You have your business plan in one hand, and a cup of very strong coffee in the other. The paperwork is being processed, and the website is in the final round of edits. Your small business is almost ready to launch, but you’re worried you might be missing something.
Websites and business books are full of best practices, quick tips, and mistakes to avoid, but building a successful business isn’t strictly about the business itself. You need to build three pillars that will help launch your vision into the world.
Priority 1: Build an Audience
Building an audience is done before, during, and after the launch of your business, because your passion and your vision don’t start when you file your LLC or end when your website goes live. It started months, if not years, before you thought about brand names, and it’s that passionate vision—not an iconic logo—that draws people in.
Your audience will be made up of different tiers of people who will buy-in at various levels. In some way, though, they will invest in you, tie their own businesses or interests to yours, provide feedback, and promote your work.
And gathering them has never been easier (or cheaper). In addition to traditional networking events and small business associations, the social web is a small business’ playground:
- Social Media – Don’t ask them to come to you: go to them. Hold your personas up against social media users, and start engaging with your people where they already hang out. Share information they are looking for, inspire them, entertain them, ask them questions. Connect.
- Blog – Your audience will grow and they will want more. Your blog is a vehicle for providing the information they need, and deepening the relationship. A steady stream of resourceful, engaging content will establish your brand as an expert, and generate conversation with prospects and clients.
- Email Automation – Automation software requires some initial investment, but as long as email continues to rule online marketing, the ability to send relevant, timely messages to your audience is worth it.
Gathering interested parties to build an audience around your brand means you’re not sending promotions and messages into a void. Most small business owners expect it to happen on its own, and it may—very, very slowly. There are tools (and many of them are free) available to help you assemble a crowd much faster just by engaging and sharing your story. Take advantage of this opportunity!
Priority 2: Build a Team
You can’t run a successful business on your own, but building a team doesn’t have to mean hiring a bunch of staff. The team that you start with will vary depending on your business model and your pile of startup capital, but you need someone on your side. Chances are, no matter what the variables are, you can build at least one of these teams right away:
- Fans – Your mom, your friends, your weird uncle, etc. People who will give you their Saturdays and some of their Facebook status updates. They will celebrate with you, help you through hard times, and talk about you at bridge club. They don’t seem like a “team,” because they’re always there for you, but don’t underestimate them. Treat them like part of the team.
- Employees – If you’re hiring right away—even if it’s just one admin person—don’t neglect him/her/them. Don’t get so caught up in the busyness of the company that you fail to spend time on your employee(s).
- Mentors – Every new business owner or entrepreneur needs a team of trusted advisors by his side. (If you secured business investors, they may expect a role on this team.) Reach out to successful businessmen and women in your area or your industry, or sign up with the local chapter of a business mentoring program. Establish and build these relationships before you really need them.
Your relationship with these teams will be vastly different, and they will change over time as your business grows and develops. All of them, however, will always be important, so even as strategies and roles change, never stop building up and building into your teams.
Priority 3: Build Yourself
The life of a small business owner is busy and unpredictable. With so much to do, it can feel negligent to spend time on yourself, when, in fact, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your new company. No matter what happens with the company, always make time to do these three things for yourself:
- Keep learning. Did you know that 90% of the data that exists today was created in the past two years? Keep learning about your industry, about the technology that is advancing and affecting your industry, and about trends in small business in general.
- Improve your leadership. Your business will only grow as much, and be as successful, as you are at leading it. Study leadership, read about and follow other leaders who inspire you, and be intentional about becoming a great leader yourself.
- Rest. This is the hard one for most entrepreneurs and small business owners, and you may already be arguing in your head. Yes, you are awesome. You have a huge vision and a great work ethic, but you are human. Accept it. Embrace it. And build down-time into your schedule on a daily, weekly, and/or seasonal basis. Study after study has shown that you work better if you rest regularly.
At least at the beginning, your company is very much about you. As a new small business owner, you are your brand. Take care of yourself with the same attention you give to your organization.
One Brick at a Time
There is a lot to do when launching a small business, but your audience, your team, and your own well-being can’t be neglected for paperwork and fundraising.
Look at where you stand with each one and start small. Refocus your social media content around the concept of drawing people in, instead of pushing information out. Decide which team is most lacking and establish one new relationship for that team this week. Then—take the afternoon off.
And plan to take a little time out of your normal, crazy schedule on October 29, for a free online event: How Everyday Businesses Can Leverage Social Media to Grow and Brand Their Businesses. Deborah Sweeney, CEO and Owner of MyCorporation, is bringing her extensive knowledge of entrepreneurship and small businesses to the discussion as one of the featured panelists. Learn how to build your audience using social media!
The Grasshopper Team loves sharing tips, tricks, advice, and how-tos with entrepreneurs around the world. We’re always here to answer questions or just chat.