10 things you need to market your new business
From logos and websites to stationery and Adwords – here’s our checklist of the 10 most important things you really need to get your business start-up off the ground (professionally).
Starting a business is a brave and daunting thing to do. There are so many things to think of and, to coin the phrase, you don’t know what you don’t know. This is why it’s so useful to have a checklist of the basic things you’ll need to get the business name and what you’re offering out there. As you may expect, we meet and advise people every week when they are thinking about starting a business. Whether it’s a service-based business or one selling products, the basic principles of what you need to get started are the same.
To start with, people won’t know you or what you’re selling until you tell them – so the marketing material and messaging needs to be your best sales person when you can’t be there. It’s proven that:
- People buy into brands – if the business looks good and offers a clear definition of what it is offering, it will be more likely to succeed than one that doesn’t have a clear or defined image or message.
- People need to be reassured – even if it’s day one, people need to be sure that you know what you’re doing if they engage you. A professional image and clear messaging will do that.
- People like consistency – it underpins the need for reliable partners and service providers. If you follow a process for everything and the message is consistent from your website to your email signature to your invoice, it makes you look professional.
- People want to feel confident they have made the right decision in engaging or buying from you – after all, you’re offering something that they need or can’t do. You’re the professional in the room. Present yourself in that way and make them feel confident in your skills.
The business start-up marketing item checklist
Whilst not meant to be exhaustive, the following list is what we consider to be the 10 items you must have as a minimum when starting up your business. The list is provided in order of importance, or rather, in the order in which you should tackle them, to make sure you have enough in place to complete the list.
1. A clear statement of what you do – also known as an ‘elevator pitch’
It might sound obvious, but you need to clearly define what your business does in as simplistic a way as possible. You know what the business does, but you need to get that across to people – in the time it would take to ride an elevator. If your business definition is clear in your mind, it’ll be more easily understood when you tell others. If you want to, you could use this statement as an opening message on your website or other marketing pieces. Simplicity is best.
You have to have a logo. It identifies you from your competition. From a practical point of view, it helps define your service offering, products and style of marketing material. From a business growth point of view, it helps set the tone of the business – for instance, is it playful, serious, or focused on the environment? People buy into brands, whether they know it or not. Logos are not just the preserve of Apple and Google – your accountancy practice or the scaffolding company doing work on your house will also have a brand image and at some point you will have chosen it over another supplier.
You need a graphic designer to create a logo in the right file formats. NOT Photoshop. Photoshop is for photo editing. Logos need to be created using a vector-based application, such as Adobe Illustrator, so you can have a selection of file formats (we recommend logos in EPS, JPG, PNG with transparent background, and a white-out version for use on dark backgrounds). You also want to ask for the original .AI vector file because it will save you time and money if you want to use the logo for other things in the future. You should look to pay a professional graphic designer around £400-500 for a decent logo, but this investment will last you for many years to come. You can also get logos from websites like Fivr.com for less, but remember these designs have very often already been used (with slight variations) by others and so if you intend to trademark the brand at any point in the future you won’t be able to.
3. Website (including a domain name)
Yep, whether it’s just a low-cost template website from the likes of GoDaddy or one that has been designed specifically for your business and has more complex functions (such as shopping carts, login areas and so on) you have to have a website these days. Google is the first place anyone looks for a business or service provider. To put it simply, no website = no business. It’s that important. You’ll need to register a domain name (like our www.aubergine262.com) and you will need to direct your customers to this address in all your marketing and promotion. A website is your 24/7 salesperson. You’ll need the website to be hosted on a web server to deliver it to the internet and it will need to have an SSL certificate (more on this here) – this is an annual cost along with your domain name. This will also have a bearing on email, which I cover in a later point.
Some websites can’t be edited, but the good ones can. When commissioning a website from your developer, it’s important to ask for the ability to edit, and make sure they factor the admin area (also known as a CMS – content management system) into the quote or you’ll be going back to them every time you want to change a word or picture.
Your web designer can register you a domain name (make sure it is registered in your name) or you can just go to a site like 123-reg.co.uk. It’ll cost you around £20 per year.
You’ll need some basic bits of stationery, depending on what type of business you’re in. Very often people default to thinking they will need printed business cards, letterheads and compliment slips – I would say that this is the case if you visit potential customers and part of your service needs lots of administration (a service-based business), but if you have a shop or online business you might not need all of these.
As a rule, I would ask your graphic designer to produce you a design and artwork for:
A business card. The cost of printing these double-sided is the same as single-sided these days, so make sure you maximise impact and get a design on both sides. Alternatively, if you are more of a boutique or product-based business, you will benefit more from an A6 postcard design.
A letterhead. This will need to be artwork that you can get printed if you see yourself sending a lot of letters. If you don’t, ask the designer to create you an MS Word template. A word of advice. Whatever font you choose for your letters, always use the same. Don’t mix up the font size and style. Professionalism is all about consistency.
You can use the letterhead for invoices/receipts, too. But you probably won’t need compliment slips unless you’re sending out lots of documents/products that won’t have an accompanying letter.
5. Professional email and signature
Starting a business is an uphill battle, so do yourself a favour and make the right impression from the start – don’t use free email services like Gmail, Hotmail or AOL. It does not look professional and those free accounts have very limited functionality and capability. We recommend getting your own domain name and then having the mail provided by Google Mail Services (known as Google App Suite for Business). You’ll pay around £3 per mailbox per month and it comes with powerful antivirus and filtering, and a control panel for you to set up autoresponders, forwarders and everything you need. You’ll need to own your own domain name before you can do this, but after that the Google tools to set it up are very easy. Find out more here.
6. Google AdWords
There are 50 billion web pages on Google. The chances of your website appearing on the first page of a Google search are therefore remote at best. However, if you are setting up your own business you need to get visibility from the get-go. Paying for Google AdWords (those little text adverts at the top of search results) is the only sensible way and you can do it on a fixed budget. In the past, businesses spent money every year on advertising in Yellow Pages. Those days are over and have been for a while – all start-up businesses must allocate an annual marketing budget, most of which you should be spending on Google AdWords. It’s the only way to get your website (and therefore your business) found on the internet.
You can do it yourself – but it’s a little complicated to set up. It’s also tricky to know which search phrases to target without accidentally bidding on broad and unrelated search phrases that don’t get your ad seen by the right people and end up rinsing your monthly budget in 2 days.
We recommend looking up your local Google AdWords Partner – they will have fixed prices for setting AdWords up and will show you how to run it or look after it for you. They will also help you fine-tune the search results to optimise how you’re spending. We’ve written a simple Adwords guide here for getting started.
7. Google My Business (formerly Google Maps & Places)
This is about the only free thing that Google offer that has some value. If you are a local business, rather than a national brand or service provider, make sure you set yourself up on Google My Business as this will bring up your location on the Google map above all the natural search results. You can then populate your Google My Business page with your logo, maybe some pictures and opening times, address and telephone number and that will appear in the right-hand side of all local search results. Get set up on Google My Business here.
8. Social media pages
Your social media profile completely depends on your market and what sort of service or products you offer. If you are a local business, having a Facebook page is vital. Almost all locally-commissioned or searched businesses are also seen through Facebook. Facebook requires the person who sets this up to have a personal account – no connection will be made to it, but it’s how they verify you. One thing to note – if you intend on setting a page up, make sure you commit to keeping it up to date. Use it to post news, offers and link it to your website. Always give the viewers a call-to-action (a time-based offer or reason to visit your website there and then.)
Twitter is more of a customer-service portal to field enquiries, unless you plan to post up regular news content. It’s not appropriate for selling products through – it’s more about expressing your expertise by posting links to your blog or news articles.
Linkedin is specifically for business-to-business (B2B services) and really only appropriate for expressing your expertise by posting short messages with links to your recent articles on your website.
Instagram is really only suited to those that sell a physical product and one that looks good. It’s a photographic-based channel that allows users to post up an image of one of your products and accompany it with hashtags to get the photo, visible when people search for that word. Great for people who make or sell products that are visually appealing, but it can also be useful to communicate events, too.
9. Brand guidelines
You may not think you need a document covering how you should or shouldn’t use your logo or colours in different ways. But as a minimum, detailing in one or two pages how the logo should look, and which fonts and colours to use, will make sure you remain consistent in the style of your promotional material and messaging. And when your marketing pieces become more varied, it pays to have your graphic designer produce you a simple set of rules – called brand guidelines – for how the logo and company name should look, in terms of fonts, colours, size etc. so that when you promote your business at an event or in a publication you can ensure they follow the same style. It ensures that people will always be able to recognise your brand over your competition. You can see an example of a few simple brand guidelines here.
10. Good photos
There are a couple of angles to this. If you are selling actual products, get them photographed professionally unless you are a real whizz at photography. A simple snapshot will look terrible. People buy with their eyes – it’s the bit that happens first – they see products and if they look good they’ll investigate further. If they look bad, they won’t bother – game over.
If you don’t sell products but rather provide services, fortunately for you it’s not imperative you get the photographer in. Instead, use professional image library pictures. They will give you a professional look and there are millions of pictures available.
A word of warning. Do not take images from Google search results. These are not ‘free’ images but merely images from all the websites it visits – they’re other people’s images and you don’t have the right to use them. Instead, buy the images from a low-cost website, such as www.istockphoto.com or www.shutterstock.com. They’ll be high quality and, more importantly, you’ll have the legal right to use them.
If you’re setting up a new business, it’ll pay you to set aside a couple of months to gather all of the above. Allow the time – it’s the foundation of your business promotion and how your future customers will see you. More useful articles on promoting and marketing your business can be found by visiting our blog here and by following our Facebook page here.