In April, my business will be 13 years old. Happy birthday to me! Here are 6 key lessons I’ve learned over the years that might benefit you.

1. Offer a product or service that people actually want. Don’t spread out your wares on a table (metaphorically speaking) and hope someone will walk up to buy them. Use common sense, do your market research, and just ask them! The most successful businesses respond to demand, or help their clients solve a problem or achieve a goal.

2. Make sure that what you provide is head-and-shoulders above your competitors. These days, anything second-rate is soon at risk from canny rivals. If you want to succeed, you need to have a superlative product that’s backed by the highest possible standards of service. Exceeding expectations at every stage is what it’s all about.

3. Shout about it. It’s no good being the best at something if no-one knows who you are. That’s why you need effective marketing communications. Don’t have a do-it-yourself website and free business cards if you can avoid it. Invest in professionals who know the best way to communicate your message and the visual triggers that will prompt your customers to buy.

4. You don’t have to do everything all by yourself, so get support. By asking experts in their field, you can learn from their mistakes instead of making your own. There’s plenty of free advice out there and many people are happy to help. But remember, you can’t expect to get everything for nothing, and it may be worth paying specialists if possible, to get you off to a flying start.

5. Start networking. Often, new businesses have more time than money (later, it may be more money than time!). There are a multitude of networking organisations you can choose, from regular breakfast meetings, to lunch meetings, to evening events and specialist groups. As with anything, the more you put in, the more you get out. When you participate in formal or informal networking in the right way, it can deliver phenomenal results at minimal cost.

6. You might find that social media proves an effective route to market. It doesn’t have to cost a penny, yet you can build relationships that lead to sales, if you go about it with a sharing mindset.

Follow these tips, and perhaps your startup business will eventually become a teenager like mine.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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