It’s approximately 18 months now since I started as a freelance events marketer and made the decision to set up EWL Club. I can’t quite believe how far both businesses have come along in such a short period of time, and can quite honestly say I’m in what I consider to be the most successful period of my career as an event professional to date.
I therefore wanted to share with you my top five tips for starting your own business, and the key things that have worked for me over the past year and a half.
1. Do your research
This is possibly the most important and absolute number one, research research, research. It’s much easier to do these days with the online tools readily available to you such as survey monkey and social media, and the complimentary options, but also don’t forget the good old-fashioned technique of asking friends, family, peers and colleagues.
All businesses are born out of identifying a need and by following the simple economic rule of supply and demand, at least the successful ones are.
Both my freelance business and EWL Club were born out of a personal work/life balance, and a networking need that I had identified for myself, therefore a great place to start is to think about a product or service that would help you in your professional or personal life, or both. By carrying out some simple market research you can find out if others in the market place have a similar demand and how viable it would be to launch a product or service to meet this.
When carrying out your research think about your potential product, size and quantities, target audience and customers, branding, how the business will be funded and pricing. From your research you will be able to make informed decisions on what’s reasonably possible, and what to and what not to launch.
Remember it’s important to identify in your research what would influence somebody to purchase your product or service over the competition, and effectively move away from their current supplier. One of the most important questions you can ask as this will help you with No 2.
Which brings me onto the competition, research also applies here too. Who are the competition? Where are they located? What is their product or service and USP? What is their brand and values? What are their prices? A SWOT analysis is vital here, identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each competitor. One good tip in business is to get to know your competitors better than you know your own business, and remember that a bit of healthy competition is the sign of a good thing.
2. Identify a niche
This is where you need to consider how you’re going to stand out from the rest, what will make you unique, what can you do that nobody else is doing and how you can make your product or service invaluable, and as a result keep your customers coming back from more.
Identifying your niche will also help you to look at continual improvement to ensure that you stay on top and one step ahead.
Do all this alongside looking at the positioning of your business, or as us marketers call it, the 7 Ps – product, price, place, promotion, process, and very important in the events industry, people and physical evidence.
3. Think about your brand
This is my favourite bit, but then as a marketer I love anything to do with branding and communications, quite simply this is about making yourself credible, memorable and relatable.
The name EWL Club was born from a need and desire to launch a networking lunch club that was relaxed and informal, didn’t take itself too seriously, but was still professional. Hence the name ‘Eventprofs Who Lunch’ was adopted, a play on the phrase ladies who lunch, bearing in mind our industry is heavily female, and something a little jovial. This was then abbreviated to EWL Club to give it a professional feel.
Text and font kept simple and straight forward with the colour purple to add a touch of quality and luxury, but also bravery as EWL was going against the norm by producing smaller intimate events, shying away from the usual larger events. Do your research into colours to find the right one for your company, you’d be surprised what your choice of colour may say about your new business.
Remember branding is not just your company logo but your communications, your style, your values, your culture, and with this in mind most professional marketers will put in place a creative platform, which helps to guide organisations and sets out key objectives, mission statements, company values, in addition to tone and mood and calls to action. From this you can then think about how you will advertise and market your brand, and the communications channels you will choose that are right for your customers and audience, eg. websites, email addresses, social media, email marketing and events.
4. Plan, plan, plan and evaluate
By doing all of the above you then move on to the strategic planning of your business, mainly your business, revenue forecasting and marketing plans, and you can do this by following and thinking about 3 simple steps; Where are you now? Where do you want to get to? How are you going to get there? This is where you set your business objectives and activities, ensuring they are SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
Everything should be measured with key performance indicators to identify where you need to make changes to improve and polish your product. Continuous improvement is also key here to growing your business.
It’s also important to consider that gone are the days where you would simply look at 1, 3 and 5 year plans. In the current global marketplace and environment that most companies operate, a more effective method is quarterly and half yearly planning that feeds into the above more efficiently due to the rapid change and cycling of most modern businesses.
If you are going to wait until the end of the year to evaluate and make changes to your business and strategy then you may find you’ve been left behind, even more applicable with new businesses and particularly when you consider that a high percentage of start-ups fail within their first 12 months of operation.
Customer feedback is also critical, there really is no excuse for not carrying out regular evaluation with your customers. You may think you have a great product, they may think otherwise, and how would you know? I guarantee if you have a unhappy customer your competition will find out before you do if you don’t evaluate and then act upon any feedback received quickly and effectively.
5. Launch your MVP and then continually repeat all of the above!
This is simple, launch your product or service when it is ready for market but consider launching a minimal viable product or MVP that meets the needs you identified in your initial research and your strategic planning, but allows you to improve and refine your product or service based on that all important continual customer feedback. Then forward from this constantly repeat steps 1-4!
So there you have, some simple top tips to help you get your idea and business started. I wouldn’t say I’m the next Richard Branson of the events world, but by following the above I’ve been able to successfully get both the EWL brand and business, and my own brand and business as an event marketer off the ground, and to a position where they are ready for the next stage.
It’s exciting to think where they’ll both be at the start of 2018, watch this space!
Until next time #Eventprofs…