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Building a Successful Small Business: Part 1
I've been involved in sales & marketing along with almost every form of advertising campaigns you can imagine for over 25 years. From National TV Ads to Knocking on Doors and I would like to share some of that experience with you.
The following article is focused on just one, in a series of marketing techniques, I suggest you can try that have all proven to be successful on one level or another but it took years of trial and error to fine tune each project. Here is the first one. I hope it helps.
I was invited to a meeting several years ago comprised of local, small business owners who were looking for tips and advice on how to build their business.
They were all business owners who were passionate about what they were doing but from a business point of view, they were either starving to death or business was really slow and it needed a big push to bring in new customers and sales.
They had the first part correct. You have to be passionate about what you are doing or you are doomed for failure but they could all use just a little help giving their business that needed jump start.
The first question I always ask when I'm invited to speak at these private or public meetings is:
What have you done so far to promote your business?
By finding that out, it helps me eliminate things that either didn't work for them so far, so we can come up with some fresh, new ideas or the ones they already used needed to be fine tuned.
What kind of advertising you do to generate business, is directly dictated by your working capital and as you know, for a lot of small business owners, cash flow is usually very limited.
I sat in a meeting one time with a group involved in the Alternative Medicine Field and as usual, I asked them what they have done so far to promote their business.
They told me with straight, serious faces that they went to the 4 highest points of land in the area and at the exact same time, asked the universe to send them customers and the next day they were all waiting at either their front door for the customers to start running in or sat waiting for the phone to ring.
I was trying not to laugh because I am a big fan of all natural products and therapies but from a business point of view, I could see why they were going broke while waiting for the universe to send clients to their door.
It was obvious that money was tight with all of them so I suggested very gently, Have you ever tried designing up some simple flyers on your computer, making a hundred copies and handing them out to local business or home owners in the area just to let people know who you are and what you do? Maybe they don't even know you exist until you let them know.
They looked at me like I had two heads and said, You mean door to door sales! Are you crazy? I could never do that.
I said, Well if you want to put a label on it, sure, why not? You could print off a hundred flyers for less than $10.00 and if you get one client out of the deal, it more than paid for itself. If you got 2 then you're making a profit. It's more than you had before and who knows where it could lead you.
What are you prepared to do to get your business going?
Needless to say, almost everyone in the room that evening immediately started looking for easier ways to find business and just about everyone in that room was out of business within a month or two, except one woman and I'll talk more about her in a minute.
The point I'm getting to with this story is that, if you are not prepared to do whatever you have to do to get your business going, as long as it's legal, then you shouldn't be in business.
A lot of people think that by having your own business is the way to capture the American Dream and all the riches that come with it. To a degree, it is, but few people understand the work and commitment it takes to build a successful company from scratch that began with just an idea or a dream.
Days, weeks, months or even years of working long hours with little or no money coming in. I don't want to discourage anyone out there but unless you have a serious bankroll or investors backing you up and that still doesn't guarantee success, it can be a very tough grind and not for the faint of heart.
You have to go into any business venture with your eyes wide open or just continue to plan your early retirement on winning the lottery. You'll have a lot better chance at success.
It is true though! You will never be able to find that financial freedom and lifestyle you deserve working for someone else unless you are prepared to work and save every penny for your entire life while praying that the economy doesn't take another nose dive or some savvy, so called financial adviser doesn't lose it all with their great financial advice somehow so...
How do we maximize our limited budget to get the best bang for our buck in marketing our products or services?
I'm going to go into greater detail on just one form of advertising in this article but it is not for everyone reading this. Only you know if it is a method you can use for your business.
Every business is different and takes different forms of promotion to get it going, which I'll talk more about in other articles, but for now, I'm just going to talk about one very powerful and simple campaign you can do very inexpensively that I guarantee will bring you amazing results. It never, never fails if done properly.
Let's go back for a moment and talk about that one woman who was serious about building her business.
She came up to me after the meeting and said: Terry, I have bills to pay and children to feed so I am prepared to do whatever i have to do to succeed. Just tell me what I have to do and I'll do it. I liked her already.
Right away I knew this woman could be successful because her attitude towards business was right on but now it was time too back it up with action or see if it was just all talk.
You can blow sunshine up my butt all day quoting every catchy line from every get rich quick, motivational book on the market but if you are not prepared to back up your words with action, they are useless. You are going to stay broke. You can make excuses or you can make money but you can't do both. It's your decision.
The first question I asked her was:
Who is your target market? In other words, who would be her best clients? She was a massage therapist so she said: Most of my clients are professional woman anywhere from the ages of 25 to 65. I do have the occasional man come into my home office but most are woman.
It was obvious that expensive TV or Radio ads were not the avenue to take for her at this point in time. At least not right now. She needed local exposure on a very limited budget. She had very little money to work with but it's an easy situation to get out of if she was prepared to work.
I said OK, Great! Were would you find these professional woman through the week?
She said, I suppose they are all at work.
Exactly, so how can you find them and let them know who you are and what services you offer?
She said: I guess I would have to go visit them at their office but wouldn't that be intruding?
I said. No, not as long as you approach it the right way (professionally).
Here's what you have to do.
First, you have to design your flyer. It has to be brief, with a catchy title where you are offering something Free.
Free is always a key word that catches people's eye. Everybody wants something for nothing
Next, list all of the services you offer in bullet form with all of your contact information listed at the bottom of your flyer. Come up with a catchy slogan and you are good to go.
If you are approaching professional people for business, you have to be professional yourself.
Everyone is busy so they want to know exactly what you offer in simple, direct language. You don't need any fancy designs or artwork that takes more ink to print off and makes you look flaky or unprofessional because your potential customers won't take you serious.
They will not only be looking at you but they will instinctively be analyzing your flyer to see if you're a smart business person because that's the type of people they like doing business with. Professionals like themselves.
You appreciate it when people take your business serious so show the same respect to them.
Once you have your flyer done, go down to the local business center and print off 100 copies. Never print off more than 100 because you may have to change a few things on the flyer as you start getting customer feedback.
Now comes the scary part, which I guarantee will end up being one of the most exciting things you've ever done in your business so far. You have to get them out there and how do you do that?
You drive or walk down to the business center in your area, park your car, grab your 100 flyers, open your car door which may feel welded shut at first, get out and start talking to people.
Believe me, the hardest door to get out of is your car door.The flyer is just a piece of paper designed to start a conversation and that's what it's all about. Meeting new people and creating new opportunities
Now walk into the closest business and say Hello. I know you can do that.
The flyer is like a letter of introduction so have a big smile on your face, even though you are extremely nervous which is perfectly normal and introduce yourself while passing them your flyer explaining pointing out on the flyer who you are and what you offer, then thank them for their time and leave. That's it!
It should take no more than 30 seconds and hopefully resulting in an opportunity to start a working relationship with them. That's what this campaign is all about. Getting out and meeting people in your area while having fun doing it.
You can kind of look at yourself as a politician out looking for votes only now you're looking for business. I don't know if that is a good example but you know what I'm saying. Get out and have some fun. They won't bite you. I knocked on doors for years selling just about everything under the sun and despite the horror stories you might have heard, I never once ran into anyone that was every ignorant to me or had a door slammed in my face. That's because I always dressed clean, smiled a lot and treated people, their homes or businesses with respect. You get back what you give.
Two things will immediately happen. They will accept your flyer, say thank you and walk away or they will start asking you questions about your business. A very positive buying signal. Always have a little calender in your pocket because you will find people who want to book a time right on the spot to meet with you or invite you into their office or home and start asking questions which is great, so be prepared.
The thing about the people that accepted your flyer and walked away is you never know where that flyer is going to end up at. Maybe in the garbage or maybe someone is going to pick it up, take it home and give you a call later or pass it on to someone else who they know may need your services. You just never know but you'll never find out if you have a flyer sitting in a file in your computer for months while you are losing your mind, trying to figure out how you're going to feed your kids or pay the power bill.
The first few doors are always the hardest until you start getting your mouth and your brain synchronized but it won't take very long to have your pitch down smooth.
It just takes a few stops to really build your confidence and when you actually book your first appointment or start selling products that people actually paid you for and you will, you will be bouncing off the walls with excitement and thinking to yourself, That was easy. Why didn't I do this before? Now it all became very real
The one key factor about sales that a lot of people don't understand is that they are very predictable if you understand the universal laws of averages. It's just a numbers game. The more flyersyou put out there, the more business you'll get back.
I knew that if i put out 100 flyers, I would book or sell a certain volume right on the spot, have a certain amount of people call me up later and have a certain amount of referrals which I would turn into more referrals and I love referrals. That's were I wanted my business to get to as soon as possible. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool
Now do it again and again until you get rid of all your flyers. Make it a goal to get rid of all 100 flyers that day. Your goals, no matter what they are, have to be real and obtainable or you will just get discouraged and quit again wondering why you ever thought about running your own business in the first place.
Don't forget though, if you feel that it's just too tough and you want to quit and get a real JOB, Walmart is always looking for happy greeters. lol
Depending on how close the businesses are together, it should take 2 to 3 hours to get rid of all 100 flyers. You will not believe the amount of information you will gather, which will help you fine tune your business to know exactly what your clients are looking for.
I like handing out flyers on nice, sunny days because everyone always seems to be in a good mood when the sun is shining but it doesn't really matter. If it's raining or cloudy bring along something to keep you and your flyers dry. The darker the day, the brighter your attire should be. I'm not talking Hawaiian shirts but very clean and respectable and not over dressed. Leave the suit at home. Suits make people nervous
Here's the great part: Whenever I used this method to start generating business, I never had to do it for more than 2 days in a row.
I found that I dug up so much business from that little bit of work, it kept me busy for months. Once i started building a customer base, then I would work the referral side of the business which was all gravy and if business started slowing down again, I would grab another 100 flyers and go do it again. No big deal now.
It's also a great way to get some fresh air and exercise. Just to get off my butt and away from the computer for a few hours looking for ways to make my millions on the Internet along with a billion other people
One thing about direct marketing and sales is that they always keep you on top of your game.
Even years later, as I got up into upper management with different companies or on my own, I always took time to get out on the road with one of my reps or even one of my managers who needed a little motivation. It not only helped them out but it kept me sharp and on my game. That's were all the fun and excitement is anyway and it always kept me in tune with what's going on in the real world.
Personally, I always liked flyering businesses through the week because everyone drives into work from all over the country and they are in a more confined area. It is a lot more effective from a time management point of view.
On the weekends, i liked heading out to the country or along the coast. It doesn't matter as long as you are getting out there and start meeting people.
Here are just a few of the results you'll receive by using this basic direct marketing technique.
1) Your potential clients will put a face to your business. That personal touch.
2) You'll receive a ton of feedback which can be used in all future advertising campaigns. Key Words and phrases
3) It keeps you pumped up and excited which equates to higher energy levels.
4) Most important: You'll start making money immediately. That's reason enough right there.
1) Never wear dark or black clothing, especially leather. Light, positive, casual, comfortable & clean with comfortable foot wear. Don't forget you are walking so keep your feet happy
2) Never start before 10am. Give people a chance to get through their morning rush.
3) Don't even bother with public bulletin boards, they are useless. Put them in people's hands and introduce yourself and your business
4) Once you know your flyer works, keep a bunch in your vehicle. You never know when or where opportunity shows itself.
5) Don't bother putting them on windshields of vehicles in parking lots. Big waste of money and no one reads them. It's a lazy and very ineffective way to hustle up business.
6) Don't even think about trying this method with business cards. Business cards are small and easily discarded. You can get a lot more info on a flyer and it's easier to read
7) They may cost a penny or two more but always use colorful, bright paper copies. White is boring and blends in with every other copy in the office . You want something to jump out and be noticed so the brighter the better.
8) Smile, even if it hurts.
The rest you'll learn on your own as you go.
Needless to say, that lady I mentioned earlier now runs the largest and most successful massage clinic in the area and as i write this, she has now opened her third location in neighboring towns and why? She was willing to do whatever it took to make her business a success. She has earned and deserves all the success life can offer her but you know what the sweetest part of that whole deal was?
All those other therapists at that first meeting now work for her. I was speaking with her on the phone the other day and I asked what she does for advertising now and she said none. It is all done by word of mouth so she is now also saving a small fortune in advertising expenses which was being used in her expansion plans.
There are few things in life that I find more exciting than a true success story, which is what being in business for yourself is all about so I' ll ask you this question once again and please think very hard about it.
What are you prepared to do to become a successful business owner?
The choice is yours. You can pray on your knees every night begging God to help you, which I'm not saying is a bad idea or you can take action yourself and make things happen. God does love a person of action.
Stay tuned for the next article on Direct Marketing.
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