We live in the age of the startup. The digital realm has become a colossal source of empowerment for those who have been failed by the education system and the job market. One can’t blame them, they bought into the same narrative that their parents were sold, and it worked for them. “Work hard now”, they said “and you’ll reap the rewards later”. So they worked hard. They got good grades in school, went on to go to university where they also excelled. But upon graduating they experienced a reality that was altogether different to what they were promised. For their parents, a university education opened doors. For most millennials, however, a degree was needed to get within ten yards of the door. Recent graduates face an enormously competitive job market in which over 50% of graduates languish in non graduate roles, many of which they could have attained before they even began their studies.
Thus, they faced a choice. Stay strapped in to this carousel and ride it out in the hopes that given enough determination and persistence it would yield fruit or step off the ride and take their careers and their livelihoods into their own hands. In a time of corporate wage repression where businesses deliberately keep employee wages down to insulate their profits. At a time when nobody can accurately calculate how Brexit will impact the job market as EU workers leave the market in droves. In an era where hard work and endeavour never seem to pay in the corporate world, entrepreneurship seems like the only sane choice. Perhaps that’s the reason why new startups, especially in the tech sector are currently at an all time high.
However, if you’ve started up your own business, you’ve likely invested a great deal of your time, effort and probably capital into your venture. You’ve also undertaken enormous risk, quitting your dayjob and foregoing anything resembling job security for the foreseeable future. You’ve locked yourself into a course that could see your free time dwindle, your stress levels skyrocket and (potentially) your personal relationships deteriorate. But you paid this price with a smile on your face knowing that if your business turned out to be the success story that you believe it can be, you will continue to reap the rewards for years or even decades to come. Yet, now that your startup is up and running, you’re struggling to achieve the success you hoped for because your nascent business lacks the clout that it needs to be taken seriously as a major player in an extremely competitive game. Here are some of the reasons why your business isn’t being taken as seriously as it should, and what you can do to help it reach the heights it deserves to attain…
Do you know your USP?
Your Unique Selling Proposition is more important than ever. In an era where legions of prospective competitors have access to the same means that you do to create similar businesses to your own, you need to be able to offer them something that other businesses can’t. When you first started doing your market research you likely identified a gap in the market and tailored your business to fit squarely into that gap. But in an ever evolving business climate, you may need to tweak your USP slightly to ensure that it better represents the needs of those legions of prospective leads out there who aren’t being adequately serviced by your competitors and are poised to leap into the open arms of your business.
Your contact details
It might seem like an arbitrary thing to hold against you but something as quotidian as your contact details can prevent otherwise impressed leads from picking up the phone and converting themselves into customers. In an uncertain economy people crave certainty and cling to dependability. Why else would you see people stroll past superior cafes to get to Starbucks or walk past a family owned greasy spoon to wait in line for McDonalds? The sad truth is that people don’t like surprises and this can push them towards the big brands because smaller businesses represent too much of an unknown commodity. If they don’t like the brand they’ll have parted with their money for a bad experience but worse still if they do like it, they may become dependent on it and have to lose it if that business goes under.
In order to combat this mentality you need to be able to present yourself as a bigger business and give yourself a grand veneer. And this can be tricky when your only contact number is your mobile number and your point of contact via email is just a gmail address. These will mark you out as an amateur and could see you lose business to inferior competitors. It may not be fair, it may not be right, but… people are shallow. Invest in a proper phone number for your business and a prestigious forwarding address. Find a company that rents out 1800 numbers. You may even want to get a virtual receptionist. Fork out for an Outlook account linked to a bespoke email address to go with your domain name and you will achieve a veneer of size, scope and reliability.
Your marketing presence
In an era where consumers are getting more and more fickle because they know that the sheer level of choice out there puts them in the driving seat, it’s imperative that your marketing presence is on point. “Great”, you may be thinking “another overhead”. But while spending should be brought under control, entrepreneurs should be wary of false economy.
Marketing costs actually have one of the highest ROI : expenditure ratios in business and every penny spent on growing your brand and educating consumers on what you can do for them is money well spent. After all, what’s the point of being the best there is at what you do if nobody knows who you are?
But there’s a lot more to good marketing than getting your name out there. By embracing content marketing you can give your business a voice and a sense of personality which can help you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Producing regular content through long form means like blog posts and essays as well as short form content like videos can also help to establish you as a leading mind in your field and someone whose knowledge and expertise your customers can trust in. Moreover, it can help to give your business an organic boost in Search Engine Optimization ensuring that when potential customers have a query relating to what your business does, yours will be amongst the first names they see.
Your website is your digital calling card to the world. It should not only show what you do and why you’re better at it than your competitors, it should also be your platform to voice your opinions and ideas, promote your products and demonstrate your commitment to quality. Even if your business doesn’t use ecommerce, your website is still an extremely valuable marketing tool. But form is as important as content and if your website commits any of these design faux pas it can seriously undermine the content within. Creating your own website using a platform like WordPress is quick and easy, but it can also scream “amateur”. Invest in a great web designer and they’ll help you to create a website becoming of your brand.
Very often a few superficial touches are all it takes to give your business the sense of gravitas that it deserves and ensure that you are taken seriously.