A startup doesn’t exist in isolation. Every company, however big or small, exists as part of a larger network of companies, consumers, and monetary trends. Trying to exist independently of these other factors is existing separately from the very market you’re trying to access – it’s the first step to failure. If a company is not aware of its position within the industry, it’s not aware of who its potential customers are, and without that knowledge, there is no way to tailor marketing and outreach to reach these clients. Understanding how you fit into the current business and economic climate opens up all of the doors to modern technological advancements, allows you to keep ahead of the curve, but also allows you to apply boom and bust ideas to investments, based on the state of the climate at that time. The founder of e-commerce firm Future Group claims that as many as 90% of startups miss the bigger picture, making them prone to failure. Is your startup facing up to the bigger challenge, and is it taking advantage of what this offers?
How do you fit into your industry?
First things first, the industry in which your company is situated is its home, so it needs to be comfortable. The customers that already exist within your industry will have preconceived ideas about what to expect from companies in this field, so fitting in is crucial to winning trust and respect. Setting yourself apart by offering a slightly different product is one thing, but without a pre-existing reputation, coming in with a product or service completely from left field can be a risky business. Putting your company into the context of the industry allows customers to understand what you’re doing, and makes the business seem accessible.
Knowing the industry in which your company is set is essential for creating a valid and well-reasoned business plan. Without the industry knowledge, the business plan is nothing more than guesswork. If your startup is new to the industry, it could be worth taking some professional advice on this process, as a business plan which does not have a basis, in fact, is almost entirely useless. Without knowing how other businesses in your sector grew, you’re not able to accurately predict your own business growth, meaning you have no financial plan for the first year – a very shaky ground indeed.
Without understanding your industry you also can’t understand your competition, which means you can’t set yourself apart. When taking over a new bar, for example, it’s essential to know what the other bars in the area offer, their prices, and their atmosphere. Without this information, it’s completely impossible to create something which both fits into the ethos and style of the area, but also offers something independent. You could also end up over or undercharging on your product, which is particularly unviable. This analogy works for any startups. The area in which the bar sits is analogous for the industry in which your company is set, and the other bars in the area are your competition. A startup with no understanding of their competition is on a losing streak.
What are some current trends of your industry?
Knowing about your competition, the market, and the financial climate is crucial for success, but being able to stay up with trends is also essential. Getting left behind as the other companies in your sector steam ahead with modern technology, new ideas, and a strengthened product is not great for business. The best way to avoid this is by keeping up to date with trends. Following industry media for relevant and on point articles is the best way to ensure you’re staying on trend. You can even help to dictate these trends by becoming a well-respected expert in the industry. The best way to do this is by keeping and maintaining a blog on your website. The regular updates of content will optimize your site for search engines, pushing you higher in the industry as a result. But it also allows other people in your industry to follow your lead, enabling you to create and maintain trends. It can take a lot of work – a couple of blog posts a week are the minimum to make this work, and a good social media presence is crucial too, but it can really pay off when you place yourself and your company at the centre of the industry and its progression.
Following trends in technology and web-based industries can be a time-consuming task as they progress at an incredible rate. From the Internet of Things, enabling all devices and users to be connected, from refrigerators to tablets and everything in between, to incredible technological advancements such as NFC tags, keeping on top of these trends can really give companies within the technological industries an edge. You wouldn’t run a web-based business like it’s still the 90s, so don’t run it like it’s still 2016. With the incredible speed of technological advancement, don’t let yourself get left behind in the dust.
Are you making the most of analytics?
Analytics is no longer purely based on sales, new clients, and spend-per-head – it’s an incredible science which, when used effectively, can allow you to pinpoint every tiny element of success and failure within your company’s business plan and marketing strategy. Starting a company is difficult enough – it’s even been likened to a rollercoaster ride, full of ups, downs, fears, and even the odd bit of sickness – so why not make it easier by utilizing the analytics and metrics you have available to you? This data grounds the company in logic, data, and facts, rather than airy-fairy ideas and fantasies. They’re the difference between creating a successful company, and a company bound to fail. They allow you to set reasonable goals, make intelligent spends, and move in a logical direction. Why would you pay thousands for a banner ad if you’re not going to hit your target audience? Using metrics and analytics you can guarantee your marketing strategy packs a punch, and puts you on the road to success.
How can you work more efficiently?
Not only do you need to look at your company outwards, towards the industries in which you’re situated and the current economic climate, but it’s also imperative that you look inwardly as well. How can you guarantee that you’re hiring the right number of people, the right people for the job, and that you’re spending the right amount on office or workshop space? By looking inwards at your company in depth, you should be able to monitor spending, predict growth, and ensure that you’re staying on track. Your company is a big part of the bigger picture.
Efficiency within your company is crucial to effective spending, good customer service, and creating a sustainable business. Without looking at efficiency, you could be flushing money down the lavatory every week, without even knowing it. Investing in a mobile management system is a great way to ensure you’re all working to your optimum, that important jobs don’t get missed, and it also enables you to review data about your working week at the end. Being able to look at the time spent on certain things, how labor is typically divided among staff, and how down-time is used is the equivalent of office metrics. In a tough economic climate, it makes sense to reassure yourself that every penny you spend is entirely necessary.
What are some possible threats to your success?
If someone doesn’t understand their industry and the bigger picture, the chances are that the threats their company faces are unknown to them as well. It isn’t possible to protect against threats when you don’t know what those threats are. For example, in this analogy, the Earth is your company, and a meteor is the huge theoretical rise in corporation tax on the horizon. On the Earth, everyone is going about their daily life like there is nothing coming up. Life is going well, everyone is prospering, but without the knowledge of the threat of the meteor, they’re not able to put provisions in place to help when it hits. If a huge rise in tax hits, but the company owner isn’t up to date with how politics is affecting their industry, that rise in tax takes out a huge swathe of money that wasn’t allotted for that purpose, putting their business in grave danger. It’s crucial always to be aware of the political climate surrounding your business, so problems don’t hit you from left field. It’s even worth being aware of what’s going on in your locale, especially if you rely on any transportation of goods or staff, after all, if your staff or raw materials aren’t able to reach you, you’re not going to be able to fulfill orders – if you get pre-warning of any of these issues you can take fewer orders or make other arrangements. It’s always worth knowing every threat to your company, be it political, social, or economic, so nothing comes as a surprise.
For a startup, keeping the bigger picture around the company is the key to fitting in, understanding the industry, and making a success out of it.