Business Posts

Best Practices for Creating Buyer Personas for Your Small Business

A buyer persona (also known as a customer avatar) is a fictional representation of your company’s ideal customer. Personas can help you customize marketing efforts to specific audience segments; by understanding the concerns and motivations of your buyers, you will be able to tailor your marketing messages and provide better solutions to their problems.

Personas are based on real data about current customer demographics and online behaviors, as well as educated guesses about their personal background, motivation, and concerns. Creating an effective persona requires extensive research, which may take the form of customer interviews, surveys, website analytics, product reviews, keyword research, social media analytics, and/or competitor research.

When deciding what personas to create, consider your typical buying process. At each stage, with whom do you typically engage? Personas typically consist of end-user customers, influencers, and decision makers or those with purchasing authority. Prioritize them based on their impact on the final purchasing decision, their relationship to your company, and the size of the persona group. (If a particular group only has a few members, you may want to focus your marketing efforts on a larger one.) Ideally, you’ll narrow your list to about three primary personas to start; once you’ve completed them, you can refine and/or add additional personas as needed.

The most useful information for your buyer personas will depend on whether your company has a business-to-business or business-to-consumer focus.

For a B2B company, your persona should identify:

  • Demographics such as gender, age, and education
  • Work-related information such as job title, company size, industry, and job responsibilities
  • What a day in their life is like, including who they deal with and what types of decisions they make
  • What their primary pain points are that relate to your products or services
  • What they value most in making a purchase decision and what their purchase goals are
  • The primary sources of information they use in their research and purchase decision process
  • What is most important to them in selecting a vendor, such as having proven experience or being a domain expert
  • Their most common objections as to why your company’s solutions don’t meet their needs
For a B2C company, a persona should include:
  • Demographics such as age and gender
  • Their geographic location (including time zone, for international and online businesses)
  • What language(s) they speak
  • How much money they have to spend and how they approach purchases in your price category
  • What their interests are, such as what they like to do and what other businesses they interact with
  • What their pain points and challenges are
  • What stage of life they are in; for example, college students, new parents, retirees
Once you’ve gathered the information, there are a wide variety of templates and examples online to help you organize it. Once you’re done, you’ll have a customer avatar to keep in mind when you create and implement your marketing strategy. For more information about this and other topics, consider registering for the NaperLaunch Academy workshop series or scheduling a one-on-one appointment with a business librarian or NaperLaunch coach.
Posted: 
Wednesday, June 9, 2021 - 15:00

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

Running a business is tough. Whether you're a brand-new startup or an operating company, it’s important make sure you've considered your own strengths, weaknesses, and reasons for wanting to be an entrepreneur.

In the NaperLaunch Academy, participants use an entrepreneur profile questionnaire to reflect on whether entrepreneurship is a good fit with their interests, skills, and life circumstances. For those who have already started a business, this profile can provide deeper insight into how they and their organization affect each other.

If you’re considering starting your own business, ask yourself these seven questions to assess whether you're ready to take the leap.

  1. Why do you want to start a business?

    What brought you to this point? Is your reason personal, opportunity based, or a mixture of both? For example, do you want more flexibility with your time and energy? Do you want to be your own boss?

  2. What do you know how to do?

    Do you have any specific skills or experience that can help you in this business? Are you a quick learner? Can you gain the skills you need in a timely manner? Do you have expertise in finance, operations, sales, or marketing? How well do you know the market you are entering? Do you know what it takes to make your product or service successful? Are you a good problem solver?

  3. What do you love to do?

    If you have free time, how do you spend it? Do your hobbies fall in line with the business you’re thinking of starting? Does your personality match up with the type of business you’re thinking of? Will you still like what you do when it becomes your source of income?

  4. What personal and professional relationships do you have that can support your business?

    Would you want to partner with someone who has similar or complementary skills? Do you know people with skills, tools, capital, property, or connections that could help you? If you seek help from someone you know, can you accurately gauge their skills or resources?

  5. What kind of support network can you rely upon?

    Building a business can be very stressful; on whom can you rely for emotional support? If your business doesn't take off financially right away, how can you make sure basic needs are met for yourself and your family?

  6. What are your resources?

    Do you have enough cash on hand to get started? Is there anything you can use as collateral if you need a loan? Do you have investors lined up to fund your business, or do you know any in case you need investment in the future?

  7. How do you handle setbacks?

    Do you set realistic expectations? How do you manage your blind spots? How have you learned from past mistakes? In what ways have you shown resilience when facing challenges?

If your answers support your desire to start a business, NaperLaunch can help! Register for an upcoming NaperLaunch Academy workshop or schedule a one-on-one mentoring session with a business librarians, NaperLaunch coach, or SCORE mentor.

Posted: 
Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 12:45

Startup Basics: Choosing a Business Name

Choosing a name for your new business is an important and often challenging part of the startup process. Some founders arrive at a name in the early stages, while others wait until their business plan has solidified. This blog post will outline some of the key considerations for deciding on a name, as well as how to protect the name you choose.

The best place to start when choosing a business name is with your mission statement, business plan, and unique value proposition. What is the essence of your business? What did you learn about your target audience in your market research and potential customer interviews? As you brainstorm, a keyword discovery tool like Twinword may help inspire ideas.

While it may be tempting to choose a name that includes or refers to your primary product or service, don’t limit yourself; your business’ name should still fit if you diversify your product mix or expand your focus to include additional target customer groups.

Once you’ve come up with a few contenders, review and analyze your options. Some things to consider include the following:

  • Does the name convey what your business does?
  • Is the name easy to remember?
  • Is the name easy to pronounce? This is especially important with the increasing popularity of voice assistants like Siri and Alexa.
  • Is the name easy to spell? Will potential customers be able to find you online or refer you to others?
  • Is the name consistent with your business tone and branding?
  • How will the name look in a variety of common mediums, such as a logo and email signature?

Before you settle on a name, make sure that it’s available. If it’s already in use or trademarked, it’s probably not a viable option. Check for trademarks via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS); states such as Illinois also have a searchable trademark database. It’s also important to check the name’s availability as a domain and a social media handle in order to avoid confusion for potential customers; sites like GoDaddy and Namechk can help you find available options.

Once you’ve found the perfect name for your business, it’s important to protect it. There are several different ways to register your business name, some of which may be legally required depending on your business structure and location.

  • Entity name. In Illinois, corporations and LLCs are required to be registered with the Secretary of State and/or licensed by the Illinois Department of Revenue.
  • Trademark. Trademarks prevent others in the same (or similar) industry in the U.S. from using your trademarked names. Register your federal trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Doing Business As (DBA) name. In Illinois, when the operating business name is different from the owner’s or partners’ full legal name(s), the Illinois Assumed Name Act requires sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register the business name with the county clerk's office of the county where they reside.
  • Domain name. If you want your business to have an online presence, you’ll need to register a domain name (also known as a URL or website address) with a domain name registrar (such as GoDaddy). This protects your brand presence online. Your domain name does not have to be the same as your legal business name.

For more information about bookkeeping and accounting, as well as other aspects of business operations for new startups, visit our BizVids Tutorials or register for a NaperLaunch Academy workshop. NaperLaunch coaches and SCORE mentors are also available to provide one-on-one virtual assistance.

Posted: 
Monday, May 17, 2021 - 15:45