Starting a new business is exciting, but it can also be confusing and complicated. There are several steps between coming up with a business concept and bringing your product or service to market. A business idea is just the tip of the iceberg — you need to know your market and have a firm grasp on your branding.
This guide to starting your own business will cover the basics of starting a business, how to launch your business, and how to help it grow.
Define Your “Why”
Before you can dive into starting a new business, you need to define your “why.” What’s your motivation? What will keep you going when things get hard? When you find your why, you’re less likely to fail.
In the words of inspirational speaker Simon Sinek, “Always start with why.” Starting a business and taking on entrepreneurship is a long hard yet rewarding journey. When you are focused on your why and the why of the marketplace and those combined, the scope of your business can then be designed to be bigger than you and serve a need.
Research Your Competitors and Market
Before you launch your business, you need to do an in-depth investigation into the market, potential competition, and how your business may be received by customers. There are two primary ways to do this: market research and market analysis.
Market research is the process of gathering data about the potential customers for your business. It can validate that you’re on the right track or inform you that you need to make a shift.
There are two types of market research data, primary and secondary. Primary data is data gathered either by you or a firm hired on your behalf. Data is gathered through tools like focus groups, surveys, interviews, and observations.
Secondary data comes from preexisting public information that’s available to a large number of people. This type of data may come from sources such as government reports, industry analysts, trade journals and groups, and websites, including those from your competitors.
Market analysis is a similar concept but involves researching the industry as a whole by combining insights you get directly from your target audience with third-party sources like reports and industry publications.
The goal of market analysis is to help you identify:
- Who your target customer is
- Your target customer’s purchasing habits, including when, where, and why they purchase
- The size of your target audience
- How much your customers will pay for your product or service
- Who your competitors are and their strengths and weaknesses
Learning about your competitors is one of the key parts of your research. You want to get to know them inside and out, from product specifications, ingredients, packaging, pricing to their market positioning, unique selling propositions (USPs), to their branding, creative direction, and social media.
It’s important to know what sets you or your business idea apart from your competitors. This can also help you determine if you should go after any type of funding.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis is a helpful tool that enables you to think through and around all the facts of your business idea and the market conditions. It gives you questions to ask yourself to help you find things like weaknesses you may not have considered or areas where you can improve on a competitor’s product.
Your company’s strengths are the controllable elements that you excel at, and often give you an advantage over your competitors. Questions you can ask to determine your strengths include:
- What is our competitive advantage?
- What resources do we have?
- What products are performing well?
Your weaknesses are the controllable elements that your company struggles with, and they may impact your company in a negative way. Questions you can ask to assess your weaknesses include:
- Where can we improve?
- What products are underperforming?
- Where are we lacking resources?
Opportunities are factors outside your control that could potentially boost your success. Some questions you can ask to determine what opportunities are available to you may include:
- What new technology can we use?
- Can we expand our operations?
- What new segments can we test?
Threats are factors outside of your control that could negatively impact your business. It’s important to determine what these are so you’re prepared for every hurdle. Questions that can help you find threats include:
- What regulations are changing?
- What are competitors doing?
- How are consumer trends changing?
A SWOT analysis may also be a tool you use to help make decisions as you start a new business or to help you decide to go in a different direction when you see what space. SWOT analyses can also help you define your unique selling proposition, the benefit that your product or service offers over that of your competitors.
Clarify Your Target Audience or Customers
Your target market is the group of potential buyers, clients, customers, or users for your brand and your business. This is the audience you’ll eventually aim all your marketing efforts, such as content, social media, and eventually, dollars, toward. Because of this, it’s critical to define them as thoroughly as possible. Consider:
- Who will benefit the most from your product or service?
- Why do they need your product or service?
- Who will be touching or using this product or service?
- How is your product or service better for them than a competitor’s?
Like the SWOT analysis, identifying your target audience will help you make better and more effective decisions for your business, as well as:
- Help you make smart, cost-effective marketing decisions
- Influence your product or service development because you have a direct line of feedback from those users
- Hopefully, increase revenue by focusing your efforts on the most promising customers
Building buyer personas is an effective method for drilling down into your customers’ needs. A buyer persona is essentially a profile of your target customer and answers questions like:
- How old are they?
- What do they love?
- What social media platforms are they spending most of their time on?
- What’s important to them?
- Where do they hang out, either digitally or in person?
Things like focus groups, surveys, and other tools from your market research and analysis will help you build your buyer personas and clarify your target customer or audience.
Calculate Your Startup Costs
You’ve validated your idea and have your target audience and your USP or value proposition. Now, it's time to talk money and startup costs. Startup costs are all the different things that factor into how much it’s going to cost to launch your business and get it going.
Your business can only be viable if you have the funding to get it off the ground and can identify a price that will turn a profit or have a plan to get to the point of turning a profit. This can sound scary, but this doesn’t have to be much. There are multimillion-dollar companies that got off the ground with only $25 in startup capital.
Startup costs can vary wildly because they depend on several different factors. For example, if you’re creating a product and need to carry inventory, do you need to lease a space or can you run your business from your home?
In the first year, most of the money spent is used for “bootstrapping,” the process of reinvesting profits back into the business and trying not to spend out of pocket. Some of the other things that your startup costs can help cover include:
- Setting up your business legally
- Branding and design
- Creating a marketing site or landing page
- Buying inventory
- Creating a course
- Running paid ads
When calculating startup costs, you’ll also need to consider things like business insurance, taxes, and legal fees.
To help you determine at what point your business will become profitable, you can run a break-even analysis. A break-even analysis is a financial calculation used to determine the number of sales needed to cover your production costs.
Understanding all these costs allows you to:
- Make smart decisions about your pricing strategy
- Mitigate against risks
- Set informed targets for your business
- Identify missing expenses
Essentially, understanding these costs sets you up for success and enables clarity for the business you’re starting.
Pricing can be one of the trickiest parts of starting a new business. To help determine what to charge for your product or service, you’ll want to choose the right pricing strategy for your project. Common pricing strategies include:
- Competitive pricing. With a competitive pricing strategy, you set your prices using your competitor’s prices as a benchmark. This strategy doesn’t factor in things like consumer demand or product cost, but businesses with a lot of competition may opt for this pricing strategy because price can often be the deciding-factor for customers.
- Hourly pricing. Hourly pricing is also called rate-based pricing, and is usually used by those providing a service like freelancers and contractors. With hourly pricing, you’ll charge a set rate per hour worked.
- Keystone pricing. Keystone pricing is a simple pricing method that uses a basic markup formula to determine a product’s cost. This is dependent on how much of a profit margin you think you can make on your product before driving customers away. Often retailers will choose to double the wholesale cost of the product. For example, a product that costs $10 at wholesale may be sold by a retailer for $20.
- Project-based pricing. Project-based pricing is another method used by service providers. Instead of charging per hour worked, a contractor or freelancer may charge a set rate for the entire project.
- Value-based pricing. In a value-based pricing strategy, you price your product or service for what your customer is willing to pay based on data and customer interest. While this method can help you gain loyal customers, it also requires you to constantly be in sync with your market.
Each pricing strategy has its pros and cons, and not all will be right for your particular business. Regardless of which strategy you choose, it’s a good idea to use the data from your market analysis and research to understand the pricing of your competition and help inform where you want to be in the market.
Keep in mind that pricing can be flexible. It doesn’t have to be set in stone; you can always adjust as you find out more information about your costs and customers.
Work on Your Profit Margins
A profit margin is the measure of your business’s profitability in the form of a percentage. Your profit margin will depend on several things, including the industry you’re in, price ranges set by the market, and your business costs. For instance, you may have a lower profit margin if you’re selling a high volume of goods at a lower price and a higher profit margin if you sell luxury items.
Depending on your industry and product, your business may develop better profit margins over time. Let’s say you’re selling a digital course or software. The upfront costs might have you seeing a lower profit margin in the first year, but the profit margin will increase in subsequent years.
It can take some time to build a profit margin when you first launch your business, so you may need to come back to this at a later date. Profit margins can and will change over time, so a quarterly review of the profit margin is ideal.
Build Your Business
The next step is to start creating whatever it is that your business is offering, whether that be a course, digital goods, product, service, show, etc. There are many different things to consider here, and it will depend on your business and the product or service you’re offering. Some of these considerations may include:
- What platform will you use to host or sell your product?
- What marketing tools and platforms do you need?
- How will you deliver your product or service?
- If you’re shipping your product, do you need deals and shipping integrations with carriers?
- Do you need to research the best platforms for low-fee transactions for goods and services, including digital products?
Develop a Brand Strategy and Brand Identity
You have your unique product or service. Now you need to create another driving force for your business: your brand. Branding is a huge factor in a customer’s decision to buy from you. Don’t be fooled; branding is more than just a catchy business name or flashy logo. It’s a guiding set of principles from values, mission, competitive statement, and tone of voice, to design specifications that tell your business’s unique story.
Creating a strong brand foundation will help in all facets of your business, including storytelling across your marketing channels and socials, making creative decisions, building up trust with your buyers, and even says something about how you see yourself in the market.
Information about marketing can be found in every corner of the internet, and it can feel complicated. To help you create your brand foundation, try running through some branding exercises or answering these questions:
- Who are you and what do you sell?
- What do you stand for? What’s your mission statement, brand values, brand promise, etc.?
- What is your unique selling proposition? Why should your customers or clients choose you over the competition?
- How will your brand talk? This includes language that you choose to use and even the language you don’t use.
- What’s your brand’s visual identity? Visual identity is what will be seen in your logo, brand name, style guides, etc. You can use free tools like Canva to get a brand design together quickly and easily.
After you’ve developed your brand foundation, you’ll need to ask yourself some questions to help you develop your brand strategy. Your brand strategy will help you inform different choices you can make for your brand and business.
- How do you want customers to feel when they interact with your brand?
- What’s important to you? This may be things like giving back to the community, fair wages for staff, and customer service.
- If your brand were a person, what kind of personality would it have?
- Why should your clients trust you?
- What colors and design styles appeal to you and represent the mood you’re trying to achieve?
Once you’ve found those answers, you can incorporate them into your brand identity.
Finally, you need a business name and domain. It’s important that you come up with various names and do your due diligence researching any potential business name to see if it is already used and if the social handles and domain are available. You can also look on state databases of registered business names to also understand what is available to you from a naming perspective so you can avoid causing confusion or legal issues.
Now that you’ve chosen a name, secure it by setting up social profiles on your preferred channels. Even if you aren’t going to start posting right away, it’s good to have them ready.
Build and Set Your Digital Presence Live
You’ve now committed to your business, your products, and your brand. Now you need to set up your digital presence and introduce your brand and business to the world.
You want to do this with an easy-to-use platform that contains a lightweight website builder with customizable landing page options. Think through the pros and cons of each platform like features available, cost, and ease of use.
With an all-in-one solution like Norby, you have everything you need to grow your digital presence and connect with your audience. Our features include landing pages, lead captures and signups, email and SMS marketing, events, and analytics- your basic toolkit for setting up your business. Each tool is super powerful on its own and when ready you can use them together to unlock opportunities.
Once you’ve chosen a platform, you can build your pages quickly by applying a theme or using customized appearance settings and other brand assets that you have developed. Using your brand guidelines, you can:
- Customize themes with your chosen fonts, either by uploading a custom font or choosing from a plethora of web fonts already loaded into a platform like Norby
- Select and apply your exact brand colors using a color picker or hex codes
- Apply a full background image for even more brand expression
Depending on the platform you use, there are helpful tools that enable you to build pages with ease. With Norby, to add content to your pages you can use the simple drag-and-drop tool in the landing page builder to quickly whip up pages. Using that same tool, you can also:
- Add your links out to products, services, and socials
- Create signups to collect info such as names, emails and phone numbers to start building your marketing lists
- Automate an SMS or email welcome sequence
- Preview the pages
- Rearrange content and branding to your liking
Once your page is set, be sure to place your unique URL in your link in bio across socials so you can start promoting your brand and business and ensure you’re capturing a passive follower flow.
Go to Market and Build Community
Community is a great way to build your brand and business. When you have a community, you’ll already have an audience and potential customers when it’s time to launch. It also helps rally folks around your brand.
One way to start building community is through social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. These are great places to start because there are millions of people hanging out there, actively looking for exciting content on a variety of topics or seeking out moments to be educated. Start by bringing people into your world and showing what and how you are building in a way that feels right for you. The sooner you can start sharing authentically about your brand and journey and bringing people on the ride with you, the better.
By building community, you can also start to build up your marketing lists and develop a go-to-market strategy. You can collect emails, phone numbers, and other types of info that might be useful to you for selling and building content and strategies to reach your target audience. You can use Norby’s sign-up feature to begin to capture this information from your landing page.
(Soft) Launch Your Business
You’ve done so much work. You should be proud of taking so many steps along this entrepreneurial journey!
While there are still a few steps left to get your business fully up and running, you’re at a place where you can soft launch your business, your landing pages, and socials to the world. This big step is also crucial for your business. With a soft launch, you can test your digital presence, landing pages, and marketing funnels, gather feedback from users, customers, clients, and friends, and tweak before you develop a bigger push into your market.
Don’t forget you will need to decide your business structure and register your business. The Small business association has plenty of resources on how to set up your business, they even have business coaching and mentorship programs. And if you need some accountability along the way, Asana has a great template and checklist for building your business.
Launching your own business requires careful planning and execution. It’s important to understand your market and to use that information to build a brand that’s trustworthy and appeals to your market base. Before launching, you also need to understand your finances and have a solid brand strategy in place.
Norby is here for anything you may need to build and set your digital presence. With features like customizable, performance-driven landing pages, advanced analytics, and a custom link in bio, you have everything you need at your fingertips to help your business launch and thrive.