According to The Daily Telegraph, some 660,000 new companies are registered in the UK each year — yet 20% will cease trading 12 months down the line.
For the vast majority of these fledgling enterprises, two common problems arise. The first is insufficient funding — a reason for failure cited by 1 in 3 entrepreneurs. The second reason, not unrelated to the first, is ineffective marketing (14%).
However, tightening your belt does not have to synonymous with reigning in client outreach. Encouraging potential customers to take the plunge is not impossible, but it does require constant effort, slick design skills and targeted advertising.
Fortunately, there are some great free online tools out there for budding entrepreneurs. As co-founder of TempaGoGo, an online aggregator of recruitment agencies, I have used all of the programs listed below — and would like to share my experiences.
Australian company Canva is your one-stop-shop for all things design. Templates are available for everything from Facebook cover photos to slick presentations, not to mention company logos or business cards.
The best thing about Canva is that it caters for the totally uninitiated, using handy drag-and-drop templates where you can choose your own image, colours or strapline.
Those with more than a passing knowledge of graphic design can play with the more complicated functions, including charts, frames and gradients.
Similarly on the design front, Unsplash offers ‘beautiful free images & pictures’ for cash-strapped entrepreneurs to use without fears of copyright issues.
Unsplash comes in handy when trying to pitch an article to a specific publication, or publishing news on your company blog. Simply type in what you want, or a relatable concept, and select a photo from the 800,000 or so available.
Though other sites are no doubt available, with Unsplash you can be sure to access professional quality images for free — without worrying about some hefty legal department coming down on you like a ton of bricks.
Sometime or another in your entrepreneurial journey, you will have to have a conference call. This should be a relatively simple affair, yet constant buffering and poor audio quality can make a tangible difference — particularly as far as professionalism is concerned.
This is where Zoom comes in. Zoom uses cloud computing to deliver video and audio calls, and can be used both on phones and desktops.
Zoom operates as both a free and premium service — you can hold unlimited 1-to-1 calls free of charge, but for the moment group calls will cut out after 40 minutes.
A good video conferencing program shouldn’t try and be too clever: it should just work well. And fortunately, Zoom has developed a favourable reputation for business use — it’s not just a glorified Skype!
Admittedly, this one is not as niche. Set up right back in 2007, TrustPilot describes itself as ‘the world’s most powerful review platform’ — and attracts almost 1 million new reviews each month.
It does what it says on the tin. Customers write whatever they want about the products or services they use, be it positive or negative, from which brands can build trust and determine how to develop better content in the future.
For startups, positive reviews are about more than customer acquisition. From an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) perspective, reviews give Google itself a good indication of how valuable your product is. The better the reviews, the higher up the search rankings you will go — which means more exposure, and more potential clients.
TrustPilot is not the only consumer review site out there, but it does massively benefit from first-mover advantage, so it’s probably the one to go for.
The brainchild of Neil Patel, Ubersuggest is an indispensable tool for anyone trying to master the seemingly dark art of SEO.
In short, Ubersuggest gives entrepreneurs free reign to analyse keywords, backlinks and SEO scores. Type in your keyword, e.g. ’startups’, and you will have at your fingertips access to everything from common searches and usage trends to ratings for CPC (cost per click).
Not only does this enable you to fine tune your own website, you can also compare your performance to that of your competitors.
This is of great relevance to guest bloggers — why bother writing an article that nobody will want to read? Or, to put a more positive spin on it, why not be sneaky and check out which websites provide links to your competitors? Then, you can offer to write guest blogs for them. Get ahead of the game!
Of course, there is never a guaranteed safe passage in the murky waters of startups. Sometimes, the best idea in the world will fail for forces effectively beyond your control, from changing market conditions to new regulation outlawing your product.
Yet, there are always steps and best practices that can be followed to maximise your chances of success, and these 5 programs can help you along the way — for no added expense.
This article was initially published on CEO Today.