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Entrepreneur James Caan’s top business tips

PUBLISHED: 15:03 03 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:03 03 September 2013

James Caan

James Caan

COLIN BELL

Starting up your own business can be a daunting prospect in the current climate, but with these helpful tips from former Dragons’ Den star and leading entrepreneur James Caan, written exclusively for Surrey Life, you’ll stand every chance of success

Recognised for his time on TV’s Dragons’ Den, James Caan is one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs. James runs his own private equity firm, Hamilton Bradshaw, which invests in businesses through the entire investment cycle, and was recently appointed chairman of the Government’s Start-Up Loans initiative. His venture capital firm Hamilton Bradshaw Real Estate, part of the broader Hamilton Bradshaw Group, recently backed three Surrey residents – Jason Tebb, Matt Martin and Stuart Ripley – launching a new forward-thinking estate agency called Ivy Gate. As an expert in start-ups, here James reveals his top marketing tips for entrepreneurs who have recently started their own business…

1 Market yourself

Marketing is not just about your product or brand. You should market every strand of your business and that includes yourself. Businesses are built by people and success is based on the quality of them. You represent your business, so always think about the image you and your employees create. Networking is one of the most important things that an entrepreneur can do, so attend the events that your clients attend – and market yourself and your business to them.

2 One size won’t fit all

The way you advertise your business depends on your market, clients and service. Campaigns should be specific and targeted. Do your research and focus on the message you are trying to communicate. Think about imagery; you might want a face behind your business. Ivy Gate has taken this direction. They decided to use the approach of estate agents in America who put their face on billboards so local people recognise them, and shows them to be honest, personable and integral members of the community.

3 Refresh your website

Your website is your shop window so think about what it shows your clients. A lot of businesses think that a website is a brochure. The fundamental difference between a brochure and a website is that websites can be updated. Some small businesses produce a website and forget about it for two or three years, when they should be reviewing it every month. Every month something happens to your business; you might have hired someone, won an important new client or launched a new product or service. All of this should be visible on your website.

4 Make the most of being small

Start-ups are agile and free from many constraints faced by large corporates. Have fun with your advertising and capture your clients’ attention. Think creatively. And once you have thought about what you’re going to do, think about where you’re going to do it. Most estate agents are very corporate so Ivy Gate is looking to do something more quirky and even a bit tongue-in-cheek to help them stand out from the crowd and communicate their more personable service.

5 Take advantage of social media

With free social media such as Twitter and Facebook used widely across the world, start-ups would be foolish not to take advantage. My personal favourite is LinkedIn. There are 78,000 forum groups on LinkedIn. Many are established groups. Find one that covers your sector and participate in discussions on topics that your business specialises in. Ivy Gate is looking to recruit the best talent out there, the top agents in their area. Key to the success of any start-up is recruiting the right people and LinkedIn is a great way to raise the profile of your business to people that work in your industry.

6 Use editorial

Generating editorial content through media publications such as trade magazines, local papers or websites can be an effective way to reach your target market. At the very least, you should publicise your big deals or new appointments. People should hear about your success. Success drives success. Editorial is also a good way to champion your thoughts on subjects relevant to your clients. You don’t have to be established. Jason Tebb, Ivy Gate’s founder and managing director, is already providing comment for property stories and writing blogs for trade magazines. Even though the business is only a few months old, he personally has over ten years’ experience of running estate agencies that he can draw upon. Establish relationships with journalists and pitch your ideas for opinion articles or online blogs to them.

For more on James Caan, visit james-caan.com or follow him on Twitter: @jamescaan. For information about Ivy Gate, see ivygate.co.uk

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