What is a startup, how to get started
Startup is ideally an idea that is executed by someone who is getting into business for the first time. And if you have no family background of business or if you haven’t made any attempts in the past, then there are some ground rules that you need to follow to make sure you continue to stay in the market for times to come. Remember, many startups survive for not more than five years max.
Here are a few strategies that can help you have a safe take-off:
Step 1: Great Idea is the beginning
The first step is to come up with a great idea, either to fill an existing gap in the market or to introduce a new product that will create a market or update the existing product in terms of its look or service it provides. You can also find a new use for a product that is already existing in the market and doing well.
For example, the market started with analog phones, today it’s the smart phones and tomorrow it could be something that you might come up with. So, remember, it all begins with a great idea.
Step 2: Make a Business Plan
This is a crucial step where you must write down clearly and succinctly about the products or services you intend to offer. Give info about your industry, operations, finances and market analysis. A well-written business plan or writing a business plan is the make or break step to get financing for your startup. Banks are likely to give funding if you can explain clearly as to how you are going to use the money and why you need it.
Step 3: Funding for the startup
Next, figure out what amount of funding you are looking for your startup. Startup funding varies from business to business. You can get startup funding from sources like family, friends, angel investors, venture capitalists and of course bank loans.
There is also the option of applying for a 0% interest rate business credit card, but for that you must be able to pay off the balance before the end of the offer period. Always remember if you can’t raise funds, then you cannot meet your operational costs and this will mean a shutdown. In fact, 29% of startups fail due to lack of funds.
Thankfully, there are quite a few apps like Fundera to know about credit cards and apps like QuickBooks to help you keep a track of your cash inflow and expenses.
Step 4: Have a right startup ecosystem
Operating a startup is no small issue. You need to understand that there is a lot of risk involved and you will need sound advice and business advisors along the way like lawyers, certified public accountants (CPAs), insurance professionals and bankers.
Secondly, you need to have a right startup team, more so during the early stage of business. For this, you will need good – co-founders, contractors, initial employees that include remote workers.
Step 5: Meticulously Follow all Legal Steps
Setting up a startup sounds like lots of fun despite the hardwork. However, by the time you enter the market, you need to take the right legal steps to ensure your road ahead is smooth. To begin:
- Apply for a business license
- Register your business name
- Get a tax ID number
- File for a trademark
- Get to know the industry (that you will operate in) regulations
- Build contracts for clients and others you intend to work with
Step 6: Your startup must have a physical or online location
It is a good option to invest in a property to set up your startup office as you can also avail tax deductions for a commercial space. Alternately, you can lease a place and put the money in other areas. However, if you have your own property, you can give it on lease later on.
Then, a startup needs to have digital presence through online presence or an e-commerce platform. This will mean that customers can look to the site 24×7, 365 days and this is bound to increase sales. Also the content on the site can help customers make informed decisions. It’s also important to enhance search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure your startup brand appears in top Google searches.
Step 7: Make a Marketing Plan
Having a clear plan for startup marketing makes good business sense as it establishes brand identity, sets you apart from competition, create customer relationships and builds loyalty, increases visibility and gives the startup a good name.
Startup marketing plan must include – a) Using social media to engage customers and promote deals or coupons
- b) Giving rewards for referrals to bring in more business
- c) Offer free samples or demos in your store, if its physical
- d) Sponsoring events to spread the word about your startup in targeted groups or your local community.
Step 8: Build a Loyal Customer Base
Loyal customer base can lead to more sales as they are willing to return to your product or service. It’s also important to reach out to new customers to emphasize your brand is trustworthy. Get referrals, so that you can save on time and effort.
According to International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) about 90% of customers returned as the pricing matched that of market norms and about 70% returned as they liked the quality of the product or service on offer.
To retain customer interest or loyalty:
- Start by offering a good product or service from time to time
- Make sure to launch loyalty programmes
- Use affiliate marketing on social media, which means paying influencers to promote your product or service to the target customers.
- Good customer service is the bottomline. Never forget this golden rule.
- Make use of market research to better understand customers’ expectations and experiences.
- Get regular feedback from customers directly.
Step 9: Adapt your startup for consistent growth
One common point for all successful startups is that they grow drastically in the first few years. While some fizzle out, others adapt their business model to suit the market from time to time and the industry.
Best way to do this is to hire forward thinking advisors, listening to customer feedback and staying up to date with industry trends.
Setting up a startup is no small task. Make sure you are willing to evolve as per customer expectations, industry changes to be a successful example.