Every person who has ever thought of starting a start-up and hasn’t seen it through has started with an idea and somewhere along the line stopped at the idea. What makes a business idea work is the persistence to see that idea be converted into a sellable product.
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
It takes time and hard work to bring an idea to fruition. Growing a business will need more work than a job ever would, which many people transitioning do not realize. You will need to sacrifice more than you bothered to consider, you will have to work more hours, you will lose sleep, but in the end, it will be all worth it.
If you plan everything properly and keep your vision set on the goal, it becomes easier. Keep moving forward and keep taking baby steps. Here are a few things you can do to finally make your dreams see the light of the day without you feeling overwhelmed and ditching your ideas before they even take their first breath.
1. Document Everything
Whenever an idea strikes, putting it all on paper is the best way to go. Having everything laid out will give you a clear idea as to what is needed to make that idea become a reality. You will get to see all the pre-requisites right in front of you and it will give you a pretty good clue of the amount of effort you will need to put in.
“Documentation is like sex: when it is good, it is very, very good; and when it is bad, it is better than nothing.”
You will not be moving forward with an unrealistic approach toward the project. Making a mission statement or writing down your vision in a document and keeping on visiting it from time to time will help you stay true to your dream. Whenever you feel like you are losing track of things, you can revisit this document to remind yourself what your goal was.
2. Research Your Idea
Once you know what all you are going to need or want to get to the starting point of the action sequence, to get the ball rolling, pull all stops to gather information. Information gathering is a crucial phase of any project.
A preliminary check on your target market, manufacturing and distribution costs, comparing the costs of similar products, studying the demand, etc. is a no-brainer. This is important to know that there is a profit to be made before you invest a great deal of time and money developing your dream into reality.
3. Find a Mentor
Now you have an idea and you have spent considerable time researching the market and the product, but you don’t know where to go from there. If it is a field that is completely foreign to you then the hurdles are at every corner and even if you are quite familiar with the technicalities of the field, the experiences of someone can give you invaluable insight.
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”
-John C. Maxwell
Find a mentor who can help you guide through the process, someone who has been there and done that, or someone who has bright ideas as to how you can proceed and can provide you with a logical argument to whatever you have at your disposal.
4. Design a Prototype/Working Model
Having a real-life example of how your product is going to work or how it is going to be received in the market makes you ready to deal with the real deal before it even becomes a reality.
It also helps you make a more informed pitch to your investors. Having everything ready to be explained and showing how much thought and research has been put into every decision is a great way to show investors how serious you are. It also helps you discover all the flaws or kinks before your idea can be patented or the production can be started.
5. Find the Right Investors
If you do not have the capital to invest, chances are you don’t, then you will have to find an investor who believes in your vision and is willing to invest in it. This is where thorough research and having adequate documentation comes in.
Knowing the market of your product inside out will help you sell your idea to investors. Finding the right investor is important because when both the parties are on board with the idea and have the same vision, working becomes that much easier and there are fewer decision clashes.
6. Marketing and Distribution
Marketing is when you create a business plan and figure out how you would bring your product to the market. It includes decisions like whether you want to manufacture and sell the product all by yourself or you want to license another company for sale.
Distribution channels need to be figured out. Comparisons need to be made to decide what option will help you make the most profit and what fits in with the vision of your product, of your company.
7. Marketing Channels and Advertising
You might have a great product but if people don’t know it exists then there is no point of it existing. You have to put your product out there for people to discover it and try it. You have to figure out what channels are the best for the product you are planning to launch.
“Whether B2B or B2C, I believe passionately that good marketing essentials are the same. We all are emotional beings looking for relevance, context and connection.”
Learn about the tools at your disposal. Use social media to create a brand presence and to generate leads. Social media channels are also great to track customer feedback and get suggestions. It helps you make a direct connection with the customers and reach out to potential customers.
Having an idea is just not enough if you want to see your dream turn into reality. Steps are meant to be taken not stared at. No matter how good your idea is, if you don’t do anything about it, it is as good as not existing.
If it feels overwhelming, take one thing at a time. Go through the process one step at a time. Focus on developing your idea, then focus on researching – not everyone can multitask and manage different phases of the process together. It is okay to work a phase in isolation – as long as you don’t stop working toward your goal, it is okay to go as slow as you like.
How to Use User-Generated Content
For a business to remain relevant on the internet, especially if you are a small business, it must constantly create content. And, just any content won’t do. The content you create must resonate with the followers and engage them thoroughly.
This can be pretty tough to pull off consistently all by yourself. I speak from experience. No matter how good you are with content, no matter how much knowledge you possess about your niche, and no matter how driven you are – constantly coming up with ideas can be draining. Being consistent requires discipline along with creativity, and sometimes, creativity just wants to stay stagnant.
However, you can solve this problem by using social media followers to create content for you. Social media is full of precious information for businesses. It has become easy to directly connect with the customers and use data to make data-driven decisions. Let’s use what is available and look at eight simple ways how we can use the help of users to generate relevant content.
An easy way to make users create content for you is by using hashtags. For this, you need to first create a branded hashtag that gives off a strong vibe about your business.
So, for a gaming company, hashtags like #LetsPlay, #PickUpTheGamepad, or something similar will make sense. Plus, if you can ensure that the hashtag is related to some kind of cause, then all the better.
For example, a new government regulation might result in restricting the gaming industry. So, creating hashtags revolving around this topic will give you a better chance at attracting users and ensuring that lots of quality content is created.
Text content alone will not help you widen your reach on social media. You will need images, as well. And these, too, can be sourced from your followers. Ask them to send in photos of them using your product or service.
You can then select a few that look good and have a chance of being shared the most on social media to feature on your profile page. Ideally, photos should depict them enjoying or benefiting from the product.
So, if you provide online gaming service, then photos showing people smiling while gaming is far more preferable than people just holding a gamepad in their hands and taking a selfie.
When you post content on your social media profile, you will most likely generate a massive amount of comments from followers. And while most of these comments will often be one-liners with no substantial content, there will be a few comments that can be deeply impactful or thought-provoking.
So, when you see such comments, take a screenshot and post it on your social media page. You can also contact the user and ask them whether they wish to be tagged.
For example, you may post an article on how best to use your brand of nail polish. And among the many comments, the post will attract, you might come across one user who has narrated a story about how using the nail polish has helped her feel more attractive. These are the type of comments that you should screenshot and share.
You can also conduct a poll and use it to create excellent content. The best way to implement this is to conduct a poll wherein the participants are asked about your product or brand, and the results of which can be turned into an infographic.
For example, if you sell internet security software, then the poll can focus on questions like how many people feel that their computer has become safer after installing the software; how many think that your security software is better than the rivals; how many feel that the pricing is okay, and so on.
Once the poll ends, you can tabulate the results and get a good graphic designer to convert the statistics into an attractive infographic that has the potential to go viral.
Asking your followers some questions about the product or service is also a good way to create user-generated content. The question must focus on evoking a response that highlights how good your offering is.
So, a question like ‘How much weight have you lost by using our product’ should be used as compared to ‘Do you think diet is essential for weight-loss?’
The former will mostly evoke an answer that will reflect the quality of your product while the latter will only lead to a more generalized answer. You can then select the best answers and post them on your profile.
If your business is conducting an event that has the potential to attract the attention of the general public, then that, too, is an opportunity to generate user-created content. You can spread the news that a special event is being conducted, and invite people to attend.
When they do come to the place, encourage them to share their experience of it online. They may publish a text post about how the event was or may even live stream their experience on Facebook. Whatever way they choose, it will benefit you by getting your business more exposure.
Another excellent way to generate top-notch content is by inviting testimonials from users. Just ask customers to provide their experience with your product or service detailing how using it has changed their life for the better.
So, if your business manufactures shampoo, you can ask followers to send in their experience of how the shampoo helped them get rid of dandruff and made their hair lustrous and healthy.
The best thing about this is that you will easily get so many responses since many people will jump at the opportunity to see their story featured by a business.
Maybe you don’t have sufficient social media clout to create user-generated content successfully. So, what do you do? The best alternative for you is to use influencer marketing
Contact an influencer in your niche and use them as a tool to create content from the public. As a starting point, you can ask the influencer to use the hashtags discussed above so that your brand name gets sufficient exposure. You can then move on to using the influencer for collecting testimonials, conducting polls, asking questions, and so on.
However, do make sure that the influencer you associate with has a good reputation so that your business will be seen in a more positive light by the people.
Building a brand presence on social media can be a great deal because it has the potential to make more sales than direct marketing. Social media helps you make customers feel a connection and trust your business. They are more likely to convert into actual customers when they see how others have benefited and how well you understand your customers and care for them.
Use a combination of all the ways that I have talked about. Reaching people and then showing them how helpful your product or service can be to them has never been this easy. If you play your cards right, you might not even have to spend much on elaborate marketing.
Tools to Find and Work With Influencers to Market Your Business
For any business to grow, marketing its products and services to the right audience is necessary. One marketing channel that many businesses seem to avoid due to ignorance is influencer marketing.
“Influencer marketing is the modern word of mouth & is eating the lunch of traditional digital media in many ways.”
In simple words, with influencer marketing, you will be using popular people with a large following on social media and blogosphere to promote your product. The outcome can be tremendously positive. Today I will help you explore how you can find influencers in your business niche and how to negotiate with them.
“Influence marketing is an art and science. The art is the crafting and creating of content that adds value to people’s lives, personally or for their business. The science is the tactics and tools of building tribes and followers on the big social networks”
The first step for using influencer marketing is finding the top influencers in your business niche. For this, you can use any of the following tools –
This is a freemium application in that you can use certain features for free but will have to pay to use its full set of features. Even with its free mode, Buzzsumo is extremely useful for marketers to identify and categorize influencers into various types, like bloggers, reviewers, trainers, beauty experts, and so on.
This will later allow you to use them appropriately for business promotion activities. In addition, Buzzzsumo is also a great tool to know what types of content is trending for a particular day or week.
If you wish to focus largely on twitter influencers, then Tweetdeck is the perfect tool for the job. While you can certainly use this tool to identify influencers that have a large number of followers, its true usefulness lies in the fact that you can also see how many Twitter lists these influencers are on.
This will allow you to accurately gauge the popularity and impact of the influencer enabling you to avoid those who have the least impact and hire influencers with the biggest reach.
This is another great tool that will help you judge the quality of an influencer. The tool will use various metrics like replies, follows, mentions, etc. of the influencer to see how impactful they are. Finally, Kred will provide a rating based on the criteria that will make it much easier for you to find top quality influencers. If you are just starting out with influencer marketing, then Kred is the tool for you.
If you do not wish to waste time on research and finding influencers, then you should try the influencer marketing software – Group High. They maintain a centralized data of some of the biggest influencers on the internet. Plus, the influencers are categorized based on different niches like sports, travel, beauty, tech, and so on. This will make influencer marketing an extremely simple process.
Working With Influencers
Once you have found the important influencers in your niche, you can start approaching and negotiating with them. For this, the following tips will be useful:
The first option is to ask the influencer to review your offering. You can allow them to use the product or service for a few days and ask them to post their honest reviews about it on their social media page. Customers always conduct in-depth research about a product they are interested in.
“95% of people trust recommendations from others over branded content, even if they don’t know them personally.”
As such, if they come across a review from an influencer they are following, then an extremely positive review may push them to choose your product. Now, it is also possible that the reviewer may not like your product. As such, you can ask them not to post a bad review but do not ask them to post a false review. It is unethical and will eventually turn against you.
If you don’t want influencers to review your product, you can negotiate with them to publish a sponsored post. Though a sponsored post might seem like a review, there is a big difference. In a review, the influencer is free to say negative things about your product. But, in a sponsored post, you will be paying them to publish a post about your brand.
“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”
This will ensure that there is nothing excessively negative published about your product or service. However, you have to understand that some bloggers will likely state in the post that it is a ‘sponsored post’ if they are a strict follower of the FTC guidelines. But, do not let it stop you because the exposure gained through a post by an influencer marketer is well worth the money spent.
Another way to use an influencer is through giveaways. This can be a great strategy since a giveaway allows the influencer to hold a contest for their followers with your product or service as the prize. As a result, they are very likely to agree to such arrangements.
Plus, they will also be neutral when talking about the giveaway and only mention its benefits. So, as far as you are concerned, a giveaway is the perfect tactic to get a positive mention of your product from an influencer to their numerous followers. This is essentially a win-win for both parties.
Make sure to work with the influencer to come up with a great contest for the giveaway. It should be exciting for all participants. And remember, the objective of the giveaway is to ensure that many people participate in it. So, don’t complicate the contest. Keep it simple and you are guaranteed to see a fantastic response and exposure.
Many influencers will be contributors to big media outlets that will have a reach to millions of readers. And this is an opportunity you must fully explore. In addition to posting favorable posts on social media and personal blogs, you can ask the influencers whether they are willing to publish a post about your product or service on the website in which they are a contributor. Or you can ask them to let you write a guest post on their blog.
Now, do not have any expectations of how much exposure you will receive in such posts. After all, they are publishing to a third party website and will usually have to contribute a useful piece of content. The best they can possibly do is mention your product or service briefly. But, considering the exposure the article will provide your brand, this is a good marketing strategy that you must definitely try out.
In today’s times, social media is a life-changing tool for small businesses. The plethora of platforms available at our disposal to use – to benefit us and our businesses in ways that didn’t seem possible before – offers a huge opportunity to engage with a community of prospects at a fraction of the cost.
“Influencer marketing is something to pay attention to. We’re used to influencers being people like the Kardashians, but we all have our Kardashians at our events. These people are called micro-influencers and they can have a large impact when used strategically.”
Influencer marketing lets you tap in on a community of people who can be potential customers. The right influencer can allow you to gain many prospects. It is important to learn what works for the current times, and influencer marketing doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon so you might as well use the opportunity to the fullest.
Ways to Improve Marketing Results Using Data from Social Channels
Marketing is aimed at making a product or service look as desirable as possible so that people feel a need to buy and use it. While there are many tactics that can be used to boost marketing and increase sales, ‘social proof’ is one of the most underused tactics by many marketers.
And honestly, this is quite unfortunate since social proof can be used to create a huge positive impact on how the public perceives your product and service. Here are some simple methods of using social proof to improve the results of your marketing campaign.
One of the easiest ways to use social proof in marketing is to use statistics that display the standing of your business, product, or service.
For example, if you manufacture baby talcum powder, find out how many people buy them, its market share, how many people prefer it over other brands, and so on. You can then publish such statistics which will act as social proof that the product or service you offer is indeed of high-quality and in good demand.
When people see statistics like “2 in 3 mothers use our talcum powder for their kids” or “60% of first-time buyers prefer to buy our brand for the next time,” they tend to have a positive impression about the business. This makes the customers feel more comfortable because it sways them to think that they are making an informed decision.
Another simple tactic you can use to boost sales through social proof is by publishing testimonials. A testimonial is simply a statement from the users of your product or service on how they benefited from it, how the product or service produced much better results compared to those of other similar brands, and so on.
The effect such testimonials have on people is tremendous. People generally end up developing a favorable view of something that is viewed positively by numerous other people. And this will make them try out that specific product or service. This is also why influencers are becoming far more valuable to marketing.
Visual proof is one of the most potent tactics out there. Visuals can be such a strong social proof that the audience may even go out and buy the product being promoted solely on the basis of these pictures and videos.
For example, imagine that you conduct a weight loss workshop that guarantees a person will lose almost 20 kilos in just about 3 months. Now, you can publish a detailed text on how the regimen works, what results to expect, etc., but they will have far less impact than a few pictures that show the participants of the program before and after joining it. When the audience sees the visuals of people having lost belly fat, it will act as a strong reconfirmation in their minds that the program is worthy of their investment.
Visual cues are easier for people to remember and act upon. It makes sense to make the launch or advert of your product as visually appealing as possible so that people actually take time out to look at it.
There are also companies that use expert opinions in order to boost sales. This is also the use of social proof, which in this case are the opinions of a few respectable intellectuals from a particular field.
A business that sells anti-virus software can use the expert opinion of tech experts and professionals from the field of safety and security. Positive reviews about your software will let the audience know that what you offer is a completely secure anti-virus software that has been approved for purchase by some of the best people in the industry. This will obviously boost the sales figures for your product.
While expert opinions are good social proof, a much stronger source of social proof is consumer reviews. Expert opinions are about people who just test your product for a few days and state their observations. In contrast, consumer reviews are created by people who have already bought your product because of their interest it, used it and then stating their observations about it.
People generally tend to trust consumer reviews a lot more than expert opinions. This is mostly because of the understanding that such reviews are written by people who are just like them.
So, ensure that you get as many positive reviews about your product or service and publish them on websites and social media to show potential customers that you have a strong existing consumer base.
Yet another form of social proof is a survey. You can conduct surveys on subjects relating to your product or service and publish the positive results online.
For example, if you manufacture shampoo that guarantees to reduce hair fall and strengthening the strands of hair, you can set up an online poll on social media asking your followers as to how many of them experienced an improvement in their hair quality after using the product for three weeks.
Once the survey is finished and the results come out positive, you can publish it and let them know that a good majority of users have benefitted immensely from the hair shampoo.
The positive results from the live survey will surely influence the people who have not used your product to at least consider buying and trying it out.
In the social media space, there are people who are known as ‘influencers.’ These are basically people who have a large following and are therefore in a position to influence how their followers feel about something.
You can use such influencer marketing tactics to create a positive image of your business by enticing the influencers to post a few lines that say good things about you and your products. Using multiple influencers in multiple time periods is the best way to ensure that a constant stream of social proof about your product keeps appearing in social media.
Keep in mind, the influencers you choose to represent your product must have a strong base of followers that come within your ideal target consumer group.
This is one of the most expensive social proof tactics on the list. But this can also be the most impactful.
Big businesses always use celebrities to promote products and services. The status and positive image of the celebrity makes the product look trustworthy in the eyes of the audience. Your business can try out the simple tactic by hiring a popular celebrity if you can afford one.
Although, the influencer market is getting so big in the current space that you won’t be missing out on much if you can’t afford celebrity endorsement.
Social media has given businesses a valuable tool to understand their customer base and to tap into their target audience market. Approaching potential customers was never easier. To quote myself from when I wrote an article about making the most of social channels –
We have so many amazing channels available to us to reach out to the customers and making the best use of these channels to cultivate a loyal customer base directly correlates to the success of the business moving forward.
Understanding your customer base and attracting the right customer base is important to start a business and keep it running. Social media provides valuable feedback from real users and also helps you lead your target audience back to your products. It helps your business make a one-on-one connection that has a huge impact on the overall standing a brand has in the market.
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