Saturday, May 24, 2008

6 Small Steps to Promoting Your New Business

In order to get more money, you have to get people to give it to you, yes? It sounds simple, but that’s the part that people tend to forget. It is so easy to focus on what you will use it for, what bills you will pay off and what new goodies you could afford, that you forget the exchange of money is all about persuading someone else to give you theirs.

Baby steps in self-promotion

  • Figure out your niche
  • Find people you know who operate in the niche
  • Offer them a freebie for recommendations
  • Print up some business promotional materials
  • Leave your promotional materials everywhere
  • Answer phone calls promptly and professionally. Write a script beforehand if necessary.

I’m not interested in cheating anyone, so I’m never going to be covering pyramid selling or mail stuffing scams. What I am interested in is coming up with a viable business concept, costing it out and implementing it. You don’t have to be Donald Trump or Alan Sugar to come up with an idea for a small enterprise - it doesn’t have to be about replacing the day job, there is nothing wrong with earning a little bit of pin money with a hobby, for example.

So, you’ve decided that you have a fair few spare evenings, you like kids and you like watching tv. Maybe you’ll set up a babysitting business! It’s going to be difficult to market yourself, as an unknown adult to parents. However, I’ll bet that you have some friends who are parents, don’t you? The key is to find a way in to your circle of clients. Offer a free night’s babysitting to some friends in return for recommendations to the other parents they know. Networking is king in this situation. Get some cards made, print some brochures out, and give them to your friends who had the freebie. The key here is that people in a niche (parents, classic car owners, teddy bear collectors etc.) usually know other people in the same niche, and their recommendations carry a lot of weight. Ask them to hand them out to some of the other parents at the school gate.

Personally, I’d be thrilled if another parent handed me a babysitting service flier, and I’d be on the phone in seconds.

The key to this sort of business is finding that way into the niche. Often friends are a great way in - they understand your drive, and are usually more than pleased to be able to help you out. Don’t take advantage of them, but make really sure that they know how much you appreciate their help. It’s always nice to help out :-)

I’m going to do a bit of a shameless plug here as I’ve just had this service recommended to me:

Vistaprint do very cheap business stationery, including lots of free opening offers - business cards, fridge magnets, rubber stamps etc. All you pay for is the postage. A friend who runs a music company recommended them to me as a way of getting very cheap business cards for several different companies at the same time without having to pay origination costs for all of them. I’ve followed his advice, and have been very pleased with how easy the website is to use. (Full disclosure: I get a £1 off my next order if someone clicks the link! But this recommendation isn’t about the quid so much as finding an easy to use and free service!).

Once you’ve got business cards (the absolute minimum), carry them with you everywhere. Every time you stop somewhere, leave a card on a table/shop counter/pub bench, whatever. Vistaprint will get you 250 nice quality cards for about £3 postage, which means that you can afford to scatter them about like confetti. Remember that people need to know about you to give your their money. The more pro-active you are with that promotion, the better the response from your customer base.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make very sure that whatever telephone number you put on the cards/leaflets is one where you can be reached as often as possible. If necessary, put an answering message on your home phone, or redirect to your mobile. You usually only get one chance at a first impression. People will ring ONCE, and if you don’t pickup, or don’t sound confident they won’t ring again. Once the fish slips off the hook, it tends to swim away - you should be aiming at reeling it in!

Tip on Answering Phones

I operate a number of businesses from one phone line - two seperate building businesses, a holiday rental, web design & upkeep, The In-Debt Net, and …err… about 5 or 6 bands (last count) as well as all my personal calls. It is impossible to answer the phone correctly for each business, as I never know what sort of call it will be. My promotional material is very upfront about my name and connection with each business (see my “About Me” box above right…), so I answer the phone with “Hello, Annie Walker speaking!” This solves the problem of not knowing whether someone wants to book a tribute band or have a conservatory built - most people calling are doing so from some form of promotional material, so are *expecting* to speak to me…

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