What a crazy journey it has been! Pizzaphant turned one this week, which means that we’ve been building this business as our only job for 12 months now. We have learned so much, often through trial by fire, and we would love to tell you our small business tips, if you chose to start your own business. Below are the top 5 small business tips we learned over the past year.
Top 5 Small Business Tips for New Business Owners
1. Meet with as Many Business Owners as Possible
As soon as we started our business, we searched our LinkedIn network and our personal network for any business owners we knew and scheduled meetings with them. Asking other business owners what their struggles were and how they overcame obstacles helps prepare you for the struggles you will eventually have. Starting a business isn’t easy—you are leaving your corporate salary, benefits, and stability to start something that may not even work out. It’s a huge risk, but many people do it and are successful doing it. Find those people, befriend those people, and learn as much as you can about them.
Ask business owners the biggest lessons they learned in their first year. We all have them (and will continue to have them). If you can avoid some of the mistakes others made or be better prepared to deal with them should you make the same mistakes, you will be better off in the long run.
2. Know Your Worth
Unless you are selling a product that has a pre-defined cost, pricing is hard. Especially if you’re selling services. If you have a slow month, you may be tempted to take any business because any money is better than no money. However, this devalues your services and may create more work for you than you’re willing to take on and with less pay than you would’ve otherwise taken. It’s better to set prices that you feel comfortable with and then take into account your experience, education, and the type of lifestyle you’d like to have.
If you have no idea what you should be charging, first start with an hourly rate calculator to figure how much you need to make. Then, do some research on your competitors and see if you can figure out their pricing for the services you plan on offering. Reconcile the two prices: your must-have hourly rate and what your competitors are charging, and you have a good idea of how much you should be charging.
3. Build a Network
If you’re coming from a corporate environment, chances are your current network is filled with other people who are also in a corporate environment. While those folks are still important, it’s essential to build a strong referral network of people who will help promote your business. As an entrepreneur, a sales team may not be your first priority, so you need to find people who will act as your sales team. This is where networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, and referral partners come in handy. Everyone is different in how they approach networking, but the more people that you can rely on to help you, promote you, and do business with you, the better.
When we first started, we had no network, hated networking, and never thought it would help grow our business. However, now that we’re a part of a few chambers and referral networking groups, we’ve become better networkers, and have received most of our business from those groups.
4. Determine Your Target Customer
You can’t be all things to all people. If you don’t know the exact type of person or business who needs your products/services, it will be impossible to create effective marketing campaigns, and it will be impossible for others to refer clients to you. Just like Nike could say that their product is perfect for anyone with feet, or anyone who needs shoes, they still segment their customers—female athletes, boy basketball players, etc.—so they can they be more effective in selling their product.
In addition to finding the right target, determine who you want to work with and who you will walk away from. We learned this the hard way. In the beginning, we would take on any client and any marketing item needed. What we discovered is that by trying to be all things to all people and taking on any client just to take on clients forced us to lose the reason why we were different and decreased our passion for the work we were doing. When we became more discerning of who we would work with, we became more passionate about the clients and projects we took on.
It’s hard to say no to a potential client, but if you have a large referral network, you can always refer them to someone else who may be a better fit for them.
5. Have a Marketing Strategy
Out of these small business tips, this one is not necessarily something we learned this year—as marketing strategists, we, of course, have a marketing strategy in place. Rather, we have encountered so many business owners who feel overwhelmed by marketing and either just do whatever seems right or do nothing at all. Marketing is essential for every business, but you should only invest in marketing activities that will provide you with new leads, new business, and a return on investment. When you have a marketing strategy in place, you know how to talk about yourself, how to compete in your marketplace, and what marketing channels (TV, direct mail, social media, etc.) make the most sense for your company.
We recently wrote a blog post for Women Belong on why marketing strategy is so important for businesses. Check it out!
There are so many more lessons we learned and small business tips we could share as our business grew, changed, and pivoted this year. It has been a stressful, wonderful, amazing, hard journey, but it was also the best decision we ever made. Pizzaphant has survived its infant year and we’re so excited to see what the futures brings.
Happy birthday to us!
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