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Starting a business this year? You may have taken basic steps—like coming up with a business name and developing a business plan. But before you officially “hang your shingle,” consider doing some other things that can boost your odds of success.

Here’s a five-step checklist that can help get your business off to a great start:

1. Create a Google My Business listing.

Making sure prospective customers can quickly and easily find you online is critical. Google My Business listings generally show up at the top of Google search results when people search for businesses like yours in your local area. So, create a listing and add all the pertinent details about your business—including your phone number, your website address, your physical address and your hours of operation. (Some businesses even take it a step further and let customers book appointments through their Google listing.)

2. Get a business phone number.

Likewise, prospective customers must be able to contact you easily, but you don’t want them calling your personal phone—which can seem unprofessional and make it harder for you to serve them well. A dedicated business phone number is affordable and allows you to provide a better customer experience. Spectrum Business Voice, for example, offers more than 35 features designed for businesses, including customizable caller ID, auto attendant and sequential ring.

3. Set up business social media profiles.

Social media is no longer viewed as an optional way to engage a target market—it’s often the best way. Don Silver, a digital marketing expert and COO of Boardroom Communications, recommends focusing on the two or three platforms that are most natural for your type of business. For example, Instagram may be useful for a restaurant that wants to showcase meals and events but not be as important for a law firm—which may find LinkedIn more valuable. Once you have your company’s social media accounts established, you can build awareness about your business by creating sponsored ads that are targeted at your specific market, whether based on geography or other target market demographics.

4. Build a website.

Some new business owners today rely almost exclusively on social media for their web presence, but having your own website offers more flexibility and gives you a “home” on the internet for prospective customers to engage with. (And remember: You can control your site, but social media sites change the rules for businesses all the time.)

You can hire someone to build a site for you or use one of these inexpensive website builder tools. During the pandemic, many businesses have discovered the importance of having a website, and many have enhanced it by adding ecommerce or other online features.

5. Design an exceptional customer experience.

Realistically, you have one shot at winning over first-time customers—and if you blow it, they probably won’t come back. That’s why you have to think about your customer experience before you start your business. In fact, “96% of customers will leave you for bad customer service,” says Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, citing a recent survey he conducted.

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