Tag Archives: start-up

4 tips for choosing the right domain

domains
One of the first things people do when they’re considering launching a business is purchase a domain name, given that it isn’t always easy to find the right domain name it makes sense to secure it as soon as possible, before someone else does. However, it’s important not to choose your web address too hastily, bare in mind that it will most likely stick with you for the life of your business which could be a very long time – and you’d do well to avoid faux pas like these.

Choosing the right domain is important for a few reasons:
  • Your domain is your address on the web. As such it is a central part of your online brand identity and the impression people have of your business.
  • It can have a significant impact on how easy your business is to find online. Domain addresses that are short and simple will be found online more often than those that are not simply because they are easy to remember.
  • It has an impact on how visible your website is to find on search engines

Moz put it this way:

“Ideally, webmasters should strike a balance between finding a catchy, unique, brand-friendly domain name and having a domain that contains keywords they are trying to target. The benefit of a keyword-rich domain is two-fold. First, the domain name itself is a ranking factor that the engines consider when calculating ranking order. Second, having relevant keywords in a domain name is beneficial because the domain name is the text that other Internet users will use as anchor text when linking. Since keywords in anchor text are an important ranking factor, having these keywords in a domain name can have a positive impact on ranking.”

With that said here are my 4 top tips:

1.  Consider what top level domain is best for your business

A top level domain (TLD) is the part in your web address that comes after the dot e.g. .com. co.uk. Up until a years or so ago the choice was relatively limited now you have hundreds of TLDs to choose from that match your industry, business activity and geographic location, such as .london, .marketing, .football and many many more.

2.  Keep your domain name as short and simple as possible

This ensures that website visitors can remember your web address easily and therefore return to your website without difficulties if they wish to do so at a later date.

3. Buy your domain from a reputable provider

The best domain providers will have other features included with the name such as:

  • Email addresses to match your web address
  • WhoIs Privacy as an option. When you register a domain name, the registration details are available to anyone who searches a public database online, this information could include your name, address and telephone number. WhoIs Privacy removes your information from this database and many domain providers will provide this as aoption
  • Subdomains. These are variants of your main domain, an example of a subdomain for katrinadouglas.co.uk might be marketing.katrinadouglas.co.uk

4.   Build a domain portfolio to safe-guard your brand

I recommend buying a few related domains if you can, to safe guard your brand. At the very least I always buy the .co.uk and .com and increasingly some of the new TLDs like .marketing. I recommend buying the TLD related to your industry. For example if you are a restaurant or a mechanic you might consider buying a .rest or .car domain and setting them up to redirect to your main web address.

I recently discussed the topic of domains at The Business Show in London, see a snippet here.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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Street Smarts for Small Businesses

steps to success

The smart person learns from his or her mistakes, a wise person learns from other peoples mistakes

I believe the best way to learn how to be great at something is to seek the advice from those that have successfully gone before you, not to imitate them, but to follow the principles that have made them successful. This is why mentors and also books can provide invaluable help and resources on our journey to achieving our vision and goals. One such book I recently came across is Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham.

The reason I found the book so useful was because it is based on practice not theory. Brodsky himself is a veteran entrepreneur, has been a mentor to a number of successful entrepreneurs, and in addition to co-authoring Street Smarts is a columnist and senior contributing editor for Inc.com.

There are so many gems in this book it was difficult to select just a few so the best advice I can give you is to get the book! But until then here are three things that really resonated with me:

My three favourite principles

1.       Spend your time going after high margin customers let the low margin customers come to you and then negotiate the price up.

This typically means focusing on customers that spend more, but probably buy less. i.e. the customer that buys from you whether your product is on sale or not. These customers are probably more valuable to your business than the serial bargain hunter who only buys during the sale. It is better to spend your time building relationships with the former and letting the latter come to you.

Why? Well, as Brodsky and Burlingham explain, gross profit (the net sales minus the cost of goods and services sold) is the most important figure for a small business; all expenses are paid out of gross profit. To illustrate, if your product costs you £20 to make and you sell it for £35 you are obviously making a decent profit margin, if you sell the same product at £21 even if you sell more, the picture isn’t so rosie. The lower price will undoubtedly attract more customers but this may not actually be of benefit to your business, because not only are you making significantly less profit on each sale (which may not be enough to cover expenses), but you are also having to service significantly more customers which may erode the minimal profit you received from the sale. Yet many small businesses make the mistake of going after lots of low margin sales, these sales look good initially but could actually be costing your business. Better to have few high margin customers than many low margin customers. This is why I’m not a fan of competing on price, as it erodes value for your business and your market. I personally will always compete on value.

2.       There is ONE opportunity you should be thinking about at the beginning of any business

Emotion causes you to want to jump on every new opportunity that arises, but as Brodsky and Burlingham state “the numbers (as discussed above) will help you balance your emotion”.

Most entrepreneurs are ideas people so they tend to struggle with focusing on one idea at a time, perhaps you can relate :) however, When you have limited time and limited money as is the case for most small businesses, focus is a must.

Focus and discipline are more important than chasing opportunities when building a business– a plan helps you do this. As Brodsky and Burlingham state; “eventually your business will grow so strong that it won’t need you, and then you can chase opportunities to your hearts content”.

3.       First mover advantage is overrated

You often hear that to be successful you need a unique product or service or you should choose a business with as little competition as possible. Brodsky advices the opposite, because there is nothing more expensive than educating a market. This one’s definitely food for thought :)

These three principles barely scrape the surface of what the book has to offer, so if you’ve recently started a business or are planning to do so in the near future then I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

If you do decide to read it, please come back and let me know what you think and what your favourite principles are.

Speak soon,
Katrina

PS:here’s Norm Brodsky’s Twitter handle @NormBrodsky if you wish to follow him.

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Listen To Your Market But Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Vision

vision

I was led to write this post based on this quote I recently read in a book called Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days:

“ It’s good to be market-driven in the sense that you should know what’s going on, but you can’t let your customers drive your product development. You need to be able to develop on behalf of your customers, but they often don’t know what they want.”  - David Heinemeier, Partner at Basecamp (formerly 37 signals)

A lot of times when starting out in business we will do anything to get and keep a customer, because of cause no customers equals no business.

However, it’s so easy to get caught up in just getting a customer that we lose sight of the type of customers that we actually want. All customers are not created equal, some customers are better for your business than others.

Think 80/20 rule,  in most businesses 20% of the customers drive 80% of the revenue, so focus on finding and taking care of those high value customers that have needs that are perfectly suited to what you offer. The best place to start is with buyer personas, what do your ideal customers look like? This ebook 101Handy Questions to Ask When Developing a Buyer Persona will help you to build a picture of your ideal customers that you can use as a benchmark for everything you do.

But before you even get to your customers it’s important to define your vision what is the image of your business that has been placed on your heart?

I like this quote from a book I’m reading by Myles Munroe – The Principles and Power of Vision;

“To find your vision you have to look within yourself where God has placed it. The key is this: God’s will is as close to us as our most persistent thought and deepest desires”

Don’t let anyone distract you from the vision not even your customers. I say this because many business owners have ended up with businesses that they never intended to have, because they allowed customers or others to dictate or derail their vision. It’s great to get customer opinions and a lot of times their suggestions will make parts of your business better. But it’s important to know when to say no. If you realise that a customer wants something beyond what you offer, if it’s outside the scope of your vision for your business, don’t be afraid to direct them to a competitor that may be better suited to accommodate their needs. Often you’ll be doing yourself a favour and them too in the long run.

We have been conditioned to think that the customer is always right, in actual fact they are not. As stated in the quote at the beginning of this post, quite often they don’t know what they want. How many of us knew we needed a smartphone or tablet before Apple came up with the iPhone and iPad?

It can feel as though the customer holds all the cards especially when starting a new business and every new customer feels like you’ve won the lottery, but remember a business transaction is mutually beneficial,  yes the customer is paying you but you are also offering something of value.

My point is this, have a vision and stay true to it – build the business you want not the one you’ve been railroaded into creating. Don’t let gaining customers cause you to lose sight of your vision and the dream that has been placed in your heart.

So I’ll leave you with this, a beautiful example of a company that’s decided to stay true to it’s vision.

Speak soon,
Katrina

 

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Is the UK Becoming a Free Agent Nation?

Business Show 2013,
Me presenting to current and future free agents and micro business owners at the Business Show, London Olympia

I am fascinated and excited about the increase in business start-ups and general trend towards entrepreneurialism within the UK.

As reported by Enterprise Nation, in 2013 alone 500,000 new businesses were formed and with 4.9 million businesses trading in the UK, 12% of the working population are their own boss.

What I find even more interesting is that the image that many of us have, regarding what a small business looks like is probably quite different to the reality; many are sole traders, working from home, running their business on a part-time basis and most plan to grow through the use of subcontractors as opposed to permanent employees and costly overheads such as office space. You can find more details in Enterprise Nation’s Quarterly Small Business survey results.

What we are actually seeing is a phenomenal rise in micro businesses  and what  Daniel Pink termed a ‘Free Agent Nation’ in his book entitled Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself.  A free agent’s encompass the self-employed, independent contractors, temporary workers and micro businesses. Although written in 2001 and based on America, the book has some really interesting points that I think mirror the UK’s own rapidly growing free agent nation.

In my endeavour to understand the trend a little more I read Daniel Pink’s book a couple of weeks ago, I found it quite insightful and wanted to share 3 key takeaway’s with you:

1.       The ‘organisation man’ is no longer the ideal

Yes being a high-level executive in a fortune 500 is still a well-respected and highly sought after career path but people don’t view it as the utopia they once did. An ‘organisation man’ is defined as someone who lets his individuality and personal life be dominated by the organisation he serves, this is often the reality for many in high-paid, high-level corporate employees. An increase number of the population is realising that they would rather have freedom, autonomy, financial freedom and quality of life and becoming a free agent is often the answer.

2.       Money is no longer the measure of success

As Dan Pink puts it; “As prosperity widens and as the expectation of comfort becomes the default assumption … money matters less in determining individual satisfaction and personal notions of success …a wealth of psychological studies have concluded that satisfaction is not for sale.

Free agents care about money and indeed many of them make a lot of money, but what motivates them to go down the free agent route is rarely about money. Increasingly many feel that in order to reach true self-actualisation and be free, it is necessary to transcend the confines of an organisation and step out on their own.

3.       The nature of loyalty has changed

In an economy where many senior executives lose their  jobs with increased regularity and  employee churn much higher now than in days past, the difference in perceived risk between a full-time job and self-employment is not as vast as it’s once was. In fact many free agents perceive self-employment as the safer bet. As job security has eroded so has loyalty.

As Dan Pink states; Investing all your human capital in a single company makes as little sense as investing all your financial capital in shares of IBM…diversify or die.

Free agents hedge their bets and tend to work for many companies as opposed to one. The job for life no longer exists and in addition, staying with one company for too long is seen as more of a negative than a positive as it raises questions as to how well a professional can adapt to a new environment.

For these reasons vertical loyalty (loyalty to one company or one leader) has weakened and horizontal loyalty (loyalty to colleagues past and present, teams and groups) has strengthened.

If you haven’t already read Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself I recommend it as it paints a very interesting picture of the changing world of work. If you’re a free agent or planning to become one I’d be really interested in hearing your views so feel free to leave your comments below.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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