Launching a new business is a daunting prospect at any time, but aspiring entrepreneurs may be particularly nervous about taking the plunge in the midst of a pandemic. If you’re thinking about setting up a new venture, here are some crucial questions to ask.
Is there a demand?
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before launching any type of new business is ‘Is there a demand for this product or service?’ To excel, you’ll need to generate sales and attract customers. If demand is low, or you’ve missed the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and sales for similar products are declining, this should be a red flag.
Look for sectors and niches that are growing and try to predict emerging trends. Consumers generally shop for products and services that they either want or need, so focus on developing products that serve a purpose, solve problems or appeal to people looking to treat themselves or others.
Analyze data, look for evidence of expanding markets and carry out research to see what shoppers think of your ideas and the vision you have for your business. The COVID-19 crisis has been extremely difficult for many businesses, but there is no doubt that it has opened doors for some company owners and budding entrepreneurs.
Sales of some products, for example, video calling software, sanitizer and cleaning products, movie and TV subscriptions and home gym equipment, have soared. Look for opportunities to tap into markets that are set to continue to thrive as people adapt to new ways of living and working.
How am I going to fund my business?
It’s no secret that the statistics for new business failure make for grim reading. Unfortunately, most new ventures fail, and a lack of funds is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Before you pour your heart and soul into putting a business plan together and spend a lot of time and money on trying to get a fledgling company off the ground, make sure you have sound financial plans.
Go through the figures, explore funding options and weigh up the risks. Think about whether you can afford to invest if you’re considering using your savings or borrowing money, and establish how you’re going to manage cash flow and how you can maximize your chances of monetizing your idea and generating profits.
You’ll also need to focus on creating a pricing strategy. The aim is to make money, while also ensuring that you are competitive. Research your competitors to get an insight into how much they’re charging and set prices that are suitable for your target market.
If you’re aiming to attract students, for example, you need to make sure that your prices are affordable and that you champion value for money. Use the findings of market research to establish viable price points.
Who am I competing against?
No matter which industry you operate within, you’ll come up against competitors. Competition is beneficial for consumers and businesses, but it can be a double-edged sword. As a new company owner, you should be aware of your competitors. Research extensively before you launch your venture and make sure you know who you’re up against, what they offer, and who their clients are.
Think about how you’re going to compete and what you can offer that is unique. Tailor your USP to suit your ideal buyer and keep a close eye on what the competition is doing at all times. You may need to make adjustments or adapt your strategy, for example, price matching a competitor’s promotion, to keep hold of customers.
Will I be able to find the staff I need?
Recruitment should be a consideration for every business owner. When you’re drawing up plans and preparing to launch, it’s critical to consider how you’re going to hire staff, to decide upon a staffing structure and to make sure that you’ll be able to access the skills you need to thrive.
If you’re launching a business linked to the fastest growing job industries, you might find that demand for products and services is increasing, but also that there are talent shortages. If there is a small pool of people with the required skills, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify and attract candidates with the right skills.
Even if you interview people you want to hire, there’s no guarantee that they will choose your business, as they may have other offers on the table. Look at data, work out which roles you want to offer and explore ways to attract talent. You could work with specialist recruitment agencies, post jobs online if you’re targeting younger applicants and provide employee benefits and incentives to set your job offer apart.
Today, more and more businesses are taking advantage of flexible solutions, including hiring freelancers and outsourcing. It’s worth taking the time to weigh up the pros and cons of different approaches before you make a decision.
How am I going to promote and market my business?
If you have a product that is ready to hit the shelves, or you’re preparing to start offering services, thinking about marketing and raising brand awareness is key. If you’ve got a brilliant idea, or you’re confident that your business will solve a problem or make a customer’s day better, you need to shout about it from the rooftops.
It’s not enough to set up a website or print off business cards. You need to strategize, create cohesive plans and work out how to reach out to customers and really put your business on the map. It is essential to prioritize market research when drawing up marketing strategies.
Every element of your campaigns should resonate with your ideal buyer. If you have a target client in mind, this will help you choose which techniques to use and establish objectives. If you have a clothing brand, and you’re eager to connect with buyers aged between 18 and 35, for example, it’s a great idea to take advantage of social media networks like Instagram and to use SEO to drive traffic to your website.
Think of your website as a virtual shop window, and make sure that it offers a seamless, enjoyable experience and that it caters to the mobile market. If your site is slow to load, it looks drab, or there is very little information about the products, delivery time or returns, customers will lose interest. If you sell any form of products online, it should take seconds for the client to find an item, read about it, add it to their cart and complete the purchase.
For local businesses, for example, dog walking, mobile hairdressing, plumbing and electrics, window cleaning and home and garden maintenance, it’s an excellent idea to use traditional marketing techniques, as well as digital marketing. Local SEO is incredibly effective, but you can also drum up interest using flyers and print adverts. Statistics show that almost 90% of web users who conduct a local search on their smartphone either call or visit a store within 24 hours.
Once you have marketing campaigns up and running, don’t forget to monitor and track your progress. Use data analytics to identify and address potential weaknesses and make changes that will improve outcomes.
Is now the best time to launch my new business?
There is no doubt that we are navigating uncharted waters at the moment due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The last few months have been challenging for businesses all over the world, and you might be wondering whether now is the best time to launch a startup. There is no universal answer to this question, as the crisis has impacted different sectors and countries in different ways.
For many entrepreneurs, the timing might not be right, but for others, the crisis may have presented opportunities. Keep an eye on the headlines, research as much as you can, maintain a tight grip on your finances and think carefully about the potential demand for your products or services.
Take your time to make a decision. You may feel more comfortable waiting to launch your business if the uncertainty created by the pandemic is likely to have a negative impact on your company before you’ve even got started. There may never be a perfect time to set up a new business, but the benefits of taking the plunge should always outweigh the risks.
Setting up a new business is an incredibly exciting proposition, but there are risks involved. Running a company involves spinning several plates, and there is a lot to think about. Before you hand in your notice, or you invest a vast amount of time and money into trying to get a company up and running, ask yourself these crucial questions.
It’s vital to have the answers before you proceed to minimize the risk of failure. Think about how you’re going to fund your plans, how you’re going to turn ideas into a reality, who you want to attract in terms of customers and members of staff and whether the timing is right. It’s also critical to undertake extensive research to ascertain who you’re competing against and gauge the level of interest in the types of services and products you’re selling.