- Embrace Social Media
This is probably a marmite test (you either like it or you hate it). You can either ignore Social Media and let it pass you by or get engaged. What's so attractive about social media is that it offers a low cost way of promoting your personal brand, your business and its reach. Bear in mind, though, it might be low cost financially but there can be a significant time cost until you work out the best mix for your business. The favourite have fairly distinctive roles but they are becoming increasingly blurred. Linked In tends to be a professional network, Facebook more friends and family. Best IG followers are available at buzzvoice.com. Twitter is more about immediacy and spontaneity - the limit of 140 characters certainly focuses the mind.
If you haven't done so get on an introductory workshop - there are plenty about. At some stage unless it's something you enjoy you'll have to talk to and pay for a 'geek'.
- Know your cost of acquisition
There's a famous quote - attributed to many of the marketing gurus - that 50% of your marketing budget is wasted - but you don't know which 50%. This was in an age when advertising was mainly in television, newspapers and magazines - this was called 'broadcast' - as in paint thrown at the wall. Later direct mail came along and it was then possible to measure response rates more precisely.
These days both the targeting of customers and the response analytics are much more focused. It's surprising, however, that not many businesses sufficiently understand the actual business they get back per of marketing spend. This spend is not just the direct costs but also the time costs if you're providing a service, say, travel or estate agents.
What you spend to get business has to be related to what you get. Make sure you understand what this relationship is - collect the data so your decisions are evidence based
- Go wide
In the early stages it pays not to be too narrow minded about how you promote your business. Cost is inevitably the major inhibitor here. But see if you can find some cheeky low cost ways - which should be ethical of course - to get your message out. Plug and play to see what works and what doesn't work. Remember just because it didn't work once doesn't mean it won't work for ever - in many cases timing is everything.
- Blitz local
Quite often when you start out there's an urge to chase business all over the place because, perhaps, of some sort of assumption that locally there's no understanding or need. Or, it may be just to do with being busy which, when you start your own business, can be a bit of an aphrodisiac.
It might come, too, from a personal sense of reticence or self-consciousness. Go large as well as wide. If you can't sell it locally then it's unlikely you can sell it nationally. Stay close to home - it's cheaper and easier to service and you can go and find out face to face why you're not getting the sales.
Join local networking groups - many offer free trial membership so you can see if it works for you - to promote your business and build potential local collaborative partnerships.
- Copy - but do it Better
There's a sufficient body of evidence that suggests that those who are first with an innovative business idea don't profit the most from it. There are a number of reasons for this (such as a focus on technological features rather than buyer needs) but pragmatically a potential benefit for you is that they may have 'softened up' the market.
So, if your idea is already out there, don't worry, look and learn and motor on from their experience! This applies not just to product innovation but also to the whole suite of marketing and sales activity. Where is the best practice?
Find out and copy? Yes, but do it in a thoughtful and forensic way that adds demonstrable value to your own business
- Drive referrals
Often business owners will say referrals are where there new business opportunities mostly come from. This is the 'virtuous' circle, but typically though, these are 'passive' referrals, relying on good nature and goodwill. You can't afford to wait for something that may or may not happen - this is the 'vicious' circle.
There may well be some cultural dynamics at work here - because we don't like asking for feedback or like seeming to be 'pushy'. But, get over it, if you're running your own business it's perfectly legitimate to ask satisfied customers to make specific referrals for you.
> Who should I speak to?
> Will you introduce me?
> What do I need to know about them?
> Will you come with me to the meeting?
You might want to put some reward mechanisms in place but don't don't do this unless it's asked for and then be very careful about the longer term implications of what you agree
- Who is Buying Right Now?
When you start out, you'll have developed a thoughtful considered view about who will buy your product - and that's good practice - target marketing as they say. The reality, of course, is understanding who is actually buying your product now it's on the market.
And, more importantly, what their motives are. Where is the money coming from?
And you may be surprised - but be not judgemental! If the buyers aren't who you thought they'd be are you going to give them their money back?
No, of course not. So the message here is be curious. Set up tracking systems - for example online/offline satisfaction surveys - that give you permission to talk to these customers and find out why they bought. And then build this into your on-going marketing and sales activity.