By Jennifer Stone
Are you an entrepreneur dreaming of making your small business fantasy into reality? Then there’s good news. It turns out that now is a great time to kickstart your own company. In fact, the vast majority of businesses in the US are quantified as “small businesses,” meaning fewer than 500 employees.
Of course, that might sound like a lot at first. But keep in mind that this includes businesses that have only one employee. And the success rates of small businesses continue to grow.
But there are several factors that play into that success. We’re going to discuss seven of them here, in the form of mistakes that should absolutely be avoided.
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about issues like funding and financing, considerations that need to happen before the business gets off the ground. Instead, these seven potential mistakes center on what makes your business a business, including the brand, marketing, and goal setting.
Let’s get started with one of the first no-nos for a business-minded entrepreneur who wants to run a successful company.
Mistake One: Bad Branding
Branding as a concept gets bandied about a lot, with many how-tos and dos-and-don’ts written about the subject. But most people think of branding as being about the logo, or at least just the visual representation of a company.
Branding definitely does involve logos and visuals, but it’s also about how a company interacts with its audience. It would most surely be a mistake to write branding off as just a cool logo, though we will discuss visuals here too.
Bad branding would be anything that is poorly thought out, poorly executed, or which doesn’t align with the company as a whole.
Branding mistakes can also include tone-deaf branding choices of individual products or services. Consider as an example the backlash against Bic’s “For Her Fashion Pens,” which were somewhat condescendingly all colored pink, and marketed for women as though they are unable to use the same pens that everyone else does.
The theory behind it — creating a product that celebrates a group of people — isn’t bad, but the execution was a classic example of bad branding choices. And the surge of sarcastic reviews on Amazon and other sites didn’t help Bic’s standing as a respected company at all.
The antidote to bad branding, unsurprisingly, is good branding — creating a brand that is focused on the personality, goals, and mission of the company.
Continuing on from the personality aspect of branding, graphics and videos are an important part of the visual makeup of a successful company. Which means that creating these graphics is a high stakes game for the entrepreneur behind the name.
Consumers respond more quickly and remember more faithfully information that is presented to them in graphic form, whether in static visuals such as infographics, or, even more importantly, in videos. But the importance of visuals starts even before content such as this, with a well-executed logo design and a user friendly website.
So, in short, not putting the time and effort into creating high-quality, effective graphics that will appeal to the viewer can be a huge mistake.
Mistake Two: Undervaluing Your Brand or Product
Many of the mistakes listed here involve attracting customers to a new business or start up. But this mistake actually can make an impact on whether a visitor or viewer follows through and becomes a consumer. And it can also make a difference in your success in the long run.
Those who are just starting their business often tend to undervalue their products or services. This is usually due to a lack of confidence or a fear that setting too high a price will turn people away from buying.
And it’s definitely a good idea to be balanced in setting your prices, and not overvalue what you have to offer. But undervaluing can be just as detrimental to your company. For one thing, playing into your own insecurities is not helpful to building your confidence in yourself.
For another, customers who see a low price on a valuable service may actually be less likely to want to invest in it. I’ve done this myself, in searching for handmade goods. If something is considerably cheaper than all the others in the same category, I’ll wonder why. Is it because the work is shoddy? Is it because customer service is lousy? Is it because the owner of the business has no confidence in her ability to carry out customer satisfaction with her product?
In the end, setting too low of a value on your company or products can wind up with you shooting yourself in the foot. If a business doesn’t make back enough of a profit margin, there is no hope for sustainability. And if a business owner doesn’t obviously have confidence in what they offer, potential customers will almost certainly pick up on that.
The rise and fall of many handmade goods shops on Etsy can attest to that!
Mistake Three: Lacking SEO Content
Have you ever searched for a company website and not been able to find the official site until the second page of a search engine?
The problem there is likely a lack of SEO.
SEO is another buzzword for the company trying to draw more clients and attract more attention. SEO involves making your content more readily searchable on search engines such as Google. And it can make a big difference in how your website ranks.
So if you’re putting content on your website or blog (or if you don’t have a blog, but more about that next) without paying attention to optimization, you run a serious risk of condemning your company website to a second or third page on Google’s search function.
I’ve seen this happen commonly with individual’s sites, such as those of artists or writers. Without a core knowledge of SEO and how it works, it can be next to impossible to locate an individual site unless you already know the address to begin with.
Mistake Four: No Blog
Speaking of blogs, the statistics on the effectiveness of blogging are somewhat mind boggling: websites that have a blog incorporated or linked tend to see an increase of 434% in the amount of indexed pages.
This means that having a blog, which increases your ability to create SEO content, also, in itself, increases your searchability.
That being the case, it should be immediately obvious why creating a blog with informative, helpful, and entertaining content is high on the priority list for business owners.
Blogging helps to reach more potential clients, and can be of chief importance in establishing yourself as an authority. This can be seen in a number of different areas, but one that stands out is in the motivational or inspirational market.
For someone looking to set themselves up as an authority, someone who can be recommended, quoted, and looked to for advice, a static website just isn’t enough. Nor are products alone. It’s the cooperation between all of these that really elevate a company.
Mistake Five: One-Note Marketing
Taking another direction, marketing is a fundamental concern if you want to grow your business. And one-note, one-dimensional marketing is almost as growth-killing as no marketing at all.
This calls back to the idea of effective branding. Good branding means being aware that every point of contact between customer and company has the potential to be a branding opportunity. Marketing, by the same token, isn’t just about sending out advertisements via email.
Effective marketing involves a cooperative effort between your website, email blasts, print media, social media (more on that next), and any other avenue available to you.
Ignoring any of these opportunities to market your company would definitely be a mistake.
Speaking of marketing statistics, research also shows that social media has a huge impact on the success of branding efforts, with 63% of consumers actively expecting that brands to communicate with and offer customer service to their clients via social media.
And statistics also show that more and more consumers are seeking to follow brands on branded social media accounts. But running social media accounts and campaigns takes time, it’s true. And it can be a lot of effort to coordinate between accounts. So is it really that important to start and maintain a company presence on social media?
Well, look at those statistics again. And also consider that there are almost three and a half billion users on social media, all of them potential customers for your company.
Yes, the investment of time and effort is definitely worth it.
Mistake Six: Not Knowing Your Customer Base
For new companies and startups, it may see like it will naturally take a little while before the customer base is established. And this is true, to a point. Very few companies start out with a list of customers who have already signed up for services — though it does happen, sometimes, and it’s a marvelous thing for a new business!
However, not being certain of who your literal customers will be is not the same as not being sure what type of customers you are aiming for.
Market research is definitely required when starting a new company. You should know the sort of person you want as a customer, and structure your marketing efforts to reach and appeal to that sort of person.
There are plenty of examples out there of marketing and customer research that ended up being way off base.
One particularly egregious example is that of Levi’s Jeans. Theoretically designed to appeal to all shapes and sizes of people, both men and women, recent marketing content was written to reinforce that goal — but the ad campaign visuals didn’t really measure up, featuring instead posters with models of almost uniform shape and size.
While companies like this espouse body positivity and acceptance of all, it’s clear from their campaign that they don’t always understand their customer base.
Whether you’re just starting out without any customers lined up or you already have a list of potential clients, it’s important to understand who they are and where they’re coming from in order to maximize your efforts.
Mistake Seven: No Follow-Up
This last mistake that we will address today follows along with the theme of branding being more than just your company visuals. Since branding also involves customer service, then logically your conversations with your customers are also an important part of establishing your brand as an appealing personality.
That’s also where follow-up comes in.
In the wake of customer contact and conversation, whether on your website, through email, or on social media, follow up is a vital part of continuing that discussion. It shows that your company is invested in its audience, and that you care enough about them to ask their thoughts, suggestions, or experiences with your brand.
Follow up doesn’t need to be deep, detailed, and involved. It can be just a simple, quick questionnaire, or an invitation for the customer to get in contact with the company for any further questions.
The point of a follow up is to keep the brand fresh in the minds of the audience.
Success for an Entrepreneur
We don’t all quantify and qualify success in the exact same way. But for any entrepreneur, regardless of the market in which they work, success would definitely include not only continued existence for the company, but also growth.
That’s really the goal for each of us: not only to live, but to thrive.
These seven mistakes can be deadly growth-killers if they are allowed to happen without any check.
On the other hand, the antidote and opposite to each of them can make a great difference in the continued success of any business venture.