A client has recently launched a new venture so we’ve been working through all those marketing essentials that every new project needs: domain name registration, social media accounts, brand identity etc.  They are much easier to have established early doors and makes anything you want to do in future more straightforward.

It occurred to me that pulling all of these things into a checklist would be really useful, not just for my future reference but for anyone else starting a new business or a new project.  (Plus, I do like a list that I can tick off!)  So here goes; let me know if you think I’ve missed anything!

1. Domain name registration

Once you’ve decided what your product, business or service is going to be called – and if you want it to have a findable, separate identify from anything else you’re doing – the first thing you want to do is buy your domain name.  Even if you haven’t started building your website yet, get in before anyone else can.  My advice would be to pick the shortest, simplest address that is as close to your product/service name as you can possibly get; it will help people find you, be more memorable and you’ll be grateful not to have to spell it letter-by-letter every time you speak to anyone!  (Remember, it’s likely that your email address will end with the same URL).

I’d also think about what you want the suffix to be, the .com or .co.uk bit.  Dotcom is the most widely used but, for us in the UK, we tend to assume (rightly or wrongly) that it’s a US site so bear that in mind if you’re just UK-focussed.  Dot co dot uk is perhaps the most credible for UK businesses, or dot org if you’re a not-for-profit or similar.  You can now get almost anything as a suffix (dot menu, dot school, dot health….) but remember that these are still new and most people will still try to type .co.uk at the end anyway.  I’m not saying don’t be original but remember that you’ll have to spend time explaining it to people until the penny drops – plus we tend, naturally, to be a bit suspicious of anything we’ve not come across before.

For advice on planning your website, when you do get to that stage, try this.

2. Decide on your brand identity

I’m not saying spend hours developing logos and corporate branding guidelines when you’ve got bigger fish to fry but do make some simple design decisions and stick to them. 

Pick a font or typeface you like and stick to it everywhere you can.  I suggest you pick something that your chosen website software also offers so you can be consistent there, too.  (Here’s some advice from WordPress, for example, on types of font and some of those they support).

Pick a colour (or a colour and a contrast) and stick with that throughout as well.  Even in MS Office, you can specify a custom colour, you don’t have to pick from their default list.  (If you’ve never tried, click either the font or fill colour buttons on the Word or Excel toolbar, choose the ‘more colours’ option underneath the colour picker, then select the ‘custom’ tab.  This allows you to either type in the RGB attributes or the #colour number to specify your chosen colour.)

It might seem simple enough but, as your brand identity, logos etc, evolve as your business develops, building on these early design decisions will become an evolution for your customers rather than a revolution that catches them out and will help stop early work dating too quickly as you progress.

Click here for more advice on branding and rebranding considerations.

3. Set up a business email address

There are some very cost-effective ways of creating a professional email address so you don’t have to use a Gmail account or similar.  Most webhosts offer an email address alongside website hosting, or MS Office has a customisable option.  Steer clear of generic address prefixes, like ‘info@’ , partly because some social media platforms don’t accept them but also because it’s not very inspiring.  If you don’t want to use your own name, try to be a little original with what you choose instead and bear in mind how duplicatable your email address format will be if you need to recruit team members in future.

While you’re in your email, remember to create a professional email footer, which appears by default on all messages (and probably on replies too).  It should include your business name, website address and a contact number as a minimum but you could include your job title, social media links, company logos and professional registrations too – stop before it gets too long!  Make sure any logos or images you add to your footer are quite small, both size and image resolution-wise, so your emails are slick and swift!

Read more about the importance of a professional email address.

4. Choose your social media platforms

I can hear some readers groaning at this point: do I have to?!  Yes BUT my recommendation, particularly to start with, is not to do too much.  It is far better to pick just one platform and do it consistently than to set up profiles on all of them and then never post anything.  And which you pick needs to be a balance between (firstly) where your customers/potential customers are and which platforms you understand.  There’s no point in creating a TikTok account if a) your customers are all older professionals and/or b) you don’t know how to make a video.  Let common sense guide you!  And remember that social media is an interactive activity, not a broadcast activity: engage with other people to establish your network so you’ll have an audience when you do want to share something yourself.  (It helps you get the feel for it, too).

What I would suggest is to take advantage of the free options that both Facebook and LinkedIn have of creating Company pages, Groups or Showcase pages to allow you give your project a slightly separate identity to your personal profile.  It gives you the opportunity to share things that you’ve posted yourself as well as potentially keeping work and non-work posts separated if you choose.

5. Set up a Google Business account

Once you have the communications essentials (web, email, social media) set-up, you’d be a fool not to also take advantage of a free Google Business account.  It’s very easy to do – sign into your (professional if you’ve separated) Google account, click on the small matrix of dots top right of the homepage, then click on the little blue awning symbol for Business.  Follow the steps to add in as much information as you can about your business or service.  If you don’t have a physical address (or, like me, you work from home and would prefer if clients didn’t turn up on your doorstep!), you can reflect that in your profile; you will have to put your address in for verification purposes but you can choose not to show it publicly if you want.

Setting up on Google Business means that your physical premises (if you have them) will show up on Google Maps, people will see your business summary on the right of search results, and people can leave you reviews, amongst many other useful things.

Checklist complete

So, is that it?  5 fairly simple steps to establish a ‘marketing baseline’ on which to build your project or new business on?  I would consider them all essentials but they are also all fairly simple things you can do yourself.

For some more areas that start-ups might want to consider, look at my marketing pack here.