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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Building Brand Recognition for Your Startup: Website Fundamentals

By: Rebecca Shipley 

When launching your startup, it is likely that the thought of how to best get exposure and a loyal following. And even better if you can do so while also building up your brand identity and its ability to be recognized and remembered by consumers, right? With the right elements, your website can make this happen for your startup. Use your website as a powerful tool to develop your brand and its ability to connect with and engage consumers.

Domain name
Your domain name is a link to your website (both literally and figuratively) that people will interact with before even reaching the homepage of your site. Therefore, you must help set your site up for success by choosing and brand conceptsregistering a domain name that ties in with your brand and promotes recognition and remembrance of it.

Make the domain name for your site something that is short and sweet, no longer than about four words. It should also be simple to spell out and to share, whether through word-of-mouth or digital mediums. Avoid using hyphens or numbers, as they tend to be accidentally put in the wrong place or left out entirely. These things will help your site’s domain name be remembered and shared, and as a result, promote brand recognition with more people, both on- and offline.

Your site’s domain name should also be brandable in the sense that it should itself be relevant to your brand. When a person sees it, they should know that it is connected to your brand if they are familiar with you. If a person has never before heard of your startup, once they visit your site they should see how its domain name ties in with the brand that is presented there.

Logo
Your brand’s logo will take up some valuable real estate on your website, placed prominently at the top of its homepage and various other internal pages. Ensure that it speaks to the message your brand wants to communicate and gives people the right idea of what your brand stands for and represents.

Both in design and in color scheme, your logo should not be too similar to that of your competitors. Avoid having it be overly fussy in a way that detracts from all your hard work on the rest of the site or that makes your brand look like it was indecisive on what it most wants to convey with its logo. The right logo makes a website and its design, as well as further promoting the site’s brand. The wrong logo can confuse consumers as to what your startup values and/or has to offer them.

Links to social media
Include links to each of your brand’s social media accounts on its website in a way and in a location that they are easily seen. Place them prominently on the site’s homepage or on a clearly identifiable tab. By directing traffic to your social media accounts through your website, you are allowing web users to see more of your brand’s content through its social media posts and your brand to build up the engagement of its social community online.

Content catered to your target market
Everything your brand does with its website needs to be done with its target market in mind. Give them content they find interesting and useful within your site. If you are not quite sure of who makes up your target market and what it is your target market wants to see from your brand, you will need to conduct market research in order to find out. This can be done either through primary research methods (like surveys and focus groups) or secondary research, in which your startup takes data already collected by an outside organization and uses it to form its own conclusions.

Know who you are using your site to market to, what it is they like and want to see, and craft your site around this knowledge. It is much easier to promote brand recognition with a specific segment of the market that you are working to get the attention of with your site than it is to attempt to do so by making general content that you hope pleases everyone.

Of course, your startup’s website needs to express what it is as a business and what it has to sell to the consumer. On top of that however, it needs to be a part of your startup’s online presence that serves as a strong representation of its brand and allows visitors to it to see that brand. Having your brand represented well on your site will allow people to recognize it, remember it, and be encouraged to follow along with all it is doing.

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How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

How to start a business

 

By: Jayson Demers

VIP CONTRIBUTOR

MARCH 21, 2016

You’re excited to start a business. Maybe you have an idea, or you’re just fascinated with the idea of launching and growing your own enterprise. You’re willing to take some risks, like leaving your current job or going without personal revenue for a while. But there’s one logistical hurdle stopping you: You don’t have much money.


On the surface, this seems like a major problem, but a lack of personal capital shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. In fact, it’s entirely possible to start and grow a business with almost no personal financial investment whatsoever -- if you know what you’re doing.

Why a business needs money

First, let’s take a look at why a business needs money in the first place. There’s no uniform “startup” fee for building a business, so different businesses will have different needs. It’s important to first estimate how much you need before you start finding alternative methods to fund your company.


Consider the following uses:

  • Licenses and permits. Depending on your region, you may need special paperwork and registry to operate.
  • Supplies. Are you buying raw materials? Do you need computers and/or other devices?
  • Equipment. Do you need specialized machinery or software?
  • Office space. This is a huge expense, and you can't neglect things like Internet, utilities costs, janitorial services and whether to outsource back office tasks, like payroll and invoicing.
  • Associations, subscriptions, memberships. What publications and affiliations will you subsribe to every month?
  • Operating expenses. Dig into the nooks and crannies here, and don’t forget about marketing.
  • Legal fees. Are you consulting a lawyer throughout your business-development process?
  • Employees, freelancers and contractors. If you can’t do it alone, you’ll need people on your payroll.

With that said, you have two main paths of starting a business with less money: lowering your costs or increasing your available capital from outside sources. You have three options here:

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7 Common Legal Issues Entrepreneurs Need to Consider When Starting a Business

When it comes to starting a business, you might be a pro…

But, what about when it comes to working through all the legal issues you must Entreprenuerconsider as an entrepreneur when launching your start-up?

The world of business can get complicated quickly when you add in all the laws that apply – liability, finances, trademarks…

The list goes on. 

Most entrepreneurs get caught up in the midst of starting their business and quickly forget about the legal aspects that need to be considered.

To ensure that you avoid the negative repercussions of an avoidable mistake, there are a few common legal issues you should be aware of:

1. Non-disclosure agreements.

It seems like a given – don’t talk about anything that is considered “top secret.” But, it isn’t that obvious to everyone and to some, it just isn’t a priority or even a concern…

Particularly those outside of your business who might become involved with you in some way.

Anyone who interacts with your business – from the business side, not your clients – should sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure they won’t run and share your ideas with the competition. 

2. Future of the business – the what if’s?

Life happens. Unfortunately, sometimes people leave this world too soon. If that is the case, what will happen to your business?

It is important to invest in a will kit to ensure the assets of your business are protected and have a designated owner should you become unavailable. 

Have your attorney send your will kit to the post office for easy pickup.

3. Vesting.

Finding the right co-founder for your business is quite the task…

Who do you trust? Who will make a good fit and lead your business in the right direction?

It is important that you have a similar work ethic and timelines for investment – you need to have chemistry. 

Instead of getting all your shares at once, once option to consider is vesting. Your equity can be vested over time so that if you don’t have the chemistry you thought you did, there is a fair solution. 

4. Intellectual property.

While your business is still small, it is hard to imagine that you could potentially face the issue of people infringing on your intellectual property assets (or vice versa)…

But, it can happen easier than you think.

It is worth the investment of both time and money to get your trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets legally registered. It will be a lifesaver if, or when, an issue arises. 

5. Trademarks.

You just thought choosing a business name was difficult…

But, did you consider that even as creative as you might have been, someone else might still have thought of it first? 

Invest in performing a killer search to ensure your business name is not already another company’s trademark.

6. Compliance.

There are corporate compliance laws in place that affect companies in various industries. The laws that apply specifically to your business will vary based on the type of business entity you are, the state you do business in, and several other determining factors.

Do some research, and consult the help of an attorney, to ensure you know what documents should be generated and maintained by your business to remain compliant. 

7. Business structure.

There are several different business structures…

Partnerships, S corporations, corporations, sole proprietorship and a limited liability company.

All business structures hold very different meanings and offer a variety of different benefits. You should consider if your business is going to remain privately funded, if you plan on taking on investors, and what type of growth you expect your company to have in the future. 

You’ve already put in all the leg work to get your business up and running, don’t let a simple – and costly – legal mistake cause you to lose it all.

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7 Mistakes First Time Entrepreneurs Make and How to Avoid Them

We have all seen it happen to at least one good person…

Rather it is in politics or small business – someone makes a huge mistake and loses it all.

But, the ironic part about the entire situation is that the mistake was totally MistakesbyFirstTimeEntrepreneursavoidable. And, as an outsider, you could totally see that.

However, the person making the detrimental mistake is an insider – they don’t see what you see, hints as to why they didn’t avoid the mistake in the first place.

So, as you look into beginning your entrepreneur journey for the first time, I am here to be the person that offers you the advice you need to avoid those big, obvious mistakes…

As an entrepreneur for the first-time, a few big mistakes you can make (and also avoid) include:

1.    Falling head-over-heels in love.

Mistake: Young, or just first time, entrepreneurs often fall into one trap – they get bit by the love bug of the business industry. Don’t fall completely in love with your business idea; you will lose focus. Falling in love with your business idea could blind you and keep you from seeing that it might not have any profit-generating avenues.

How to avoid it: Be subjective. Always keep a list of your pros and cons, to remind yourself that if or when the pros outweigh the cons, it is time to move on to a new idea.

2.    Lacking support.

Mistake: This can encompass lacking technical, emotional, and/or financial support – trust me, you will need it all. While you can’t always get everyone in your corner, there is always someone. Especially financially, you will need this support to even get started.

How to avoid it: Create your own support group. Only keep the people you trust in your close circle, but be sure to keep it free of all the “haters.” Discuss business with people who truly believe in you and foster those friendships.

3.    Working with friends.

Mistake: Friends are just that. Friends. Friends and business should always remain separate. When working with someone so close to you, a level of respect is often lacking in your relationship which could lead to issues and tension in the workplace.

How to avoid it: Scout out talented people at networking events. Ask other people in the industry for recommendations – maybe some of their former employees would be a good fit. Always look for neutral parties to add to the team.

4.    Attempting to capture everyone.

Mistake: There is a big sea of people out in the world, and capturing the attention and likings of them all is impossible. You will never make everyone happy and intrigue everyone enough to buy your product, so why waste your time trying?

How to avoid it: Designate a target audience, then, refine your message and target specific niches that relate to your target audience.

5.    Using personal credit cards for business expenses.

Mistake: Several experts in entrepreneurship say you should only risk what you can afford to lose. There is no guarantee your business idea will work, so don’t risk it all just hoping that it will. Putting business expenses on a personal credit card is a good sign you can’t afford whatever you’re doing – and now, you are paying interest on your debt to credit card manufacturers and companies.

How to avoid it: Start a savings account. Continue to build the balance up with the intentions of it being your business funds. Then, use those for business ventures. You already had it set aside for that purpose, so you aren’t risking tour livelihood.

6.    Failing to test the market.

Mistake: While your idea might sound pretty intriguing, it isn’t fail-proof. Just because you assume the market will eat it up, doesn’t mean that they will. Testing the market could also lead to valuable advice that could improve your product for better sales.

How to avoid it: Test your product and get feedback from the market rapidly – before starting your business. Pass the product out to friends, family and anyone else who is relative to your target audience.

7.    Being the single founder.

Mistake: You will have far more responsibilities and tasks than you realize. You will suddenly find yourself overloaded with tasks that you can’t possibly get done.

How to avoid it: Learn to delegate tasks. Have a co-founder, or two, that you can hand some of the responsibility.

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6 Digital Marketing Trends and Tips for Startups

Startups usually run on a shoestring, which means that they have limited marketing budgets. In order to reach their target audience and boost their business, startup owners have to be very creative and use every possible digital marketing Trends 1marketing strategy they have at their disposal. There are lots of cost-effective tactics that can be used, but having a well-defined strategy is essential for their implementation and success. If you do everything properly, you can expect a 50% increase in conversion rates.

Instant Messaging
Apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Tango are dominating the world of digital marketing. No wonder this is so when they offer easy audience segmentation as well as personalized communication. Messages that companies send their customers via instant messengers have very high open rates. As messages are precisely targeted and sent directly to customers, their reach is significantly higher than that of social media channels. Due to the fact that instant messages, even though they’re commercial, add a human touch to faceless and generic advertising communication, people open them within a few minutes, and their impact is instantaneous.

Outreach
There’s no better way to promote your business than to partner with an influencer from your industry. First of all, select someone who shares the same values and who doesn’t have a huge following. These, so-called micro-influencers with 10,000-100,000 followers, are more accessible to startups and SMBs, and they’re not too expensive. Besides that, although their following is smaller, it’s very loyal which means that your products and services will be presented to a relevant, target audience interested in what you have to offer. Another factor is even more important than the number of followers, and it’s their engagement. Always go for an influencer, or a Facebook group with responsive followers who like, share and comment a lot.

Mobile optimization
Google has reported that 9 out of 10 people leave a mobile website if they can’t find what they’re looking for right away. At the same time, a statistic has shown that 22.3% of all retail e-commerce dollars in the U.S. were spent through mobile devices. Obviously, if you want to grow your business, you need to optimize your website for mobile. If you take into consideration that more searches take place on mobile than on computers, it’s clear that you’re wasting a great opportunity to improve brand visibility if your site isn’t mobile friendly.

Video
Modern consumers are annoyed and fed up with traditional, intrusive ads and pop-ups. They want something to engage, educate, and entertain them. Valuable, relevant content can do wonders for your brand building efforts and awareness, which is why you need to come up with a stellar content strategy. Video has to be its essential part, as surveys say that people spend 1/3 of all their online activity watching videos. Live streaming adds a sense of urgency and interactivity to your video efforts and helps you connect with your customers on a more personal and direct level. However, in order to benefit from videos, they need to be well-produced and of high quality.

Social media
Social media platforms can amplify your brand message and help you expand your reach. Spreading the word on Facebook or Twitter can help you crowdfund your startup, grow your customer base, or generate traffic. It’s true that certain social media websites try to capitalize on paid ads, but their price is still moderate, which makes them affordable even for businesses with small budgets. Social proof, one of the most effective marketing tools, can be successfully generated and shared via social media, thus adding credibility to your business. Apart from improving brand visibility, social media channels can help you obtain valuable information about your customers and improve both your products and customer service.

Big data
Big data has the power to transform digital marketing by providing marketers with the necessary information, crucial for understanding and improving the results of their campaigns. Predictive analytics is highly useful for predicting customer behavior, customer profiling, reducing churn, and lead generation. All this can turn a modest startup into a highly successful venture. Many SMB owners fail to take advantage of big data because they believe that it’s too expensive, but as a matter of fact, there are more affordable options in which you can invest. Implementing this technology can be a real game changer for your business.

Digital marketing offers any startup a great chance to stand out and be noticed among the tons of its competitors’ commercial messages.

Nate Vickery is a business consultant and an online author mainly focused on latest trends in marketing and growth hacking. He is also the editor at Bizzmarkblog.com.

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