Starting your own business forces you to face your limitations, test out every idea in the real world and accept that sometimes what looked great on paper can be downright difficult to execute. But if you can, you should try your hardest to land an early success. After all, doing so can help boost your credibility, encourage potential investors and give you some money to build other businesses down the road.

So the question is, what can you do to encourage a more successful outcome? Here are five ways to set up your new venture for success:

1. Set low expectations. You may believe that your new product will change the face of the industry, and it very well might. But if you start talking up those expectations even a moderate success won’t measure up. By starting with a conservative approach, a modest success will be noticed and you will be perceived as even smarter than you are.

2. Start local. By developing and testing your idea or product in a local environment, you have substantial advantages from the start. Marketing and distribution costs will be much lower. Your most powerful network — that is, people you know — will be engaged, and you can do any polishing you need to do before spending big bucks on an untried process in a larger market. It’s also easier to get publicity locally, and, with luck, the buzz will spread as your company expands.

3. Grab low-hanging fruit. Pretty much every product or service has at least one super-strong potential buying group. Focus your efforts on that group with everything you’ve got. Market, distribute and support them, and, chances are, your sales will soar. That win will encourage you to expand to more difficult buyer groups. The other advantage to this approach isn’t particularly fun to acknowledge, however. If the low-hanging fruit doesn’t drop into your hand the way you expected, maybe there are problems with your business that you haven’t foreseen. You can find that out before you do a full market push.

4. Start with a single, likely client. Suppose your product would be a great fit for a variety of retailers such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Target. It might be tempting to go after all of them at once, hoping that one will pop. This choice scatters your energy, and, if you fail, you have nowhere to go. Instead, choose only one possibility; the one you think is most likely to say yes. Visit the stores, determining where your product would belong and how much shelf space would be needed. Research their customer base and determine which customers would be the most interested and why. Consider options such as Costco’s road shows where you don’t get permanent space but instead have a week to sell what you can — moving from one location to another. Put together a presentation that shows you did your homework. Your chances of a yes are improved by this approach, and, if the answer is no, find out why and use that feedback to hone your presentation to selection No. 2.

5. Partner with another successful firm. Suppose a complementary and not competing company has the visibility and attention you want for your company. See if you can come up with a temporary partnership that will allow you to benefit from their strengths. For example, if your company offers a revolutionary knee brace for runners, talk to a local shop that caters to that group about offering a presentation on your new product. Consider giving the shop owner 50 percent of your sales dollars. It may be a wash for you in terms of revenue, but you’ve gotten your product in front of real customers.

BY ADAM TOREN | FROM YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR| November 3, 2012|
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