A big part of starting a business is having a plan then having thediscipline to act on it. Being part of a startup isn’t always glamorous, and often requires simply submitting yourself to the process.
When you’re growing your own business,every error you make means money out of your pocket. So, why learn thehard way (which is also the expensive way)? Why not learn ahead of timewhich pitfalls to avoid?
- Getting creative with your company name. Clever names may be fun, but if your target market cannot easily tellwho you are and what you stand for, they will simply pass you by. Yourcustomers won’t take the time to figure out your business. So, make iteasy for people to “get” what you do! Would you rather spend yourmarketing dollars explaining the purpose of your business, or let yourcompany name do that for you? Why not spend your limited fundsto explain more clearly how you can make a difference in the lives ofyour customers? A well-named business simply makes your job much easier. Our company name is Brand Development Associates International, and weare a group of associates who develop brands internationally. No one has to guess who we are or what we do. (read: 3 Ways that Entrepreneurs Fail at their Personal Branding)
- Forgetting that you are your brand. No matter what you sell – and whether you like it or not – YOU become the masthead for yourbusiness. Everything you do represents the brand of your company. I knew a business owner who lost a multi-country contract because he arrivedat a morning meeting with alcohol on his breath (he had gone out thenight before to celebrate the assumed-signing of the agreement!). Hispotential partners worried that he might have a drinking problem, and it was enough to break the deal. But you don’t have to do somethingextreme to undermine your company’s brand. Maintain a character 24/7/365 that is in keeping with your brand, and it will do both you and yourcompany good.
- Not confirming that a need for your product or service truly exists. Many entrepreneurs put products on the market like they’re throwingdarts. They don’t have the funds for market research, so they just waitto find out what will work and what won’t. What they don’t realize isthat they’re spending much more money creating products that won’t sellthan they would if they had spent just a little bit on market research.So, get creative! You don’t have to conduct fancy, expensive marketresearch. If you’re selling a new toy, for example, go to the nearestday care center, and volunteer to have their children play with thetoys. If you’re selling a new beverage, invite people on the street whoare in your demographic to try out your product, and ask them what theythink. Offer a potential new service for free, and see how your targetmarket responds. In other words, find out ahead of time if you have aviable product or service. It will save you a lot of money and time inthe long run, and it will keep your brand’s image intact.
- Not making tough choices to target your marketing. The bigger your market, the bigger your business, right? NO. Youcannot be everything to everyone. Your brand won’t be able to trulyreach your target market unless you can deliver a meaningful point ofdifference. If you’re targeting all women 18 and older, you will not beable to show that entire age group how your product or service will help them because, let’s face it, an 18-year old has different needs than a55-year old. So, segment and separate your target markets. Perhapsyour offering is appropriate for women ages 22-35 who have children ages 4-10. Find out what will appeal to your specific market, andcommunicate your product or service with that in mind.
- Not being realistic about your competition. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing their company has nocompetitor. This is never true! Even if there is no product thatdirectly competes with yours, there is always something else on themarket that your customers can choose over what you offer. Your targetmarket literally has dozens of alternative choices to what you offer.So, get to know your competition well, and look at it realistically.What will differentiate your product or service from your competitorsand fill your market’s needs better? Focus your brand on thosedifferences.
- Not being consistent in your communications. If the DNA in your hair were different from the DNA in yourfingernails, you’d be a mutant. The same is true for your brand. Powerpositioning means that you’re consistent across everything you do. Ifyour positioning stands for one thing, but your website or Facebook page or tweets stand for something else, your brand will mutate! Your target market can only get to know your brand if every single touch point is100% consistent with your brand’s image.
- Not choosing the right team members to reflect your brand. Small entrepreneurs often believe they must be “grateful” just to havepeople work for them. Not true! Just as you represent your brand, sodoes every single one of your employees. Make sure the people you hirehave the same character as the one you want your business to communicate in the marketplace. Find the best possible people to join your team,and spend a little extra to get them. The effort will pay back ten-fold.
- Forgetting that your brand extends to your employees, not just to your customers. Do you treat your staff as well as you treat your customers? If youtreat your team poorly, the word gets out, and it damages your brand. On the other hand, if you treat your team very well, the best candidateswill want to work for you, and it will become well known that yourcompany is a great place to be employed. Think what that kind ofimage can do for your brand!
- Not making choices about your brand’s offerings/benefits. Just as you cannot target your product to everyone in the marketplace,you must also choose what your brand will stand for, too. Don’t fallvictim to scope creep! Here’s an example: My first week in business, Iwas very nervous. I had left a highly successful 6-figure job, and Iworried about getting enough work. I received two exciting phone callsright away – one from a very large company in the region, asking me todo Human Resources work, and the other from a great connection whowanted me to do some Sales work. The truth is that I could have doneboth of these engagements, and I loved the idea of landing two greatclients in my very first week. But I knew I had to stick to my guns.Branding was my passion – what I stood for. So, I took a deep breath and said “no” to both offers. Two days later, I received a call from myfirst branding client, and we’ve been able to successfully maintain that branding focus ever since. (Check out The Do’s & Don’ts for Building a Successful Brand)
- Not making your business something you love to do.You will be eating, sleeping, and breathing your business for a long,long time. If you don’t absolutely love it, you will burn out quickly.So, don’t choose to do something just because it’s what you’ve alwaysdone. You’ll spend way too many hours of your life miserable, and yourheart won’t be in it. For example, many coaching clients come to mebecause they aren’t happy in their jobs. They may be “successful” in the eyes of others, but they know in their hearts that they aren’t “happy.” Case in point: A few years ago, I coached a woman who tried to create a brand based on her past experience rather than on her passion. When Iasked her what she loved, she said “horses.” Through our work together,she eventually realized she could combine her love of horses with theskills she had acquired in her past jobs. The outcome? She created atraining program that brought corporate executives to her ranch to learn leadership skills through working with horses. Learn from her example,and find a way to embrace and leverage your passion. You’ll be much happier for it.