When you first start a business, it’s an exciting new venture! There are tons of possibilities, and you are your own boss. Choosing your business name, filing your LLC, getting your EIN, and setting up your new business bank account are often the first steps. Once you are legally and financially setup, now you get business.
In the beginning, there are endless hours of networking, meeting with prospects, and raising awareness of your services/products. It can be hard. There were plenty of nights stressing about how to resolve a client situation, tears after losing the first client, sleepless nights wondering how the bills would be paid, feelings of extreme discouragement, etc.
The point is… Kreative Solutions gets it. We have been there. Furthermore, we have helped many startups along their startup journey from their first economical website to the next level website. That journey is not the same for every startup but acting as a guide we can help you along the way. Many entrepreneurs and startups work with us to start their online presence right and professionally then they take the reins on day-to-day marketing until they reach a point where they need to focus on their business and delegate to an employee or contractor. However, others choose to do it themselves.
It may look easy…. But anyone who has started an online presence from scratch knows there is a lot that goes into it.
This guide is intended to help you get started.
Craft Your Brand
A brand refers to a name, design, symbol, or another feature that identifies your business’ unique products and services. A brand is intangible and all about perception. It stems from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be. A logo is a great starting point, but there is much more to your brand identity including your visual, voice, attitude, and physical identity.
Yes, most of the following may seem non-essential. However, these following intangibles define how you present your business and how others perceive you to be. Trust us, you will be a much happier and fulfilled business owner in the future if you identify your purpose, specify what you stand for, and establish boundaries sooner rather than later.
Identify Your Target Market
“Who is your customer?” is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. It is better to identify your target market sooner rather than later. That way, you can craft your brand to speak to your ideal customer.
“Anyone” or “everyone” is not an answer. If you already have customers, look at the data. Who is a customer? What do they buy from you? What are their needs? Start a list of customers then categorize your customers based on what they buy from you and/or what their needs are.
If you don’t have any customers, look at the competition for inspiration. Who is your competition targeting? While looking at the competition, you might just identify a niche you can serve better.
Design Your Logo
Once you have a business name, you need a logo. A logo is a graphic mark or symbol that identifies your business. When it comes to designing your logo, you can do it yourself for free, pay a small fee to use an online platform, hire a designer on Fiverr or a similar freelance platform, or hire a professional graphic designer.
Regardless of how you get a logo, there are a few guidelines that you want to keep in mind and will definitely save you a headache later.
(1) Document the colors and fonts used in the logo. The colors in the logo will become the “primary colors” for your business and the font will likely be used on your website and/or promotional materials. Get this information when designing the logo. Once the logo file is finalized and the text is converted to outlines, that text is displayed in shapes and the font is no longer labeled.
(2) Make sure you have 100% right to use that logo. Read the fine print and make sure you don’t have to pay for use of that logo.
(3) Get the vector file and save it somewhere save. Make sure you have the original vector file (.EPS, .AI, etc.) and save it somewhere safe. You may not have the computer programs to open the file on your computer, but you will need to be able to access and share that file in the future. Commercial printers often ask for this for promotional materials, signs, etc.
Identify Your Voice
Your voice identity encompasses your slogan, taglines, key messages, word choice, tone-of-voice, call to action, etc. Now, you don’t have to define this all at one time, but you do want to think about it.
When you meet someone and they ask “What do you do?,” you want to give them a quick high-level overview and use it as an opportunity to promote your business rather than stuttering, rambling, and losing a great opportunity to spread the word about your business.
At a minimum, try to outline one sentence to describe what you do and a call to action to help prospects understand what the first step is to getting started (i.e., request a consultation).
Identify Your Purpose
Identify your purpose – what do you do and why do you do it? A business without a purpose has no meaning. When defining your purpose, you could write a mission statement. A mission statement is a short statement of why your business exists and the overall goal of your operations.
Outline Your Values
Specify your values and what you stand for. Yes, this seems fluffy and non-essential for most busy business owners. However, these 3-5 values will speak to your customers and give them a reason to believe in you and furthermore choose you over the competition.
Define Brand Guidelines
Remember how you should get the colors and fonts from your logo? Once you have this information, document and save it somewhere safe. Once you start creating content and/or building out your website, you may realize you need to add complementary colors that pair well with your logo, secondary colors for supporting elements, or accent colors to stand out and draw the eye. All of these colors can be documented via their Pantone, RGB, CMYK< or Hex color code for future consistency.
Your brand guide should define how to use the logo as well as the appropriate colors and fonts, but it can also define your voice identity in terms of your slogan, key messages, call-to-actions.
Get Your Contact Information
Purchase a Domain Name
Now, it’s time to claim your online address, also known as your domain name. To search your search, navigate to a domain provider, such as GoDaddy. Search your business name and see if the .com extension is available. If so, go ahead and purchase it. If not, now it is time to evaluate the trade-offs and find the best available domain name.
When evaluating trade-offs between domain names, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Identify appropriate domain extensions
- The shorter the better
- Make it memorable
- Consider your brand
- Consider important keywords
- Consider trademarks and copyrights
Create Your Business Email
Now that you have a domain name, you can set up your professional email firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, Google offers free email@example.com accounts. However, using a general gmail address appears unprofessional, tacky, and is often perceived as spam.
A professional email is a small but worthwhile expense. For example, you can sign up for Google Workspace for only $6/month to get your professional email and tons of other helpful apps (ex: calendar, drive, etc.).
Get a Business Phone Number
Get a business phone number that you can give to customers and post it publicly online. Google Voice is a popular service that works with your existing mobile phone. It allows you to forward calls to your personal device. It’s the best of both worlds – you can continue to use your personal phone while keeping your personal number private and only sharing your business number. Google Voice offers free personal plans and tiered business plans. Alternatively, you may want to consider getting a separate business phone and phone number through your cell phone carrier.
Design & Print Your Business Card
Now that you have your logo, website address, email address, and phone number, you can design your business card. If a graphic designer created your logo, you could definitely reach out to them to design your business card. Alternatively, you can contact a local printer provider and see if they have a graphic designer on staff who can help you. Lastly, you could design your own business card online through Vistaprint or another online provider. If you are designing your own business card, make sure you use your CMYK and/or Pantone Colors. And try to design in a program that supports a minimum resolution of 300 dpi.
Setup Your Online Presence
Design Your Website
Your first website is a starting point. Think of it as a temporary starting point, not your forever website. Your needs will change over time as well your website.
A website builder, such as Wix and/or Squarespace, is going to be the easiest starting point and have the lowest cost over time. With a website builder, you can easily connect your domain, install a SSL Certificate, install analytics, and a cookie notice in a few clicks. The more technical aspects are simplified and there are how-to tutorials online.
Kreative Solutions first website was built in one week with Squarespace, while today’s website is built in WordPress and continues to evolve over time (Website Builder vs. WordPress: Which Is Right For My Business?).
Once you have selected a website builder, you need to create the pages. To get you started, focus on these 5 pages as a starting point:
- Home – Provides an overview of your business, who you serve, why choose you, and a call to action on how to get started.
- About – Tell your story and highlight what makes you different.
- Services/Products – Provide an overview of what you have to offer.
- Contact – Share your contact information and include a contact form to get in touch.
For more guidance on how to craft copy and content for your website and key questions to answer on each of the 5 basic pages, visit our How to Craft Copy & Content for Your Website blog post.
If you use a website builder, do you really need a professional website designer? If you have the time and patience to do it yourself, you may get by with a bare minimum but you will likely be missing out on search engine optimization, performance, and professional appearance. If you hire a professional, your website will be set up with the best practices in mind and for success. You can always make small changes to the images or text later, but most do-it-yourselfers quickly realize how much goes into designing a web page (ex: layout, the copy, images/icons, on-page SEO, responsive design, testing, etc.).
Verify Your Google My Business Listing
A Google Business Profile listing is an easy way to boost your local search engine optimization and help nearby customers find you. Go to Google Business Profile, log in to your Google account, and either find and manage your business or add your business to Google. Follow the prompts to enter your business information. Then, get verified.
Based on your business type, Google will offer you various ways to verify your business. The most common way is by sending a verification postcard to your address and then entering the verification code. Sometimes, Google may offer a phone call and/or text verification method as well. Once your business is verified, your Google Business Profile will be published and public online.
Choose Your Online Profiles & Social Channels
Next, identify which online profiles and social media channels best fit your industry, business, and target audience. Realtors and mortgage lenders will definitely want a Zillow profile, while home service contractors will want to be on Home Advisor. For inspiration, you can always look at others in your industry to see what profiles they have.
Beyond industry-specific profiles, you will also want to consider social media channels. First and foremost, consider how the social media platform is used. Make sure your audience is using that channel before investing time into it. For more guidance on evaluating social media, check out our How to Choose Social Media Platforms for Your Business blog post.
Identify Third-Party Websites & Backlinks
Identify local chambers of commerce, networking groups, and/or industry associations to join. These groups often provide valuable networking opportunities and ways to meet others nearby/in your industry. Best of all, these groups often have a member listing. Member listings are a great way to increase awareness of your brand to your target market while also generating a backlink to your website. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. Building backlinks is a great strategy for improving your search engine optimization.