and place a different type of promotion on each piece of advertising, from social media to a leaflet through the door, and a post card on a notice board to a radio campaign, you can establish where your customers are. Put your telephone number on there for those who would prefer to call. Always ask those who contact you where they heard about you so you can expand your knowledge of what works and what does not.
The fastest way to grow profit is to grow sales. Focus on targets and get to break-even as quickly as possible. You will not get everything right first time, but take note of your mistakes and ensure they are not repeated. A good reputation, on the ground, off-line and online are the keys to growing your business not just locally but also further afield.