Editor’s Note: Today’s social networking systems provide entrepreneurs with the ability to build their brands better, quicker, and with greater effectiveness than ever before. Once the exclusive purview of marketing professionals, branding has become a core skill and a non-stop activity for today’s business owners and entrepreneurial professionals. To help you build and maintain that ever-important brand, EPN Magazine presents five key tips on how to make it happen in year 1.
Tip #1: Eat drink and sleep your market
Plunge yourself in the daily life of the people you want your product to appeal to. Finding out precisely who your market is, will, and can be is one of the most difficult challenges for the entrepreneur, but if you enclose yourself with your preferred consumers you will find out precisely who they are and what they want. Ultimately, your preferred market could end up being very different from the one you had initially intended, so as you spend time with those key individuals that represent your intended client base, keep your eyes out for telltale signs that you need to adjust your approach.
Tip #2: Interpret & investigate
Yes, and then examine and investigate some more. Successful entrepreneurs are voracious readers and news junkies. Read as many business books, magazines, journals, websites, and blogs as you possibly can. Read completely everything you can about your market; watch broadcasts, newscasts, and financial programs; visit with local entrepreneurs. It is vital for you to know what and who you are up against, and how you will make your product stand out alongside others. In the internet, there are a wealth of assets to help you get your merchandise going. And don’t be afraid to interact: by talking with others seeking similar knowledge you’ll build awareness and confidence. Investors and partners seek to work with people who have a deep understanding of the business they are in, so don’t forget to take the time to investigate the products of other entrepreneurs like yourself. One of the most important things to keep in mind throughout your investigations is that others have been through, or are currently going through precisely what you are. Seek out stories about how they got started.
Everyone knows someone who knows someone, who can drive business your way, so talk about what you are doing in the course of your daily discussions and key relationships will naturally fall into place. People actually like to make referrals because good ones reflect well upon them, so spread the word and give word of mouth a chance to work its magic. In the end, you are your own best PR agent: no one will articulate the value of your product or service as convincingly as you will. And don’t forget about the significance of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter; they are the easiest way to make your merchandise noticeable.
Tip #4: There is No Substitute for Experience
Experience is vital to the entrepreneur. Some get it from working with parents, others from careers in the corporate world, but in the end each employment with a start-up business or period working with a corporation will build your personal portfolio of information, so don’t be afraid to take temporary employment or to do volunteer work solely for the purpose of learning. Getting out “in the field” and observing first-hand how business is accomplished often identifies opportunities for saving and improvement that could lead to new business. Challenge yourself and your people to get out there and learn first-hand about your business.
Everybody needs it, especially you! Without displaying confidence in yourself and your brand, consumers aren’t likely to have much either. No risk = no reward, so entrepreneurs have to be risk takers, but risk taking means that you have to lose sometimes along the way toward the big win. Entrepreneurship can be an emotional roller-coaster ride as each setback makes us question why we started this business in the first place, and each accomplishment has us dreaming of someday flying in the corporate jet. To handle the emotional storm, successful entrepreneurs are able to tap into an enormous personal store of confidence, and they recognize the importance of doing things to make sure theirs never runs out. There’s a reason why stores often have the first dollar they ever made taped to the wall – it reminds them of the rush of satisfaction they felt when they got their first customer. Surround yourself with the memorabilia, trophies and awards that help re-kindle your confidence, and don’t be afraid to reward yourself and your employees when something goes right. When the chips are down, those little investments in the confidence bucket will help you weather the storm, so celebrate!