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Survival of The Fittest- Getting Through Your First Year in Business

Have you decided to escape the rat race? Maybe the lack of job satisfaction, long commutes, domineering boss and unfriendly colleagues were making your life miserable? Perhaps having no flexibility in your working day or hours was becoming increasingly difficult for you. Either way, taking the leap from employee to business owner could be one of the best things you’ve ever done. More and more people have been able to do this now the internet is so widely accessible, giving them the opportunity to pour their time, effort and passion into something they really believe in. However it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, competition in business is fierce and even making it through your first year can be a massive challenge- here are some of the ways you can improve your chances of success.

Get Your Website and Ecommerce Store Right

Your website or ecommerce site will be the first thing that most potential customers will see of your business. First impressions matter, if your site looks amateur, is slow to load, cluttered with ads or throws up error pages then it makes you look unprofessional. If your site looks bad, customers will assume that the rest of your business is run the same way and could put people off to the point that they’d never return. Your shop or site should be optimised so that it displays properly on all devices, it should be fast to load and professional. Don’t try to DIY this yourself, having a site built can be expensive but it’s worth every penny. An experienced web designer can create something that’s perfect for your business, and will mean that if customers have clicked onto your site they’re not going to be put off and exit right out of it.

Blog For Your Business

As a new business owner you will be stretched for time, in the early days chances are you’ll be doing a lot of work yourself to save on costs. So when it comes to blogging for your business, you might overlook it simply because you don’t have the time (or skills) to create interesting and engaging content. However, you can easily outsource this for next to no money. There are thousands of bloggers and content creators online who you can hire through freelancing sites, give them your brief for the kind of post you want and in a day or two you can have fantastic content for just a few pounds. Publish a post once a week and watch your audience grow. When you blog for your business, it makes you look reliable and trustworthy. It shows potential customers that you know what you’re talking about in your field of business, and also that time and effort has been spent on it. One worry people can have when they’re shopping with a new, unknown store is whether it’s legitimate. Things like properly run social media accounts, a professional looking website and a blog can all show them that you are safe to shop with and can be trusted. When you link a blog to your website you can help to boost it in search engine listings, this is because when new content is being released all the time, search engine crawlers will see this of something of interest (compared with a website on its own, where the content is quite static). A blog can allow you to promote your products in a different way too, for example if you sell clothes you could speak about current trends and how your products could be styled to fit this. A good blog will earn you loyal followers of your brand, and keep them coming back for new content. Because blog posts are also share-friendly, people are far more likely to share them, tag friends or read them compared with simply posting links to your products which can look spammy.

Make Sure Your Marketing Is Effective

You might have a fantastic business that has been well researched, where you know you’re selling products or services that people really want- and at the right price. However, it’s not a case of setting up a store and waiting for the custom to come flooding in. Competition is fierce and with a hundred other businesses out there just like yours, you not only need to stand out but be able to reach the right people in the first place. To do this, you need to the right marketing and promotion. This is a very specialised skill, and if you’re not knowledgeable in marketing then it’s best to either hire someone to work on your team or outsource the work to a third party marketing company.. They will make sure that your site ranks as highly as possible in search engines, produce interesting marketing materials for social media, deal with blogger outreach, affiliate marketing and much more. Search engines change what they look for regularly and so outdated methods (or the wrong ones) can actually harm rather than help you.

Postage, Packaging and Delivery

When you’re running a business that sells products, an additional thing you have to think about and get right is how you will get your customer’s order to them. For example, you need to choose the correct packing materials to make sure nothing get knocked or broken, the exact system you use will depend on what you’re sending and where to. For example, if you’re shipping items in bulk, you will need them to be wrapped on pallets. Depending on what you sell and how difficult it is to ship, outsourcing your warehousing and shipping completely could be an option. These companies specialise in this and so will know what packaging to use and have things like pallet wrappers and the right containers to get the products from A to B. If you decide to ship items yourself, for example if you’re selling relatively small or light items then using the postal service could be the best option. This is useful as customers can tailor the service they want, so could pay extra for tracked, next day delivery or signed for delivery. You don’t have to drag loads of parcels down to the post office, you can arrange for regular collections for a fee which is another way to make things a little easier for yourself. If your items are larger or fragile, using a courier service would be the way to go. Be sure to do your research here and read reviews as not all courier companies are alike, you need one that’s going to be reliable and get your items to your customer in one piece. Lots of these companies allow customers to track their parcel in real time on a map as well as providing up to date information on the delivery which is very convenient and saves people waiting in all day. Just be sure to take delivery costs into consideration, and adjust your prices to reflect them- especially if you’re offering free shipping. According to research, free shipping is a great way to boost your ecommerce site, you can read more here. But of course, you need to make sure that this isn’t cutting into your profits, so price it in a way that the customer gets free shipping but you recoup your costs.

Read Your Reviews

If a customer is on the fence about your business, one thing they will look at before making a decision is your reviews. Good reviews will of course give them confidence as they show that others have had a positive experience with you. Negative reviews of course will do the opposite and can be really very damaging to your business. No one wants to read negative reviews of their business, however these can be a great way for you to know where improvements need to be made. If you’re noticing a theme with complaints then something is clearly failing and you have the opportunity to put it right. Maybe you’ve recently changed manufacturers and your product isn’t up to scratch or maybe your delivery company is letting you down. Whatever it is, make the chance to improve your business. Follow up on complaints carefully, put right what your customer is unhappy with to prevent them from leaving negative feedback in the first place. And ask satisfied customers if they would leave you a review, you can’t offer any kind of reward or incentive for doing this but you can ask nicely. If people have had a good experience with you then a lot of the time they’ll be happy to do so. Regularly check up on your reviews, read comments and search your company name on social media. Find out what you’re doing right and keep it up, and also find out where you’re failing. It could be the difference between succeeding through your first year, and your venture failing.

There are so many things to consider as a new business, getting through that first year can be a huge struggle. Bear these things in mind to reduce your chance of failure and prevent getting caught short. Some of these costs are easily overlooked by new business owners so it’s important to be organised and prepared.

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