Sales and marketing are simple tools when you know how to use them. They’ll help you find the right customers and keep them interested in what you do.

You don’t have to have everything sorted before you start trading, but there are a few things you can do as you set up that will help with credibility and focus attention on what you’re building.

Business name
Don’t underestimate the power of the name. Whether you make your own name part or all of it, or whether you create a brand new name is up to you and there are benefits to each. The type of business and sector you’ll be working in will have a bearing on this too.

Your own name
Using your own name is a good idea if you have a previous professional reputation and/or in a service-based business. This is usually professional or trades-based e.g. Milly Evans Accounting or Dave Downing Decorating. This works well when it’s only you in the business or if you are trading as a consultant. But if you wanted to expand at a later date or take on staff or a partner/investor, it may not be so ideal.

A fictitious or combination of words to make a name

  • Do a brainstorm of names and words that appeal to you. Do they also have a relevance or association with your business sector or product? It is a good idea if you business name does in some way as it will help potential customers understand what you do or sell.
  • Once you have a short-list, ask some people what they think of them and what they make them think of. You may be surprised as some of the responses, but bear in mind that people will often make different or unexpected associations with words than what you do. It’s better to know this before you register your company name.
  • Check your preferred business names or short-list with people who don’t speak English as a first or only language. Again you may be surprised at the meanings of your business name when it’s heard or spoken in non-English speaking communities or audiences.
  • If your short-list is still looking good, your next step is to head to the internet and use your favourite search engine to check that there aren’t other companies already trading or websites using any of your preferred names already. You can also check with Companies House for UK-based company registrations
  • By now you should be down to one or two possible names. This is the time to contact a Domain Registry company to find out whether you preferred names are available as web addresses for registration. Again your favourite search engine will be useful for this.
  • You may not be in a position to be thinking about building a website yet, but securing and registering your preferred web addresses is a prudent thing to do at this point. Your domain registration provider will also be able to advise you on how to set up an email address against your new web address, even if you don’t have an active website e.g. dave@downingdecorating.co.uk. This gives a more professional impression than using one of the free email clients such as yahoo or gmail, which are more appropriate for personal communications.

  • Branding and logos

    When it comes to designing a logo and a ‘look’ for your business, the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can pay and what’s possible to be produced. It’s important that in the early stages of your business, you only invest in what you actually need. However, like many other service-based industries, when procuring design services, you really do ‘get what you pay for.’

    It’s up to you as to whether you choose to employ a designer or a design agency to create a logo for you. Remember that your business’s logo’s function is not merely to be a decorative part of your business card or email signature, but to tell the story of who your business is, what it stands for, and what it does when you’re not there to explain it yourself.

    When briefing a designer, be clear about what you want and what you want to use it on. Give them key words that you’d like people to think about what you do or could do for them.

    Here are some questions to help get you thinking in the right way. The answers will help the designer produce the right design for your business:

    • What sort of business sector are we in? e.g. construction, finance, business consultancy, engineering, real estate, event catering
    • What sort of first impression do we want to give people about what we’re like to work with? e.g. friendly, fun, professional, creative, reliable, trustworthy, safe, conservative
    • What is it we actually do/produce? e.g. mobile app design, life coaching for over 55s, event planning for weddings, physical therapy for post-surgery patients, construction procurement advice for developers
    • Is our geographic location or the areas we can service/deliver to important for people to know? e.g. East of England, Peterborough, right across the EU, worldwide, EMEA region
    • Are there any particular colours you like/dislike? Are there any particular colours strongly associated with your industry sector? Do you want to embrace or avoid them?

    Even if you don’t have a logo or ‘look’ in the beginning for your business, it is important to have a business card and a fully populated LinkedIn profile.

    LinkedIn is a social networking platform often described as ‘facebook for business’. Registration is free and a common way for businesses to ‘research’ one another. This is particularly important if you are trading in a B2B sector or with business customers. It’s also valuable for networking with others in your sector or potential customers.

    If you’re not yet in a position to have a logo or business card designed by a professional, there are many low-cost options online to have business cards made using a template available on the website. This can be a good interim solution while you are setting up.

  • Marketing

    Firstly, to create an effective marketing strategy for your start-up, you need to find a solution for your target customer’s problem. Once you can visualise their journey to finding your product or service, you’ll be in the perfect place to create targets, and consequently leads, opportunities, and ultimately customers.

    Your initial market research is vital for understanding your target market. This can be as simple as communicating with potential costumers to find out exactly what they want and need, or by carrying out research online. Once you’ve found your target market, you can begin to promote your business. This can be done in several ways, including:

    One you’ve established a database of potential customers, you can begin to hone your sales technique. To keep track of your customer leads and your growing customer database, you’ll need steadfast infrastructure or systems in place. This could include reliable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or a consistent way of managing phone enquiries, such as a call answering service or virtual office set-up.