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What are the 5 main steps when planning a start-up?

23 Feb, 2017

Many of us have startup ideas in our minds, we wish to start them as soon as possible and hope for them to get a kick start overnight. However, that is not how things work. All the famous brands you see in the world today with huge market shares and swooping sales took more than just months to get where they are today. Having an idea for a startup is one thing and executing it to its full potential is another. Many of us get the entrepreneurial feeling when we see top brands in our niche, which is a good thing. But how are you going to translate this feeling into a practical goal is the real deal. As an entrepreneur, myself, I help entrepreneurs and investors take their startup ideas from just ideas to concise reality. Today, I am going to share the 5 main steps when planning a startup discussing alongside practical examples of one of my client projects. She Gets Fitis a women fitness network that educates and encourages women globally by partnering with influential female fitness models and athletic trainers. I will show you the exact process we developed and approached to get the startup to a real brand. The post contains real data from the brand from zero to a leading network in women fitness industry.

Without further delay, here are the 5 major steps the startup needed to get to the deserved business potential.

 

 

1.      Brand Identity

 

YOUR LOGO IS NOT YOUR BRAND, YOUR BRAND IS NOT YOUR LOGO

 

As a business consultant, I have to repeat this sentence every now and then to my clients. Most of the people think that a brand, logo, and brand identity are synonymous to each other. This, however, is not true. To give you a better idea, here is a graphical representation of the three.

Your Logo

 

After looking at the picture above, it should be clear that the logo is just a small part of your overall branding. It is basically the symbol, graphic representation, or icon of your business. Some companies use their own name in a typography font for the logo while others may only use a symbol or even both. In this case, since the company is about women fitness, a symbol along with the company name was a good choice. After brainstorming with the team and thinking of all the images that come to the mind while saying out the company name aloud, we came up with a few drafts. The experienced graphic designers at MKM have a way of translating your ideas into visuals that leave you astonished. This is not only possible because we have some magical skills of mind reading, but because we have developed a system and process where we ensure maximum input from the client and try to get all the possible information and ideas on paper. The client filled us a logo questionnaire for us, that we sent over, asking for things like, what are your preferred fonts, what color tones would you prefer, do you prefer a typographic logo or a symbolic one etc. If you wish, you can get our copy of the logo design questionnaire here. This will give you clear directions and help you note down everything you have in your mind about your logo.

 

The first version of the She Gets Fit logo, looked like this:

After using the logo on different social media pages, campaigns, and flyers, the client realized that the color maybe needed some switch since pink was limiting the target audience. Remember, everything looks great prior to the launch. But it is only after the real customer experiences that you start noticing lacks and improvements in your ideas and products. So, after a detailed user experience, the logo was recently changed to this:

It is a smart choice I would say since 2017 is the year of gradients in UI design. Cutting the long story short, your logo should ideally represent who you are and who you want to be in the future. Since a logo is not very often changeable in the future and the cost of doing so is very high, it is highly recommended to plan it out well and get it done from a professional instead of hiring $5 resource at fiverr. What if your idea hits the market, making its way to the top, would a copy-pasted logo really represent your true business potential?

 

Your brand identity?

After you have a logo, you apply it to different applications and print materials. You would get letterheads, business cards, brochures, advertising banners, social media pages or whatever your preferred mediums of advertising are. This is where you are branding your business. In case of She Gets Fit, here is how they used the branding on their apparel and the vegan-powered supplements

Vegan-Powered Plant based protein dietary supplement by SGF. The product packaging does not only contain a logo but it gives a clear message to the buyer that the company only promotes organic products and is oriented to bring more women into the forefront of fitness industry.

Another example of how branding can work for your business. This is the women fitness apparel available on the SGF website, so that the loyal audience who follows them for nutrition and fitness tips and picks their workout programs to get into shape, can also buy these branded apparels. It is obvious that people who join workout programs on a website or read about fitness tips are highly likely to buy workout apparel anyways, so why not give them what they want right away!

 

However, branding is not only about adding your logo but your brand identity is much more than that. Brand identity means that you should be able to identify the business aims, and objectives only by looking at the product and without having to talk to any sales rep. This requires you to be consistent with your fonts, logo placement, colors, imagery and even the tone of writing. Your brand identity is flexible and allows future expansion or change of direction.

Your brand

By dictionary definition, a brand is a name given to a certain product under a certain company to distinguish its source. It does include the design aspect but it is not limited to that. As per the ever-evolving markets, a brand is much more than what we see in definition. Your brand is not something you create, rather you earn it over the years. It is the perception that consumers have in their mind when they hear your brand name. Hearing the word Coke, as per dictionary should tell us that it is a sweet soda cola produced by those guys in Atlanta. However, that’s not the case. None of us thought about it, In Fact, I can bet most of you didn’t even know the original source of Coke. When we hear the word coke, we can think of friends, celebration, cause, love, fun, even though these are all abstract feelings, but the brand has very well managed to be affiliated with them since its launch.

So, basically, your brand is everything you want to tell people about your business. You can’t just have it right in the first place or create a strong one with a lot of $, you have to work for it, understand your audience, build loyalty and earn your brand.

 

2.     Trademark and Registration

Trademark and registration are the second critical step after you have the name and logo ready for your brand. Your business is going to be anasset in the future, which is why it needs to be protected.

 

What’s a trademark?

 

A trademark is simply a confirmation that you own a brand and your goods and services can be distinguished from others using your trademark. Trademarks are short, precise and unique. No two businesses can have the same trademark. When you have a great name and a logo, Like our client did, you should go ahead and get it registered so that you are legal and official owner for it.

To get your brand trademarked in the US, here is the official site https://www.uspto.gov/trademark.

This also included the products and services that you will be selling. For instance, the vegan-powered supplement and the apparels are two different products and the workout programs on SGF website are different, but when they all carry a trademark by the brand, you nominate them as yours and all the rights are reserved to you.

 

Speaking of rights, here are the rights a trademark can give you:

What rights does a trademark give?

 

  1. The right to be able to use the trademark with the products/services mentioned at the application. Only having your domain registered or your business name registered doesn’t allow you to do so. You may get in trouble if using your name or logo with products if you don’t have a trademark.So, for instance, the She Gets Fit apparel couldn’t legally carry a logo and name unless it was trademarked.
  2. The authority to allow other people and businesses to use your trademark for goods and services by charging them a licensing fee.  This is a good long term opportunity to make some money using your brand power.
  3. The right to act against people or businesses if they are using the same name or logo as per the Trade Marks Act 1995, be sure to know the rules if you wish to act upon this law.

 

What does it cost to get trademarked?

Contrary to the popular belief, trademark and registration are not very expensive. But the cost of not having your trademark is high. Think of all the other businesses who could be using your name and cash your brand identity to make some money. None the less, they won’t be even ensuring the quality and brand image that you have developed overtime.

In our client’s case, it took just about a few hundred dollars in the U.S. by going to USPTO.gov to get the brand both registered and trademarked. If you are not familiar with research and application filing you may use other parties such as legalzoom.com or secureyourtrademark.com

You must be thinking but wait! Why should I be paying hundreds in the first place? If the above-mentioned rights are not enough of a reason, here is a huge plus of having a trademark- legally protecting your name and your assets that you invest time and money in!

 

How do trademarks add value to your brand?

The best part about having a ® sign next to your brand name is that it looks classy and it has the security and trust the brand needs. Feel the difference between:

She Gets Fit

And

She Gets Fit ®

The symbol at the end gives a sense of credibility and trust to the users. They associate you with someone who has gone through an entire process and is trustworthy. Consumers think of your business as a biggie when it carries a trademark registered sign.

Another plus is that you can make some money out of it. And nothing is inevitable when there is monetary value involved. You can license others to use your trademark, and charge them for it. You get paid and your brand gets promoted.

 

3.     Blueprint layout for brand

Your brand is not just about the colors, fonts, images, layouts or the design aspect. It is much more than that. You need to be careful with the corporate culture you are developing, the objectives you are setting, the customer experience you will offer, the audience you are creating the brand for, the strategy, future growth and industry specifications. Your future campaigns will take impact from all of these so be sure to plan it ahead. We developed innovative and winning campaigns for SGF on different platforms which led to a huge talk about the brand.

The core is to build a brand and grow your business with a clear and concise direction. To create a successful blueprint layout for your brand, you need to consider three areas:

 

  1. Industry
  2. Demographics
  3. Target audience

 

a)    Industry

The industry you are going to launch your brand in is critical. You might think it’s obvious a website offering workout programs will fit in the fitness industry, but that’s not enough. You don’t only need to know which industry you will be operating in, but also the success rates, growth rate, competitiveness and inclinations of that industry. If you are planning to launch a startup and still not sure about the industry, then you can consider these 8 industries with high growth rates.

 

Launching a business from scratch is definitely one hell of a task, but if you take the small things in account and plan each accordingly, you will have higher chances of success. Our client launched their brand after careful analysis of the fitness industry. This includes top brands, average buying power, consumer expectations, resources, supply chains and barriers to entry. Since, women fitness is a competitive industry, after brainstorming for how they could stand out, we went ahead with the idea of creating a network of influential female athletic trainers from around the world. There wasn’t a network like such before so this would set them apart in the forefront of women fitness.

This is one of the sources we used to fetch the fitness industry data in order to measure our results. Same can be done for any industry and service by looking at the potential of the industry and understanding various stats.

 

b)    Demographic

The demographics help us understand different parameters about the potential audience. We can take out the target audience by understanding people of what age, profession, gender, ethnicity, and race have what preferences. The fitness industry in the US for example has a high rate of millennials

. Mining the demographic data carefully helps us understand the audience preferences and inclinations. To launch a successful campaign for SGF, it was critical for us to understand who exactly will use our services as per the records.

 

c)     Target Audience

“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets”

Even though your brand manager might feel he could have targeted a higher number of people and bring in more sales, but you really need to keep it tight. My favorite blogger Jeff Goins, summed it up in a pretty clear statement,

The narrower the niche, the higher will be the target audience.

Do not aim to please everyone because you will end up pleasing no one. Your target audience is a limited and specified group out of the total audience who are actually interested in your product or service and they will actually buy from you. Consider a soda cola example to make it simpler:

 

Suppose you are selling sweet carbonated soda under a certain brand. Even though all soda cola lovers could be your potential audience but you have to ask yourself questions, brainstorm and put yourself in real user personas to understand how many of them will actually buy from you. If there are a 100 people who love soda cola, there is no chance all of them will buy yours. Even the largest soda cola producers don’t have a 50-50 rate after years of brand development and zillions of dollars spent on marketing. In case of SGF, we had to carefully pick out our targeted audience using analytical tools and search patterns. If you have an online brand, you can use forums like Quora, Yahoo answers, and groups where the likes of finding interested people are high like twitter and Facebook communities. The search engine giant aka Google also has some genius tools to find out what keywords should you target, what people look for what things in what areas and what are the most trending topics in your niche.

 

Remember, you can’t just start a business with a target audience already defined. If this was the case, there would be no failures for any startup. You have to use your own thinking abilities, network, communicate, research, rely on tools and understand the patterns in order to craft a selected target audience for your niche.

 

In case of SGF, we had two sets of target audience

  1. Female athletes and athletic trainers with custom workout programs, either having an online community or looking for an opportunity to strengthen their careers.
  2. Women looking to get fit who show an interest in online fitness programs.
  3. Home-based moms hoping to lose weight using organic supplements

This really helped us define and align our marketing efforts so as to only focus on those that matter. If you have a business idea but not sure of your target audience, consider reading this amazing piece on how to find your target audience.

 

4.     Members needed to accomplish launch

 

We might be strong as individuals, but together we are invincible.

 

Having a great idea and plan for a brand is not going anywhere unless you have the right people to execute it. Building a team of people who are as much dedicated and passionate about what you are doing as you are, requires effort and time. You don’t walk around the streets finding people who share the same interests but you have to reach experts, energy-filled people who love the entire idea and would do anything to complete it. To build a strong team, you need to have a proper procedure. Here is what we followed for the SGF team and you can use it too.

 

A)  Set clear goals

Before you go ahead and start looking for the right people, you need to set clear goals and identify a purpose. It’s critical at this stage to have an authority else than yourself, who can look at the project from an objective point of view and validate your ideas. Vague ideas and generic responses will be a no-go at this stage. Write down your goals and targets on a piece of paper, refine them and get them printed. When meeting potential team members, keep the copy along and make sure the person aligns with your goals and ideas. Better not to share the copy with them unless you are done interviewing to get unbiased responses. Once you are done and think the person suits your overall objectives, hand them a copy and tell them to learn it by heart because this is what you are all about.

 

 

B)   Build a team

Having a team that maximizes your chances of success is essential. You will need a core team and an expanded one for your project. The core team is the one that must be present at all project meetings and they all are important to achieve project goals. An expanded team has people who are only needed at specific stages. For instance, you will only need a lawyer when looking at legal matters so it’s not necessary to bother him for minute-by-minute updates. Extended team members are assigned roles and specified what to do. You can update them with a week’s progress but no point having all of them engaged always. You can let them know their tasks and get back to them when needed.

 

To get the most influential female athletes involved in our project, we did a casting call campaignin Denver and Miami seeking fit female athletes enthusiastic about our brand and waiting to get their name on the map in the fitness industry. We call this a CAT or Call to Action plan.

 

 

Remember it is essential for the leader or entrepreneur in the brand to communicate individually with each member and address their concerns. The only way you can have people commit to you is when you are satisfying their concerns and needs. Keep your people motivated by understanding their motivational needs and clearly explain the required input in return. If someone, doesn’t have enough time or interest, or your concerns do not align, you can consider switching them with another deserving candidate. Doing so at an earlier stage of building the team will both be in favor of your brand and the team. Do not waste time on people convincing them that this is the right opportunity. Filtering at this stage is important as kicking out someone from the team at a later stage may give rise to insecurities, dispute, and disapproval for other teammates.

 

 

  1. Set expectations

Having a set of goals is important but you also need to specify the products you need to be delivered by each team member. The deliverables should be clear, realistic and time bound. This may include reporting, documentation, surveys, research, presentations, graphic work or ad campaigns. However, make sure that you clearly specify the deliverable for each member for a specific date.

 

 

Along with setting deliverables, decide the authority for the process. If the team needs certain resources to complete a certain task, then there should be an authoritative figure who approves or disapproves the resources. An authority should be objective and experienced. They can take decisions on behalf of the team and take responsibility for it.

Another important factor while setting expectations is defining clear ground rules in advance. These rules can be about meeting time, process to be followed, taking action steps, sharing information, encouraging positive feedback, listening to others etc. Create a copy of the ground rules and hand out to everyone in the team. Even though you may think you are mature adults and do not need to be treated like 4 graders, setting rules is critical. It eliminates the chances of arguments and blame game when working in groups. Using this approach for SGF helped us achieve our goals faster and avoid any delays due to arguments etc. Here is a copy of the ground rules for SGF, if you want to use one for yourself.

 

 

 

 

  1. Do the work

 

 

Now that you are through the goal setting and deliverable stages, you can go ahead and start doing the work. The best approach is to divide the project into phases and create both short and long term plans. For instance, we want the print brochures to be ready by the end of week 1 is a short-term goal. Print brochures and other advertising material distributed to all target audience is a long-term goal which may involve other methods and multiple team members.

 

Remember, you don’t need to get into details of the entire plan. Just create a general approach for the month or 3 months and give detailed points of the short-term goals for let’s say a week.Launch the brand with a clear goal for Brand Messaging, Mission, and an operation that can be easily scaled.

 

You have a plan, you have the goals, you have the rules and you have the people to do it, what’s the wait?

 

Start implementing the plan and stay well connected with the team heads so that you know where and how you are progressing on each. Sometimes things will not go as planned because it is one thing to create a successful brand on paper and another to practically execute it. If there is a delay or change in process due to unforeseen events, do not panic. Rather sit with the relevant team and discuss the possible solutions.

 

 

5.   Launch

 

The most awaited day of your business idea is the launch day itself. However, it can be really overwhelming because now you will be presenting to a real audience, in real situations. People might throw questions at you so be prepared for that. Know your business strengths and weaknesses inside out so that you can tackle all sorts of feedback and comments. To make it easier, we will break up the launch process into subdivisions for you. Here is a strategy we adopted for SheGetsFit and we are going to share it with you, exactly how it happened.

We had a:

  • Launch Leader
  • PR
  • Product
  • Customers
  • Content
  • Measurement

Stay tuned as we unveil more insightful treasure of the activities we will be creating and implementing into launching SGF)

 

Launch leader: A cross-functional launch team is the backbone to a successful launch, because they know the story and act as tools to get the startup the kick it needs. Even though it’s the marketing team who tackle most of the launch-related activities but involvement of each member of the overall team is crucial including the founder and the representatives.

Even though each of the team will have a specified day job, like finalizing product, customer trials, placements, and coordination, but the launch should be the priority for everyone. The best approach is to have a Launchmeister who will be the head of the entire process and watch over everything. It could be one of the founders or whoever looks best for the job. Everyone including the founders has to report to the Launchmeister if you wish it to be a success elsewise, you will end up in a disaster.

PR:Media coverage is an essential part of the launch. You have to invest in PR earlier than you think. Also, it would require you to pay more than you wish. Your PR agency should be engaged since the beginning to position and manage the process. They should be updating you with their feedback on each step as per their analysis, market influence and consumer behaviors.

Product: The trickiest part of any launch is the product. With tangible products like apparel and supplement in our case, it can often deviate from the expected date. The final products may not arrive on time and even if they do, they may not be ready for a launch. Allow a margin for the product delivery and readiness because they are often late than usual.

 

Customers: The first-time customers use a new product is a challenging one. The early adopters are the customers who trust your product and often buy an incomplete product so that they can test it and contribute to the feedback. However, sometimes the early adopters can be notorious. They may give poor feedback to the press and say bad things about your product which can affect the reputation of your brand. A golden rule of thumb we adopt at MKM is to have at least 3 referenceable customers as the early adopters. When the media channels reach them for a feedback, they can say commendable things about our product and its future scope. We say three because most news agencies do not publish a product review unless it has real feedback from real customers. Also, having three reliable sources can make up a good overall average score for the reviews.

Content: If you think content only matters for blog sites, then you are completely wrong. In a world like today, everything is instantly available on the internet and people check the online reviews and standings of a product before they actually go ahead and make a purchase. Make sure that you have produced 5-7 high-quality pieces of content in form of videos, data sheets, blogs, infographic or a news article. Unless you are something off the shelf, you need to have a good online standing for your prospects. Prior to the launch, you can build a good hype either by hiring a professional content agency or by dedicating one skilled member of your team to the task. However, remember that to write great content you don’t only have to be a good writer but also a great marketer with a good sense of the online world. Do not compromise a great launch merely because of lack of content.

 

Measurement:This is a real tester because you compare the actual signups and conversions at the launch with what you estimated. This can be the downloads, purchases, registrations, sign ups etc. Apart from the quantitative measurement, you will also have to do the qualitative measurement. This is what the customers are actually saying about your brand and product. When you have both the data, you can compare them and see where are you standing as compared to what you expected.

 

 

If you made it till here, congrats you went through all the 5 steps of launching a startup with real data from a real-life example. You are all set to get started on yours. If you need help with any of the steps, feel free to contact us.

 

Best of luck!

Author: mkm-admin

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