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Starting your own business? First impressions count

Mark Tomkins
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Let’s face it – we choose most things on how they look. Clothes, food, brands of things we like – even mobile devices, it’s all a very visual thing. Now, I’m not saying that we’re all completely shallow and make the decision based on just how it looks but first impressions are vital and that is exactly why you should get your company image right when starting your own business.

If you’ve taken the decision to start your own business – well done! You’re among the many hundreds of thousands that do it each year but we want to make sure that you aren’t one of the 1 in 3 that fail in their first year because they simply haven’t marketed their business correctly.

There are some simple and basic things that you need to do when you start your own business and the idea behind this short blog title is to give you a few pointers – all of which can be tailored to your exact needs, but the principles are the same regardless of the size of your business.

So first:

Your logo and branding

You need to make sure that you have a logo and brand image that is recognisable, appropriate to your market place and NOT designed in Microsoft Word or Windows Paint. No matter what you do, your business image needs to look professional or your potential customers will think feel that if your business looks slap-dash, you’ll do a poor job for them.

You need to consider:

A simple, well-designed logo
A selection of fonts that you use for all communication for consistency
A simple palette of colours that work with the logo

On a larger scale, we call this the corporate identity – but whether you’re Apple or a local florist, the principles are the same. Consistency in the look of the communication  – then your customers will learn to recognise you and your advertising.

Marketing material

Your business may need to correspond in more traditional ways – letters, posting documents and so on, so making sure you have some good letterhead, compliment slips and business cards that have both the required contact  information and the projection of your brand well positioned. Opting for the ‘500 business cards for only £5 – design it online’ type places – will get you poor quality, mass-produced and lame stationery that will have been already used by many others in your industry. Do it properly – if you hand over a business card that looks rubbish, the person you give it to will be draw similar conclusions about how working with you will be.

To start with, you can get a professionally-designed set of stationery (letterheads, business cards etc) and a basic start level of stock for a couple of hundred quid.

Brochures, leaflets, postcards, email advertising, press adverts

– all vital to the promotion of your business. But not all needed right away – plan the marketing and the budget – drip feed it out regularly using each time you send something out as a reminder to your potential customers of who you are and what you do.

A good, clean website

You don’t need to have an amazon.com sized website for launch (unless you have big plans in mind!). Making sure the website is clearly signposted (obvious directions for people to see what you do and what they need to get it) is key. You can start with a simple website and build from there – a homepage that makes it clear what you’re offering, and what the options are with obvious calls to action > click here to buy our widgets! Click here to view our range of widgets > that sort of thing.

You’ll need a page that tells the customer who you are and a bit about you and at all times making it obvious how the customer gets in touch with you if they need to. Or, if it’s a website where you would like your customers to buy online, how they add the product to the basket and, more importantly, how they pay you for it.

Again, in the same vein of advice as the cheap stationery providers, there are a lot of these ‘build your own website for £99’ type websites – of course there’s a place in the market for these, but if you want your business to not look like all the others in your marketplace and stand a chance to be head and shoulders above them, get it done properly but those that understand the digital marketing world and can best advise you – with the best will in the world, the ‘website for £99’ places are often based in far flung parts of the world with little or no experience of running a business in the UK!

Have a plan

Whilst YOU know what you do, you need to make sure that you regularly communicate to your potential customers (and existing ones for that matter!) what you do – all too often, businesses start up and expect that customers will walk through the door (real or virtual) just because you’ve opened.

Have a marketing plan as to what your messaging is going to say
Plan out how often you want to communicate to your market
Schedule the offers – don’t say the same thing over and over

All this may seem a little daunting to do whilst doing what you actually do – whether it’s designing a wedding bouquet, making cakes or running the next amazon.com – but without it, you won’t be doing what you do best for long.

So, in January, when you’ve eaten all the turkey and Quality Street you can stomach and you want to plan your future business, give us a call. We can chat through your idea and put a plan in place.

There’s an old business adage – it’s a bit cheesy but I hope this Christmas you’ll permit me this one: …If you ‘fail to plan, you plan to fail’.