Give your start-up a head start in 2020 If you’re planning to launch a business or grow your start-up this year, check out our top tips for getting ahead in 2020.Tip 1: Do your researchYou’ve got the idea, the passion – now you need proof of concept. In other words, you need to know who your product or service is aimed at, whether they might buy it and at what price point, what they’re buying at the moment, what the competition is doing and what your USP or point of differentiation is.You’ll also want to know how you will bring your concept to market and what the cost of production and sales is likely to be, and of course you will need a business plan both for your own peace of mind and to present to any potential backers.Tip 2: Do some test marketingThis ties in with your proof of concept. Work with a small sample of your target audience – willing volunteers, but they do need to be in the right demographic. You’ll want to test not just your product or service but also those crucial elements of the marketing mix like your messaging and tone of voice, logo, brand, positioning and the media channels you intend to use to engage your audience.Remember, too, that when it comes to media you can start small and add other channels as you go along. It’s very easy to dip a toe in social media advertising and you can define your campaign very tightly to keep costs low.Tip 3: Refine your offeringWork with what you’ve gleaned from your research and test marketing to refine your offering if necessary. Go back to your focus group a second time if you need to. Then temper the results with your own gut feeling – perhaps yours is a new concept or a different approach: you need to be confident in what you’re selling, so be prepared to push the boundaries and go with what feels right.Tip 4: Keep your costs lowYou may always have dreamed of seeing your name above the door of a swanky office suite and employing a team of receptionists to field your calls. But to begin with, you’ll want to focus investment on developing your product or service and finding the most cost-effective way of bringing it to market and spreading the word.Keep costs low in the early days, by doing as much of the work as you can by yourself and drafting in extra help from experts or hands-on workforce on an outsourced basis if possible. See Tip 6 below for how to get the support you need, when you need it, without incurring unnecessary overheads.Tip 5: WOM is everythingWord-of-mouth is more influential in people’s buying decisions than ever before – to the point where it even has its own acronym (WOM) in marketing-speak.Statistics vary according to whose research you use, but it’s believed than well over 60% of consumers search online for reviews and information before purchasing, and an eye-popping 90% believe brand recommendations from friends. So it’s really important to get people talking about your product or service. In the online universe, this is known as UGC or user-generated content, such as reviews, photographs or videos shared by (hopefully happy) customers.Look out for our next blog, which will focus on how you can generate WOM traction, but for now we’ll just say create a solid social media presence, make sure your website is working hard and encourage customers to leave reviews when they buy from you.Tip 6: Work your support systemStaying small is one thing, but it’s important to be seen. You can shape how people perceive your business by the image you project, and that starts with your brand – the logo, typeface, name, strap-line, tone of voice and colours you choose. If you want a ‘heritage’ look and feel there’s no need to rent a stately home – you can convey the sense of history in the way you position your brand. Whatever your image, though, it does help to have a credible business address, both from an image point of view and in terms of handling correspondence. It’s good to have somewhere for your mail and parcels to be delivered, signed for and kept safe if you’re out and about getting the show on the road.Outsourcing things like a mailbox or virtual office address, design, copy, print, post and parcel services makes sense – particularly when your local Mail Boxes Etc. can offer all these and more. We’re also here for services like company formation, and you can register your business at our address. We help thousands of entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses every year, so please do feel free to give us a call or pop into your nearest store for a chat about how we can support your start-up in 2020.