The Three Phases of a Start Up

AUG 21, 2020
Sean Campbell

So you're starting a side hustle.

Or perhaps you've been scheming for a while about how to make the jump from your corporate job into your own company. Awesome!

We know it can be scary. And the truth is, there's a lot to do! You have to create a logo, build a website, start a social media page. create a list of potential leads... try to make a few deals so you don't have to take out a small business loan.

While not every start-up company is the same, but no matter the industry, the majority of start-ups go through a similar process of maturing as they grow into their market. There are typically three phases of development for a start-up business:

  1. The Planning Phase
  2. The Starting Phase
  3. The Growing Phase

Each phase presents its own challenges, but when conquered, easily pushes your business along into the next phase of development. In this blog, we'll help you think through each step of the way and how it pertains to your marketing, from just starting out to being a well established marketing machine.

The Planning Phase

It takes a little bit of planning to get a business off the ground.

You have to decide on a name. You have to file your IRS paperwork and get registered by the powers that be. You have to start getting your name out there by networking and getting to know your community. While all these things are necessary steps, from a marketing standpoint, the first phase is really about deciding on your identity as a company.

Identity represents a few things: your message, your product, your look, and your brand.

Your message is what people hear and read. It tells people who you are, how they should understand your business, and how your business provides a helpful solution to someone else's problem. To put this into application, this means developing your marketing elevator pitch, your sales proposition, your values, and your core messaging on your website, social and marketing. This includes how you are different than someone else in the same market and the value that your company is bringing to the table.

Your product is about selling your business (whether that's a service or a product) in a way that solves someone else's problems. To put this in application, this is making sure your product offering is priced correctly, marketed to the right audience, positioned in an approachable way (good packaging, great design, availability, and accessibility). This is about making your product stand out for all the right reasons.

Your look is exactly what is sounds like. It's what people see. It's the visual. It's the colors and the cues potential customers will take when the see your brand. It's everything from your logo to your website.

Your brand is beyond the look- it's the feeling and core thoughts that people have about your company. It's how your logo, your colors, your typography, your website, your social, and any of your marketing tells a story. What do people think when they experience your brand? What makes them trust you? This is about making your brand appear sexy and attractive to the audience you're trying to sell to.

Bottom line: the planning phase is building a framework to build off of. It's deciding on the blueprints of the house and intentionally thinking through your foundation.... Who will you be, how will you sell, and how do you want potential customers to see your brand marketing.

The Starting Phase

Ok. now that you have your identity as a company, it's time to launch and get the word out. This phase is really focused on gaining momentum and building a strong push to advertise. In all reality, the goal of this phase is to earn trust and make a great first impression.

Earning trust and making a great first impression includes: your online brand (website design, photography, social media, advertising, and video production).

Your website design can be simple (especially since you're just starting out) but it needs to be direct and intentional. The web design needs to be focused on funneling people to call or reach out. The biggest mistake many start-ups make is that their website is too busy (meaning too much content) or it's too simple (not enough content). The goal is to float right in the middle. A great web design tells a great story and builds a great pitch, but it doesn't overwhelm your audience with busy copywriting and unnecessary text.

Your social media needs to be consistent and slow. You need to remember: you're establishing the voice of your brand. It's not about quantity (tons of posts), rather, it's about quality! Social media is about telling a good story, not blasting people with sales pitches. It's taking the time to show your brand in a way will make people pause their scroll, read, and investigate when they see your post online. Think of social media as a good hook!

Your photography needs to be high quality. Good images are worth their weight in gold. The higher the quality of image (file size, picture quality), the more use you can have with it. If you're selling a product, make sure your products are staged accurately according to use and well lit! If you're selling a service, be sure to capture accurate images of the type of service you're providing. Because most people are visual, images really do sell.

Your advertising has got to be well designed and well targeted. Too many people think advertising is simply throwing a net out and hoping to catch a fish every once in a while. This is wrong! Advertising, if done correctly, is done with precision and accuracy - meaning, you can target in very detailed ways and measure your results to influence efficiency and placement. Your advertising should include good keywords, demographics, interests, geographical locations, and more! From Facebook and Instagram ads to Google Pay Per Click ads, there are plenty of valuable breadcrumbs that can help us assess a good return on investment in the ad space.

Your video production is vital to your first impression. It's a lot like being on a first date. Many potential customers will make their decision based on the quality of their first experience of your business. High quality video production that is well produced will ensure that your audience see's an accurate representation of who you are and what your product/services can do. Your videography should be concise, engaging, and easy to engage with for your viewers. Believe it or not, but a great video should also be a compelling call to action.... after all, if your potential customers don't take action, what's the point?!

Bottom line: your starting phase is getting your feet wet and getting your business out there. It's not always cheap, but it's a worthy investment for making a great first impression to your potential clients.

The Growing Phase

The final phase of a start-up is the growth phase! You've established your foundation. Next, you've implemented your strategy to get momentum and traction. Your next phase is all about gaining momentum.

The growth phase consists of networking, getting involved in your community, making assessments of what worked/what hasn't, and investing more into your branding and marketing. It's not an easy step, but a necessary one for building your moment.

Your networking should include breakfasts, lunches, and coffees with other people in your industry. It also includes cross-pollination with other business owners. Be generous, give gifts, serve others, and they will become your referral marketing team.

Your community involvement includes being seen and heard in public forums. It means serving on a board or getting involved in a local charity. It could mean public service or speaking up about issues that are important like diversity or women ownership. Most of all, being in your community means service.

Your assessment of your marketing, branding, networking, and overall efforts so far is crucial. It's necessary to think about your return on investment from every level. From your social media ads to your foot traffic. The numbers always tell a story and if you're truly paying attention, they will leave breadcrumbs to where you'll winning or losing. It's crucial that you take some time to pause, look at your real results and then make adjustments to improve. A wise man once said, "You can't manage what you don't keep record of."

Your investment into your branding and marketing is a long-term investment into your business growth. It's taking time to develop high quality content and giving it away for free. For example, writing blog posts with tips (also great for search engine optimization purposes) or investing in video production, such as recording testimonials or instructional videos. For some, it might be planning your entire year out in social media or investing more into your print marketing. In any case, investing in your marketing is investing in your future clients.

Bottom line: Now it's time to take things to the next level. It's time to increase your footprint and dig your heals into the ground with a solid marketing campaign. It's time to make changes to continue your path of growth.

Lastly, a word of encouragement.

Entrepreneurship and starting a new business is not for everyone. It's tough. It's tiring. It's time-consuming.

But it is worth it.

Don't let the fear or worry stop you from pursuing your dreams. A start up is only as strong as it's leadership and attitude, so stay positive. Hold on to your purpose. Sprint hard. Find others in your corner. But don't forget to take breaks and have fun. Take moments to reward yourself for your hard work. Get wise counsel when you need help.

Most of all, remember that running a business is a journey of personal development. It's not only about growing your business but about growing yourself and your team. The view isn't always best from the top... sometimes it's in the journey!