Ten Things You Can’t Afford NOT to Invest In

Entrepreneurs and startups, by nature, have tight budgets. There aren’t many $500 schmoozing dinners with clients, nor unnecessary business flights. But you shouldn’t automatically write off these ten things, as they’re imperative for your business.

1. Marketing

You assume marketing your company is a costly effort, so you don’t bother doing any marketing at all. Your competitors will be thrilled, but this is the worst possible thing you can do for your company. And actually, many marketing techniques are completely free and just require your time and effort, like social media.

If you do have a little money you can commit to marketing, start with five to 10% of your revenues. Experiment to see what works, and invest more as your revenues grow.

2. Staff

You’re certainly not alone in trying to do it all yourself, but delegating work to others can actually help you grow your business. You don’t have to start out by hiring 10 full-timers. Try hiring a freelancer or two for projects like web design or graphic design, or a part time employee or intern as needed.

3. Your Product

If you have just $100 in your business’ bank account, spend it on developing your product. You want customers to love it, not return it, and buy more of it, so it’s naturally something you should spend a little more money on. Also spend money on improving it and developing new versions of it over time.

4. Research and Development

Especially if you plan to create more products, investing in R&D is a necessity for your business. It’s better to spend money up front doing the research and finding out your product will never float in the market than to spend money manufacturing it only for it to be a big flop.

5. Networking

You’ll never know the “right” people if you don’t network. Invest in a good suit, professional business cards and memberships to a few local business groups. Tie in being a good listener and providing value to those you meet, and the investment will quickly pay off.

6. Brand Identity

Here I’m talking about your website, business card and company logo. You want people to take your brand seriously, so don’t hire a teenager to create these for you. Someone should be able to look at your business card (printed on heavy card stock) and feel that you’re worth the money they will spend with you.

7. Educating Yourself

Whether it’s reading business blogs like this every day or attending business conferences that educate you in areas you’re weak in, as a business owner it behooves you to continue to grow your personal development side. With so many great blogs, magazines, books and websites available, you don’t even need to leave the office to do so.

8. Smart Financial Software

If you don’t take your business seriously enough to invest a few hundred dollars in accounting software, how can you expect your customers to take you seriously? Being able to easily send invoices and manage your financial accounts will save you time, which, in my mind, is as valuable as money.

9. Customer Relationship Management Software

Another worthwhile spend is some sort of system that helps you track customers, their purchases and their contact information. There are many small business solutions in this category, so find one that fits your needs.

10. Your Company

Don’t overlook the obvious: putting money back in the company helps you grow. You’ve already dedicated a good portion of your time to this business, so don’t sell yourself short by not putting back into it.

Photo: Philip Taylor PT on Flickr