Congratulations, you've started your own business and you've taken your first steps toward achieving your dream of financial independence and working your own hours, on your own terms. Whether you're just starting out or you've already developed products, which you're actively marketing, you'll want to bring your business to the next level.

Opening your own business can be a frightening experience, with many experiencing doubts, fears and a lack of confidence. But the following list will help you to achieve your goals.

1. Create a roadmap
The best way to succeed at anything in life is to be prepared. Without preparation, you're operating blindly. But if you plan for every eventuality, then nothing will catch you by surprise. It's similar to running a marathon without any training! The same principles apply to preparing to run your own business. You must develop a business plan and then, define your goals, which is our next step.

2. Define your goals
What do you want to achieve? Are you currently doing all you can to ensure you succeed? Is there anything you can do to boost productivity? Efficiency? Are you fully dominating one area before you expand into other markets? Mastering and dominating one area is essential before you opt to expand your venture.

3. How much do you have to spend?
Do you have a surplus of cash or do you need to get everything right because your budget is tight? If it is the latter, you should really consider what you can do for yourself. Are you good at designing graphics? Then perhaps you should consider designing your own website graphics and logos. If you are a good writer, then you should consider writing your own content and press releases, as this will save you a fair chunk of money which you can put towards other efforts such as advertising in print or online via social media, SEO or SMS/text message marketing.
How much time are you willing to commit to the job? Creating a presence online or offline can be a long, exhausting process. You must set time aside to build contacts and allow your efforts to bear fruit. Advertising is absolutely essential and it's a great area to invest if you have a bit of extra money.

4. Take Action & Refine Yourself
Now that you know where your business is going – how much time and money you have – it's time to take the next step and take action. However, there are only 24 hours in a day and sleep isn't optional; you must carefully plan your day. Focus on areas that require your attention and outsource other tasks.

Invest a great deal of time heightening your visibility in an array of different outlets, whether it's search engine rankings, social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, local newspapers and magazines too.

Also, if you run a brick and mortar businesses, you must make your store's niche obvious. Use Google Analytics to evaluate the impact of your changes and other online efforts. Did changing your keywording pull in extra traffic? Did placing that sign in the local shop provide you with a boost in local website visitors? These analytics are the key to determining what works and what doesn't. A trial and error approach can lead to great success, but you need to evaluate your efforts and Google Analytics enable you to achieve this.

5. Local Work is King
If you self-promote and boost your reputation locally, then success will come naturally elsewhere. Local success leads other businesses and buyers to pass your company name along, so you can develop a strong reputation within the region and beyond. You should aim to become an authority in your niche; the one people trust when seeking products in a particular niche or information on a given subject.

Brick and mortar businesses like restaurants, salons and gyms must develop an established local following because online sales are not going to be a viable source of income. Your customer base is local and you must treat each and every individual like royalty, as the power of referral can never be under-estimated. Referrals can lead to tremendous success, whatever the field or niche.

It’s vital to get a Google Places account too, as this is quickly becoming the go-to place for a company or business when potential clients or customers search online. Google Places is more popular than most review sites, with popularity that's quickly overshadowing other outlets such as Google Plus or Yellow Pages.

You should also start a blog about events, competitions, information and great deals in your local area. For instance, if you sell fitness equipment, give out free downloadable reports on healthy living to compliment your fitness tools. If you can sell your products before the client thinks of buying, you are well on your way to running a successful business.

What are your top tips for starting a successful business?
Marketing is one of the most powerful tools known to man, sadly a lot of people make five very easy to make mistakes which can shoot their efforts down in flames before they ever got off the ground. Here are five mistakes you should avoid like the plague;

Investing in products you know little about

Too many people are sucked in by shiny products and the next great theory that people are purporting. Not many people get by on their gut feeling when it comes to investing money into products, so just because you’re old work colleague tells you about a potentially good idea on a night out, does not mean you should be the investor into what is all theory. If you like the sound of an idea, take it to as many experts as you possibly can and do all the legwork to see if the idea is viable – remember, it is your money you are using, nobody else’s, so be vigilant.

Presuming your product is gold dust and will sell itself

I don’t mean to sound rude here – but you don’t. I can’t think of a single product that has sold with no marketing done at all. You may in fact sell the greatest product ever, in the busiest part of your town, where thousands walk by every day – but if you don’t let people know about your product, nobody will buy it. Just because your idea is brilliant does not mean it requires any less marketing than the last release you had success with, the idea does not mean that it will sell itself magically, it requires all the hard work you put into every single other aspect of running your own business.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

Everybody tells you that you should be as creative as you possibly can be that you might just have that idea that makes you millions in a few days. Hey, you might just have that idea, but the best products in history were never designed with the intention of being the great product ever – it just happened to be that. The most simple protocols in marketing and business in general apply to anything you are doing here, the marketing ideals that worked in the 1800s still work now, you don’t have to come up with innovative ideas to break into the business world – you just need to offer your perspective, that makes it unique enough. Stick to what you have seen work first hand and work with that first – when you are successful, that’s when you can take risks.

Procrastination is married to bankruptcy

The idea of failure is so scary for some of us, we never actually take action. Too many of us spend a working day researching and compiling, and reading and looking into the future to avoid making a single mistake, that we never actually make a dime. Too many people have projects which are 75% done but never get finished because they are too scared of taking the risky step of potentially failing but nobody has ever been successful without potentially failing. Thinking that you are covering all bases while not ever completing a project is the wrong way to go.

Don’t lose concentration

Too many people who are trying to market and make money jump from one idea to the next, that they never build up momentum and confidence. Changing your marketing campaigns every few weeks is a bad way to run your business – most marketing ideas take time to get going, and also money to get started, so do not waste money by tweaking constantly.

Another thing to avoid is when you find something which is working for you, but is not quite bringing you in the megabucks, is avoiding changing it in favour of chasing the gold. I would rather earn 100% of half my capacity than 0% of my theoretical capacity. If something works for you, don’t break it or suspend it – keep it going and try out any other ideas you have in a completely different campaign and field, as they say – if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!
You’ve been pursuing your prospect for about six months now. Multiple telephone calls and lots of carefully crafted emails have finally resulted in a meeting. Congratulations! After all, you have a fantastic product and your prospect needs to hear about it.

The meeting goes really well. You identify your prospect’s pain points by asking smart insightful questions and you feel that you have genuinely connected. You believe it’s only a formality before you’re doing business and you’re the blue-eyed boy (or girl) around the office.

​But wait, nothing comes easy in this life and you’re brought abruptly down to earth when your prospect tells you he urgently needs your proposal by the end of the week. He’s also evaluating two other proposals from your competitors he’s already met with.

So, how do you guarantee that your proposal will knock your prospects’ socks off and blow away the competition? Well, you need to do two things. Firstly, your objective is to persuade your prospect to take action and go with you because your solution is the best one to solve his problem, or add the most value to his business. Secondly, the most effective way to do this is by constructing your proposal using the ‘NOSE’ format. What does ‘NOSE’ stand for I hear you ask.

Your prospect’s key business needs; problems; issues; pains or opportunities: The main drivers behind the deal.
The first step in persuading is to restate your understanding of your prospect’s needs, problems or issues. Summarize his business situation, focusing on the competency to be acquired or problem to be solved. By focusing on your prospects’ pain points, you get their attention. You also demonstrate that you have listened to them carefully, which will build trust and credibility.

The positive impact that will result from meeting his needs: the motivation to proceed.
This part of the persuasive structure is a bit counter-intuitive as it will probably seem logical to provide a solution after identifying the problem. Your objective however is motivation. If you’re unable to motivate your prospect to move forward with your recommendations, you’ve failed. It’s important that having identified the pain points, you paint a picture of how it will feel when the said problems are taken away. This is a powerful technique that will have your prospect frantically thumbing to the solutions part.

A recommendation for a product or service that will solve the problem and deliver the outcomes.
The core of your proposal is your solution and gives you a great opportunity to persuade your prospect you’re the one. Assuming you have whetted your prospect’s appetite by focusing on the Needs and potential Outcomes, your prospect will be eager to hear your solution.

Make sure you have a genuine value proposition so that it’s clear what profound difference you can make to their business. It’s also important to connect back to the Needs or Outcomes so you don’t come across as self-centred. How does what you have or do solve the problems in his business or add real value? Another mistake is that most proposals don’t actually recommend anything. To be a solution, the products and services you are recommending must be linked to your prospect’s specific situation.

Proof you can do the job on time and on budget.
The last step in persuasion is to provide evidence you can do the job. Basically, you’re trying to show you can and will keep your promises. You are providing proof that you can deliver the solution you’ve proposed on time and on budget.

Although I’m sure you’re honest and credible, there’s nothing more reassuring than providing examples of how you have helped your other customers with similar circumstances. Try to be as specific as possible with examples otherwise you may come across as a bit woolly. Testimonials from existing customers are also an excellent way of gaining confidence from your prospect.

Hopefully you’ve sold yourself by now and as long as your solution is competitive, you should be home and dry. Don’t forget, if you are more expensive than your competitors, you only need to sell the difference. Link this back to the Outcomes and Solutions to persuade your prospect that paying more is still the best way to go.