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Strategic Branding & Advertising

20 Questions for Startup Business Success

by Kelly Hobkirk

Starting a business is almost always a good idea, but succeeding is increasingly harder. A strong foundation increases your chances of succeeding exponentially, yet foundations require planning, and in spite of how truly quick and easy planning can be, people regularly skip it, leaving their startup business success to rely on a foundation made of lofty clouds and shifting sands.

The good news is, there are people like me pushing you to do it better, define it now, and help you create the strong foundation that will help your efforts turn into the long-term business you desire. It all starts with questions and answers.

If you haven’t time for answering questions, you may not have the time needed to succeed, but if you take the time to really consider some important answers, your business foundation can carry you to the heights you seek.

Keep in mind that one-word answers are usually not helpful, so write (or type) detailed answers. Remember, you are exploring and expressing your innermost thoughts here, so make them count.

Below are some basic insights and questions. More specific questions around target market come into play further into the planning process.

The questions are numbered because answering them sequentially will help make this easier for you. That means no skipping questions!

Being extraordinary
It’s no secret that the secret of business success is doing something extraordinary, it’s just that people conveniently “forget” to acknowledge this hard fact. In a fast-paced online business landscape, the fact of this is even more critical.

Question:
1. How is your offering extraordinary?

Being valuable
Whether affluent or struggling, it’s a fact that, unless you are Donald Trump, people do not want to throw away their money. People want value, so your job as a business owner is to provide just that.

Question:
2. How is your product or service valuable?

Being a pain reliever
People often describe their offerings as filling a need, but unfortunately, filling a need is rarely enough. The more likely path to success is forged by relieving figurative pain. You create something that makes people’s lives theoretically easier. Then you make it as easy as humanly possible for them to give you their money.

Questions:
3. How will your brand relieve people’s pain?
4. How will your company make people’s lives easier?

Having the time and budget
The myth is that you can start a business with no money. Well, you can start up a business with no money, but you cannot succeed in a reasonable amount of time without a startup budget. How do you figure out the required budget?

You have to look at the numbers: the hard costs of doing business, which includes employees and subcontractors, branding, marketing, manufacturing and/or purchasing, rent, equipment, supplies, accounting, and so on. All of these must be figured in. Use a business plan template to make sure you consider and document all costs.

You also must align your budget and goals, and scale each according to the reality of your situation.

The success of nearly any business ultimately comes down to the numbers (unless you are independently wealthy and do not care about making a profit). One of the most significant numbers is time. If you have the time to dedicate, great. If not, you must have people you trust working for you with their time, which means getting into the financial numbers of hiring.

Questions:
5. How much time will you dedicate each day, week, and year to this business?
6. What is your required startup budget?
7. Will this be self-funded, or do you need investors?
8. Are your budget and goals in alignment?

Knowing your success factors
Some people want to make piles of money, while others just want to ply their trade of choice and earn a decent living, and either objective can lead to respective success. If you look at your business from a purely monetary standpoint, chances are it will not completely fulfill your desires. Consider looking at the romance side of your business, the part of it that will bring you personal satisfaction or a legacy. If you do not define your success factors, how will you know when you are succeeding?

Questions:
9. By which factors will you define success?
10. What will success look like?
11. How will you reward yourself and your team for succeeding?

Being suitable to online sales
Not all products are conducive to online selling. The shipping time, lack of person-to-person interaction, and lack of ability around acting solely on immediate need or impulse changes the sales equation. If connection is critical to making the sale, you have to find other ways of forging those connections. Maybe you will create something innovative that makes this easier.

Questions:
12. If you are selling tactile equipment or a physical impulse item, can you make it suitable to online sales? If so, how? What will the experience feel like?
13. How can you put the item in people’s hands?
14. How will you communicate the urgency to buy?
15. How will you make it as easy as possible for people to give you their money?

Solo or team
Some businesses are one-person operations, while others require a team. Which is yours? You can answer this easier by first answering the insightful questions above. Having a team can help you move faster, but it costs more. Going solo can keep you more agile, yet may impose limitations.

Questions:
16. Is this a solo effort, or will you need a team?
17. Which roles can you fill yourself? For which roles will you need others?
18. What budget will you need for each team member?
19. How will you find key team members?
20. Do you have a team of influential people to rely on for feedback?

I would enjoy reading your answers if you feel inclined to sending them, or to having a conversation about your impending startup business success.

Posted by Kelly Hobkirk • September 15, 2015 • Tags: ,

Great graphic designers challenge you

by Kelly Hobkirk

Great graphic designers challenge their clients. They work with them too of course, but graphic design that fails to challenge the client also fails to engage it’s target. Great graphic design upends the cart, and makes you uncomfortable. You don’t hire a graphic designer to bore you or keep you yawningly safe, do you?

When graphic designers deliver strategy-driven design concepts that make you uncomfortable, realize that the more uncomfortable you are, the more likely you are looking at either a business-winning design or an absolutely abhorrent amateur hack job. As a seasoned businessperson, you can probably tell the difference. It’s the stuff in between, the designs that bore you, that you should really be concerned about.

How will you know if the design is boring? Simple, you will experience neither nervousness nor that excited feeling you get at the moment of a great success.

If your graphic designer works to keep you comfortable, they’re not doing their job. And if you micro-manage your graphic designer, know that you will not get the results you want (unless your ideal result is mediocrity). BTW: This applies to web design, advertising and brand development too.

In my experience, clients who accept the challenge and push gently back or collaborate to develop stronger concepts are clients who encounter the greatest market success. They tend to enjoy their designer relationship more to boot because we develop mutual respect and admiration.

Posted by Kelly Hobkirk • June 1, 2012 • Tags: ,

Hire great people and let them do their thing

by Kelly Hobkirk

David Ogilvy once said, “Why have a dog and bark yourself?” I love this question.

Think about it. Do you tell your surgeon or dentist how to perform her work? Do you tell the chef how to prepare the meal? How about your attorney—Do you tell him the law precedents? Or do you let them do their jobs, so they can deliver their best work?

One of my clients shared with me how he manages his employees: “I hire great people, then I let them do their thing.” That’s smart strategy.

Posted by Kelly Hobkirk • • Tags: ,