Since 2008, hundreds of entrepreneurs from across the UK have shared their startup ideas and put their sales skills to the test by competing in Britain’s biggest small business competition, The Pitch.
76% of adults in the UK access the internet every day, so it’s more important than ever that your business has online visibility
Following the excitement of this years’ big finale, where Rebecca Coates, founder of propertECO took the title of ‘2014 Champion’, we look at the essential building blocks for a successful startup with these five foundations.
Whether it’s believing in your business idea or trusting in your own abilities, confidence is an essential element for startup success. If you can maintain a healthy balance of self-assurance it will be evident in everything you do, which in turn, will help to give your customers and investors confidence in your business. If there are any areas of your business you don’t feel fully confident with, ask yourself why and seek feedback from friends, family and even strangers to understand where you can improve.
Husband and wife team, Rory and Sarah Payne set up their chocolate business, cocoaloco.co.uk, after testing their brownie products on a range of channels such as eBay. For them, confidence and learning from feedback was vital to their success: “When you run your own business, there is no one there managing you, giving you a review and telling you that you are doing a good or bad job. You have to balance the confidence that what you are doing is right with the openness to listen to, seek and take on feedback if you get things wrong or need to make changes or improvements.”
This year alone 76% of adults in the UK accessed the internet every day¹, so it’s more important than ever that your business has online visibility. Start by making sure you register the right domain for your business and ensure your website is easy for customers to find. From your domain name to the design, your website should clearly communicate what your business is about and what makes you unique.
A huge part of your website visibility is down to research and analysis. Look at what your customers are searching for so that you can identify and update your website with the most relevant keywords to improve your search engine rankings. Don’t underestimate the importance of your website analytics either; they are key to your prominence. They can help you do things like identify website pages that need improvement or study data about your online visitors so you can meet their needs and expectations. Ben Harper, co-founder of marketing agency datify.co.uk explains: “Data is a great way to improve visibility it can allow a new business to get where they need to be faster… My number one tip is to put data before personal opinions.”
An eye-catching website with engaging content is important for your startup, but it’s equally vital to know how to drive traffic to it. This should be something you factor into your plan right from the start. How are you going to advertise your business online? What social channels will you use to make some noise about it?
Web design expert Paul Clarke from cloudignite.uk says: “Good quality content, not just the volume of it, on a well-structured page is the foundation of any online business. But that’s all it is – a foundation. The next step is to give it a good push, especially to your target market. Hit the social media channels with teaser posts about your content. If you have a newsletter include information about your social channels but always have a direct link to your website page. Write a press release with an eye-catching hook outlining why journalists should take notice of your content and direct them to it. Just make lots of noise aimed at driving traffic to your website.”
Don’t be afraid to be picky about who you surround yourself with, whether it’s your business partner or investor. You will need a strong team who you can trust and rely on to help you through crucial stages of your business and carry you towards success. Similarly, you should ensure your employees and partners have faith in you, so be transparent and make honesty your number one policy.
Co-founder of award-winning search retargeting startup captify.co.uk, Adam Ludwin’s top tip is to surround yourself with people you trust: “Make sure you have a board of people around you that can add value… recruiting the right people is always a tricky challenge. We knew that we needed experienced people so we were keen to hire non-corporate senior staff who would fit in with the team and have enough passion to be hands-on.“
Finally, remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and a lot of hard work. The key to startup success lies in the research, strategies and learning, so think in the long-term and plan ahead as much as possible.
Head of technology at tech startup Minicabster, Irshad Khan, believes thinking ahead is fundamental for startups: “It’s easy to get engrossed in the day-to-day technical side of the business, so make sure you don’t overlook the long-term success factors like customer service. Be diligent in maintaining customer loyalty by going above and beyond with your service.”
Whether your startup is in its early stages of development or still just an idea swimming around in your head, with these basic elements in place you’ll be on the right path towards success.
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