In my last post I said there are “7 Deadly Sins” that lead to the high failure rate among small business start-ups. These are the pitfalls to avoid in order to grow a profitable business.
We covered Deadly Sin #1 in detail, now on to number 2….(drum roll!)…
DEADLY SIN #2: A “Field of Dreams” Marketing Approach
Many business owners assume customers will simply show up once they open for business. “Provide a better quality mouse-trap”, the theory goes, “and the world will beat a path to your door”. Not true. “If I build it, they will come” may have worked in a movie script, but is not an effective marketing approach.
Business doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to have a marketing strategies to grow your small business. You have to be proactive. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in retail, or consulting, or construction, or medicine. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing it somewhere else, or how many advanced degrees you hold, or how many awards you’ve won.
If you want to make it rain, you’ve got to have a marketing plan.
It’s not enough to buy (and hand out) 500 business cards. It’s not enough to put up a website, then wait for customers to show up. You’ve got to be an effective marketer!
MY OWN STORY
I learned this from day one in my accounting and tax business. I could be the top professional in town, know IRS regulations inside and out, and be the ‘profit expert’…. but if no one knew it, I wouldn’t have any clients, and I wouldn’t get paid. And if I’m not continuing to successfully attract clients on an ongoing basis, I will not have a business that lasts.
So I spent 50% of my time providing accounting services, and the other 50% of my time marketing accounting services.
Effective marketing doesn’t have to cost much. But it does take consistent and persistent effort. Here’s some some actions I took when I first started out, and I’d recommend you take similar ones, as appropriate to your specific business category:
- I first sent out a general letter announcing my new business to everyone I knew from past jobs, church, the neighborhood, friends… I pre-judged no one. I figured even if they weren’t in the market for my services, someone they knew would be!
- Then I got more focused and identified a specific target market of potential new clients most likely to need my services, value my services, with some urgency
- I uncovered contact information on these of potential customer groups — available at no cost — from online directories, yellow pages, public records, business associations, etc
- I choose to set aside time each day to connect with these target customers via mail, telephone, or in person, and asked if they were grappling with any issues or problems with taxes, the IRS, payroll, bookkeeping… Some were, some weren’t, but some of those initial contacts are still clients today, 10 years later!
- I joined a networking group of other business professionals who were also looking to build a client base in their particular field. Groups like Future Billionaire’s Club or BNI are a great resource and can open the door to other people’s network of friends and family members who can in turn become your clients. I went to the weekly meetings like my life depended on it. This probably accounted for 25% of my first year income.
- I set up an account at Constant Contact and started sending out regular email newsletters. Tax Tips. Business news. QuickBooks advice. This is a slower approach to business building, but I’m still surprised when someone new shows up in my office and tells me “I’ve been getting your emails for many years, they’re very informative. I thought I’d finally give you a call!”.
- I realized I had to get better at relationship building (I’m still working on this) and the sales process. I began absorbing materials by Stephan Schiffman, Brian Tracy, Ivan Misner and others (after work hours).
While the above list is obviously geared toward new businesses, marketing doesn’t stop once you’ve built a customer base. Customers are like old soldiers; every year some die or fade away–and for this reason, businesses tend to plateau. They hit a certain level in their revenues, and stay there, if they don’t hit the “refresh” button in their marketing programs.
Now that the first half of the year is “in the books”, how do your numbers look? Has anything changed from last year? Or have you hit a plateau? There’s never a better time than now to reach out to an expert who can help you put new life into your marketing efforts. Two excellent business growth consultants I recommend are Michelle Pippen and Arnel Tanyag. I know both well; each have proven track records in helping business owners significantly grow sales revenue. Feel free to click on their names to link to their sites and get a better idea of how you can benefit from their expertise.
THE BOTTOM LINE
No matter how good you are, or how much quality you pack into your product or service, a “Field of Dreams” approach to marketing will cause your business to fail. There’s obviously many different directions you can go and vehicles you can use to effectively and efficiently market your new business. Trade shows. News releases. Articles in local publications. Google Hang Outs. Radio Ads. Blogging. And on and on. Find what fits your philosophy, and your pocketbook, and focus on those activities. Actively get the word out on your product and services. It will serve you well.
ANCHOR ON THIS: The quality in your marketing needs to line up with the quality you’ve built into your products or services.