You’ve come up with a brilliant new business idea — now what? Starting a company is an exciting adventure with many moving parts, but if it’s your first time launching a business, it can be hard to know where to begin. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur in need of a crash course or a seasoned business leader looking for a refresher before your latest venture, here are the nine steps you should follow to start your new business.
Conduct market research
A successful business needs customers. A successful business leader understands who those customers are and how to meet their needs. That’s why conducting market research is an essential first step for any aspiring entrepreneur.
Before you launch your business, take some time to understand your position in the marketplace. Surveys, focus groups and interviews with your target audience can help you identify your customer base — and the best ways to reach them. Once you’ve developed a buyer persona, you can begin analyzing your competitors’ habits and determine what sets your business apart. By conducting market research ahead of time, you can make data-driven decisions that will drive sales and optimize marketing efforts when you launch.
Create a business plan
You’ve come up with a business idea. But if you want to make it a reality, you’ll need to convince investors that your plan is worth backing. A business plan communicates your passion to potential investors and demonstrates why your idea is primed for success. The length of your business plan will vary depending on what stage of planning you’re in, but the goal remains the same: secure financing by providing thorough market research and a detailed execution plan. In addition to a summary of your company’s mission, consider including an outline of your organizational structure, proposed marketing strategies and any further research that could boost your credibility with potential partners.
Find funding for your business
Presenting a solid business plan is vital in securing financing, but it is not the only thing potential backers will consider when deciding to invest in your company. Put your best foot forward with investors by establishing good personal credit and articulating your business acumen. Then, consider which kinds of investors are most likely to invest in your business at its current stage — and the future you envision for an investor’s role in your business. Crowdfunding, angel investors, venture capitalists and loans are all potential sources of funding for your company, so measure your current financial needs against a range of options in order to increase your chances of long-term success.
Register your business
While it may not be the most glamorous part of entrepreneurship, registering your business is an essential first step to building a successful enterprise. Sole proprietorships, LLCs and corporations all have different registration requirements, so begin by defining your business structure and familiarizing yourself with the correct process for your business type. After that, you can secure your business name, apply for any necessary permits and register your business with the IRS and local and state offices. Registering your business enables you to obtain a federal tax ID, tax-exempt status and trademark patents — among other things — and affords your business many benefits.
[Read More: How To Register A Domain Name]
Build your team
Your business will only be as successful as the team working behind the scenes, but hiring new employees can be a daunting task. It takes time and money to find the best candidates who will help your company grow and thrive. A documented hiring plan can streamline the recruiting process and ensure you onboard the right people for your team. Making a great first impression is just as important for you as an employer as it is for your applicants, so use each phase of this process — from writing and publicizing the job description to interviewing candidates and making an offer — to highlight what makes your company unique. The job doesn’t stop there, though. Ensure the processes in place and the company culture offer a work-life balance and enough benefits to retain your top talent.
Launch your business
You’ve done all the research, filled out all the forms and hired your dream team. Now, after all your hard work and planning, it’s finally time to launch your business. This is your opportunity to introduce your company to customers for the first time, so don’t be afraid to go big. Hosting a launch event is a great way to market your brand and generate engagement while jumpstarting your first quarter sales. Instead of giving out generic freebies, showcase what makes your business unique by raffling off samples of your own products or services. This is a great way to create repeat customers, so reach as large an audience as possible by offering a livestream of the festivities or making your grand opening a weekend-long affair.
Invest in marketing
Once you’ve launched your business, it is important to invest in marketing strategies that will keep your momentum going. As marketing budgets for newer businesses are often tight, it can be difficult to know which avenues will yield the best return on investment. Luckily, there are plenty of inexpensive marketing strategies that can make a huge impact without breaking the bank. Reposting user-generated content, sourcing press features or offering a webinar are all low- or no-cost ways to generate traction. Get creative, and don’t be afraid to explore less conventional marketing channels — they’ll cost a fraction of the price and may be more effective than traditional methods.
Maximize the value of your investments by tracking the performance of your marketing efforts. Measuring your performance against your business goals using concrete data will help you justify the costs of successful campaigns and identify places where your spending isn’t quite paying off. Data can be collected at every stage of the sales funnel to help you visualize how prospective customers are moving through the pipeline — and where they might be getting stuck. The metrics you track will vary depending on your unique goals, but in general, try monitoring statistics such as your conversion rate, website traffic and SEO rankings to get a snapshot of your overall performance online and in your industry.
Grow and scale your business
After finding your footing as an established business, consider how you will continue to grow your company. Small companies can leverage technology to scale their business by amplifying awareness through online platforms or implementing features such as chatbots or pop-ups on their own website. Investing in automation technology can be a great way to scale with your team, but avoid spending too much by attempting to grow too quickly. A business development strategy can provide your team with a roadmap for long-term growth and expand your network of prospective customers while helping you maintain awareness of your financial means and commitments.
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