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Why No One Talks About Small Business Anymore
Lean Startup has become a buzz word over the last few years. It is normally seen to mean getting the most out of the smallest possible commitment, then testing it. If what you have built passes the test then great keep it! If it doesn’t you simply learn from your mistakes and pivot in a new direction.
It started out being used for product development, but now can seen at work across a range of areas. A key principle of the Lean Startup is the MVP or ‘Minimum Viable Product’. When talking about a product it would mean that a product is released before it reaches its full development, and often with limited features. As this will only contain the “bare bones”, you don’t spend your money until you really need to.
For new or small businesses, adopting the Lean Startup approach can mean the difference between surviving and not surviving. You may even already be doing some of it without knowing! As technology has changed, what used to be very expensive can now be very affordable; and there are loads more options to keep things lean until you really need to invest.
Here are some tools that will help you to keep lean and mean until its success is proven…
Make the swap to Google Docs
When most of us need office software and a way to create and manage documents, we automatically think of Microsoft Office. However, it can work out to be very expensive, which isn’t ideal when your business is still getting off the ground.
Although it has fewer features, Google Docs is free to start with and offers a lot of similar features to Microsoft Office. For example, it has its own alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint which can be accessed directly from your internet browser. Google also enables you to share your documents with others, as well as allow other users to edit them. This makes it a great place to start as you can quickly share information across your workforce.
Google Docs programmes even have a similar look and feel to their Office counterparts, so you should be able to grasp their functionality in no time!
Don’t pay for a phone line – get a free one!
As a small business, you need to still look professional and that you are here to stay. By having a proper business line, rather than just a standard mobile number, you can project stability and make sure that if you are busy then calls to your company can still be properly handled.
With this free virtual phone system, you can get your business phone number up and running instantly. As well as creating your own dedicated business number, you can personalise your welcome greeting, receive voicemails via email while you (or your staff!) are on the go, and even have music played while your prospects are on hold – just like the big companies!
Check out free website templates
As your business tests the waters in the early development stages, you’ll only need to invest in a basic website. WordPress is a great place to start for this as it’s free to sign up and the platform already has a wide range of free templates available to customise your site with.
WordPress is also very easy to learn to use and has a great help section; even for those that are total novices when it comes to web development! Additionally, as so many people use the system to create blogs and websites, there’s plenty of relevant tutorials to be found on the world-wide web and most developers are highly competitive.
Want to save your budget? Colorlib has put together a list of the 50 best free WordPress templates, and there are many more free themes out there.
Source free images where possible
Whether you’re just getting on the social media bandwagon, setting up your website or developing a compelling business presentation, you’re going to need images.
Most business should be trying to be as unique as possible though, so if you have already invested in a high spec cell phone, these can capture images that are near professional quality with an authenticity that you just can’t get from stock images.
Get SaaSy with Software as a Service
IT has changed. All the software providers are now trying to move to software as a service. Where Microsoft would have charged for a licence and then waited 5 years for you to need to upgrade, their now have Microsoft 365 – a pay as you go subscription model. Everyone else is following suit with products like Xero for your accounting or Zoho for your CRM!
If you do need servers to run your business AWS (Amazon Web Services) offers a pay-as-you-go usage meaning you can scale up or down on demand.
Use a plethora of free resources to keep you going
Last but not the least, here is a curated directory of free tools you can use to build your brand. Whether you’re looking for business invoicing and contract templates, or simply looking to set up a free website, this curated list should provide you with all that you need.
The smarter way to grow your brand presence
Start-ups today are spoilt for choice. You can get almost anything done with the right business tool.
Free online business tools are aplenty, and if you're anything like me, you'd probably want to look for free trial coupon codes online for extended trial versions of premium tools.
A site that I would recommend to anyone is this curated list of resources for start-ups. You can find almost any tool to help you with your start-up business. The site covers everything from branding, marketing, project management, finance, legal and even raising capital for your business.
There is now even a tool that provides you with a free virtual business phone number. Who would have guessed 30 years ago that all these would have been possible? You could be running a two-man operation in Washington and still have your customers calling you from New York on a local number - at no cost to you or your customer.
In a nutshell, start-ups are now only limited by their imagination. You may have just started your business a few weeks ago, but nothing is stopping you from having all the marketing bells and whistles of a corporate giant.
It comes as no surprise why most people today don't look at small businesses the way they used to in the 80s.
Enter social media…
Social media has equally played a great role in the success of start-ups. If someone asked me now what is the one key differentiator for any product in the market, I’d say its “user experience”. A brand today is not what it says it is, it’s what the consumer says it is.
The advent of social media has given consumers the ability to add weight to any product. This, in turn, is driving consumer purchase decisions despite the price point. Over 70 per cent of all purchase decisions today are made through social influence. This ‘emotional price tag’ is helping start-ups create brand recall that has taken large corporations years of advertising dollars to build.
Think about it, Trump generated $5 billion in free media through Twitter compared to the expensive advertising campaigns of his predecessors.
So, if you’re a start-up business and you intend to save on effective tax rates by being classed a small business, think again. Earlier this year, a report by CNN revealed how 20 per cent of big companies pay zero corporate taxes.
The term ‘no-holds-barred’ comes to mind when I think about marketing innovations today. The idea of running a small business is perhaps a commendable entrepreneurial spirit, but it’s time to set aside tradition and embrace innovation.