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Starting a business is a little like buying a car: You need to do some research before diving in. First, figure out if there's demand for your product or service. Do a competitive analysis. Find a place to set up shop. And create a plan to differentiate your offering.

Before you get the research ball rolling, you need to come up with a solid business concept. Once you have a concept, you need to determine if it's viable. To figure out if you should go ahead with your business idea, you need to ask questions like these:

  • Is the market saturated?You need to find out if there’s more room for your business on the market. If there are already lots of business who already offer what you’re going to offer your prospective customers, then you will need to reconsider your business plan or idea in order not to collapse your business after a few weeks of operations.
  • Does the market want what you're offering?Knowing who your target audiences are and what they want will help you in answering this question. You need to know if your prospective customers really are in need of the product or service you are going to be offering them. If you're developing a new online service for day traders, is it something they can't live without?

You need to make sure this question is answered properly before you go ahead and make that investment.

The next thing you’ll need to consider are your competitors. Are there any other businesses offering the same product or service that you’re going to be offering? If there are, you then go ahead to find a Unique Selling Proposition for your product or service. In other words, find something that is unique about your business and highlight on that in the ads or messages that you intent to put out there. Also, you need to find what your completion is doing, and if they’re doing it right or wrong. This will go a long way to help you in placing your business in a way that will allow consumers to patronize you instead of your competitors’ more established business.

Your target audience, or your potential consumers are the people who will determine if your business will flourish or collapse. Hence, you have to find a way of reaching them, but you need to be careful not to do it in a way that will infringe upon their space. If you’re going to be operating from an actual shop, you need to make sure that the location you’re opening at is one where most of your target audience is located. For instance, if you’re going to be opening a clothing shop, you might want to consider a location near a school, or a college depending on the type of clothes you’re going to be selling. If you’re thinking about going digital, you should make sure to post content that will engage consumers within the age range of your ideal target audience.

Once you’re sure of your business plan, you will need to run your idea up the flagpole with informal focus groups. Talk with friends of friends, but not your own friends or family, since they may not tell you the truth; and old customers or existing customers if you're already in business. This is the acid test to see if your plan is ready for prime time or needs tweaking.

All this detective work will pay off, either by helping you validate your business plan, sending you back to the drawing board, or convincing you to shelve it altogether. And don't worry if that happens, inspiration will strike again.

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