This summer, 123 Reg is on the road with the Start Up Britain Tour. We’ve already hit towns and cities across the country, and there are plenty more stops to come.
But for those of you who missed us when we were in your neighbourhood, or are just too busy to get along and see us, we’ve put together this collection of answers to questions we’ve been asked when speaking to business owners up and down the nation.
We’ve covered everything from questions about getting started, to tips on how to take your business to the next level. And if there’s anything we haven’t covered here, then tweet us or leave us a comment on Facebook and we’ll do our best to help you out.
If you’re thinking about starting a business, or perhaps have taken your first steps, then these are the questions and answers that you should find mist helpful.
I don’t know where to begin!
The good thing about heading round the country in an old Routemaster bus (see below) is that you standout. And because of that, one of the most common questions the team were approached with was “I just saw your bus. I’ve had this idea for a business for ages, but I’ve no idea where to begin. Help!”
Getting immediate advice for these people was easy – at each stop we have local business advisors on hand, ready to answer exactly this kind of question. And if it’s a question that resonates with you, then tracking down a local business advice group should be top of your to-do list.
Perhaps the easiest way to get started is by searching on the National Enterprise Network’s local business support directory.
Or if you’re aged 18-30, you can get support and advice from the Prince’s Trust.
I need funding!
If you’ve got an idea and a good sense of how you’re going to get your business off the ground, then for many businesses, access to funding is the next stumbling block.
Now of course funding is a tricky area for many reasons, and we’re lucky enough to be sharing the bus with business finance experts from RBS and NatWest. So they were able to provide support for anyone with a funding query on the day.
So if you’re looking for funding, getting in touch with a business banking experts is one potential first step.
Alternatively, you might want to speak to a business advisor first (see above) so they can help set you on the right track.
If you’re aged 18-30, you can apply to the Prince’s Trust for a loan.
Or you can apply for a Start Up Loan.
Remember though, anything you borrow will need to be repaid so make sure you aren’t risking more than you can afford. It’s probably a good idea to seek out independent financial advice before committing to anything.
I need a website!
Most people these days are aware that if they’re going to start a business, they’re going to need a website. But sometimes, that’s as far as their knowledge goes.
Of course, we set anyone who asked us this question on the right path. And if it’s something you’re struggling to get to grips with, there are some fairly straightforward pieces of advice you should follow.
The first one is to understand how complicated an online presence your business will need. This largely depends on the kind of business you’re planning; obviously if you’re going to start your own plumbing business, you’ll only need a fairly simple website. On the other hand, if you’re going to start the new Facebook, you’ll need something a lot more complicated.
Take some time to plan what you’ll need from you site and then, with your list of required features, find a solution that’s right for you. You can also check out or post about getting your first business website online.
Remember though: It’s always a good idea to get your chosen domain name as soon as possible so no one else snaps it up.
If you’ve got a business up and running, but need help moving things on, then this is the section for you.
People can’t find me in search engines!
If you’ve got an online business, then potential customers need to be able to find you via search engines. If they can’t, you may well be missing out on sales. This was the problem facing Sam Heathcoate when he came to see us on the Start Up Tour.
More specifically, Sam’s business, Essential Heating, wasn’t ranking well in local search results. This was down to the name, address and phone number (NAP) of his business not being consistent across the internet. If you want to rank well in local search, you need to make sure your NAP is the same everywhere it’s listed.
You can learn more about getting to grips with local search engine optimisation (SEO) in this guide.
If you’re struggling with general SEO, then we have this beginner’s guide to SEO to get you started.
Paid ads aren’t working out for me!
Paid ads are a great way to attract new customers, but if things go wrong they can prove to be a waste of money. Jordan De Leon, who runs Train 2 Maintain, came to see us on the tour and explained that although he’d been using AdWords, he was struggling to make it work for him.
Usually when someone is struggling with AdWords, the problem is down to targeting – if the people who see and click your ads ultimately aren’t interested in what you do, then they’re not going to buy from you.
For a business like Train 2 Maintain, which is focused on a particular location, geographical targeting is a good idea as it would allow it to create ads that are only shown to people with in its catchment area.
Also, if you’re already experienced in AdWords, it’s worth looking at creating remarketing lists, which will allow you to target people who have already visited your website.
If you haven’t given AdWords a try yet, or have tried it in the past but couldn’t get it to work for you, check out this guide to creating a basic AdWords campaign that works.
I’ve got an audience, but they’re not converting!
Blue Ribbon Hair came to us with what might seem quite an enviable problem – they have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, but that isn’t being reflected in their sales.
This is a tricky problem, and it’s not always as easy to solve as you might think. There are, however, a few things that you can do to make it more likely that your social audience will turn into customers.
The first thing is to ensure that you’re linking back to your website from your social media profiles. It may seem obvious, but a lot of businesses don’t do this (Blue Ribbon Hair isn’t one of them).
Next up is not being afraid to post promotional content on social media. Don’t overdo it, but if you’re posting quality content that people like and find interesting or useful, then they’ll forgive you the occasional promotional post.
Thirdly, make sure your landing pages are up to scratch. If people are clicking through from your social profiles and posts, but not buying anything, then that’s a sign they find your website confusing. Make sure that your products and services are front and centre so visitors know what to do next. You can learn more about creating quality landing pages in this guide.
We’ve also got a more comprehensive guide to turning browsers into buyers here, and a guide to help turn your fans and followers into customers here.
It’s not over yet
We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here, and if your problem hasn’t been covered then try searching the blog to see if we’ve covered it already. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch via Twitter @123reg or Facebook here.
There’s also still time to catch us on tour and ask the experts your question directly. You can find the remaining dates of the Start Up Britain Tour here.