If you want to say goodbye to corporate America and embark on a journey to entrepreneurship, we can help. From coming up with the perfect business idea to creating your business and marketing plans, follow this two-week action plan to start a new venture.
Day 1. Finding the Right Fit
Day 2. Research and Evaluate Your Idea
Day 3. Calculate Your Costs
Day 4. Write Your Business Plan Day 5. Find Financing
Day 6. Name Your Business
Day 8. Build Your Support Team
Day 9. Execute Your Marketing Plan
Day 10. Hang Out Your Shingle and Sell
Without marketing, no one will know your business exists --and if customers don't know you're there, you won't make any sales. When your marketing efforts are working, however, and customers are streaming through the door, an effective customer service policy will keep 'em coming back for more. So now it's time to create the plans that will draw customers to your business again and again.
A marketing plan consists of the strategies and devices you're going to use to communicate to your target audience. A customer service plan focuses on your customer's requirements and the ways of filling those requirements. The two work in concert.
Descriptions of your market and its segments, the competition and prospective customers should be in your business plan. This is the start of your marketing plan. Based on this information, you can begin choosing the communication channels to use to get the word out about your business: social media, blogs, email newsletters, Web banners, pay-per-click ads, radio, TV, billboards, direct mail, fliers, print ads and other venues. Then prioritize your tactics and begin with the ones that your research has shown to be the most effective for your audience.
For your customer service plan, think about what it'll take to develop relationships with your customers that can be mutually beneficial for years to come. Since repeat customers are the backbone of every successful business, in your customer service plan, you'll want to outline just how you're going to provide complete customer satisfaction. Consider money-back guarantees, buying incentives, and the resolution of customer complaints. Determine what your customer service policy will say, how you'll train your employees to attend to the needs of your customers and how to reward repeat customers. Remember, this is just the beginning: Your program should evolve as the business grows.
To begin wooing your first customers, it's helpful to create a profile of the end user of your product or service. Now's the time to get in the habit of "talking up" your business -- telling everyone you know about it. Ask for referrals from colleagues, suppliers, former employers and other associates. You can improve the quality of your referrals by being specific in your request. For example, an insurance broker developed a successful referral network by asking existing clients if they knew anyone who was "in a two-income professional family with young children," rather than just asking if they knew anyone who needed insurance.
Consider offering free consultations or an introductory price to first-time buyers. Consider joining forces with a complementary business to get them to help you spread the word about your new venture. For example, a carpet cleaner might offer incentives to a housecleaning service if they'd recommend them to their regular customers. Once you've done work for a few satisfied customers, ask them for a testimonial letter to use in your promotions.
Create your own plan of attack with help from Entrepreneur's "How to Create a Marketing Plan"
• For more tips on marketing plans and customer service tactics, visit Entrepreneur's Sales & Marketing section.
• Find out how to attract those all-important customers with help from the articles in our "Prospecting" section.
Tomorrow: Day 8. Develop and Hire Your Support Team