by Carolyn Edlund | Featured Contributor
What separates the successful small businessperson from the wantrepreneur?
I run lots of strategy sessions in my consulting business, especially with artists, and it’s not uncommon to see people frustrated with their results because they are making the same mistakes over and over. These are mostly related to lack of planning and follow-through. Other times, it’s clear that my client is headed towards success right from the start. They’ve got the motivation and the “magic” that indicates they are ready to launch a winning business. So, what do you need to get the best possible start selling what you make or do?
Here’s my 5-Step Checklist to launch a successful small business:
1. Come up with a great concept. This is key. Does the product you make or the service you provide really serve the audience you want to reach, and click with them? When you first create a vision for your new business, think deeply about your concept, and what will make it uniquely yours. How it will make a real connection with your customer? What makes you different, and memorable? Do you have an interesting angle, or phenomenal package of services? Is what you offer original, fresh and exciting?
2. Create a focused step-by-step plan. Failing to plan correctly is where many entrepreneurs fall down. SMART Planning takes long and short-term goals, sets parameters for them, and breaks them down into manageable steps that you can check off your list as you progress. Don’t end up going wherever the wind blow you. You must have a destination in mind to create a roadmap to get there. If you’re not as organized as you would like to be, use tools like Popplet, Evernote, Todoist, or Mint to assist you with brainstorming, goal-setting and keeping track of tasks.
3. Communicate clearly, with your target customer in mind. Making a purchase is an emotional choice. When you tap into what your ideal customer truly values, you’ve got a winner. The language you use in your marketing must be customer-focused, created to offer them a buying experience that they will feel good about. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What’s in it for them? And, what do they need to know so they will be ready to pull out their wallet? Share lots of information so that they can imagine owning what you sell, or using your services. Customers who are confused or feel uninformed will not buy. What they need is enough information to gain a comfort level to say “Yes!” to the sale.
4. Take action immediately. Sure, it’s good to plan, and yes, you want to present your business professionally, but you will never reach the point of perfection. If you wait until everything is exactly the way you envision it before you act, you won’t even get started. It’s essential to begin right away, working on those things that you can do now to move your business forward. Make it a priority and a practice to work every day on your business in some way, even if you are doing it part-time. Don’t let your business fail for lack of action.
5. Keep going. Persistence, more than any other trait, will help build your business. Are you passionate about what you’re doing? Then stay the course. You will hit roadblocks. You will feel rejected, frustrated and angry at times. Keep going. Simply sticking with it and outlasting the competition has built many a small business. Giving up is choosing to fail. And if you resolve not to allow that word in your vocabulary, you will be on the track to success.
Carolyn Graham Edlund founded a production ceramic studio in the early 1980’s and sold her work at retail and wholesale through stores and galleries for more than 20 years. Subsequently, she represented art publishing companies to the trade as an outside rep. In 2009, she became an art blogger and founder of Artsy Shark, named on of the “Top Ten Art Blogs” by Art Business News. She is also the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, and speaks at art conferences and workshop events around the country. She invites you to connect on Facebook and Twitter.