Therefore, you are starting a small business. First, let me say congratulations. Small businesses are the backbone of the US economy and are the foundation of the American Dream and I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who is willing to take risks to grow and achieve success and a part of that American Dream.
Since the age of sixteen I have owned a business. Seven businesses in 23 years and each one taught me valuable lessons. Starting and owning a small business is unique and never boring. It will test your metal and many times it will take your breath away. But no job is more rewarding and potentially profitable than working for yourself and being your own boss.
I wanted to share with you a lesson I learned along the way that I hope will help you in the pursuit of your dreams. I have no doubt that you are good at your craft. Whether you’re a plumber, chef, mechanic, or landscaper… the belief that you’re capable is what has driven you to make the decision to strike out on your own. The problem with that is that your business skills rarely translate into the success of small business ownership. In my opinion, success as a small business will require you to become an expert in areas of business that may be foreign to you.
The most important concept you need to master is marketing and advertising. I’ve seen more small businesses go bankrupt due to poor or miscalculated marketing and advertising decisions than anything else. Whether it’s spending too much on the yellow pages, stretching your budget too far and not having enough for operations, or just spending money on things that don’t work. If you don’t have an effective marketing and advertising campaign, you’re dead in the water.
Frankly, the reason franchise operations have a much higher success rate than small independent businesses is because the marketing and advertising plans are already in place and all you have to do is follow the plan.
If you’re not looking for a franchise, then you need to come up with a plan of your own. My suggestion is to always start with a zero budget first. This may sound strange, but if you don’t set a budget, you’ll be forced to look at all the ways you can get free marketing and advertising. Areas to focus on are word of mouth, personal relationships and networks, barter opportunities, handmade signs and posters, email marketing, social media, and networking with friends, neighbors and former associates. Before you spend a dime, you need to exhaust all available avenues that are free. You may find that you don’t need to spend money to make money.
After exhausting all the free opportunities, I suggest you look at creating long-term strategies that support your growth and income goals. Resist the easy way out of spending thousands on direct mail advertising and yellow pages… they offer no long-term benefits and little short-term ROI. Usually you will spend much more than you earn and you will be left with no money, no customers and little hope.
Instead, focus your marketing and advertising on the Internet and on continuing the free strategies you initially developed. The Internet is the greatest resource ever invented for small business and marketing and advertising if you take the time to learn how to make it work for you.
No other advertising or marketing vehicle has the instant offense and long-term residual benefits that a proper internet marketing program offers at such a low cost. High return on your investment, converting your time into new customers, keeping your cash in the bank to focus on inventory or expansion are all benefits of a quality internet campaign.
You will need a quality website. Don’t spend a lot of money here; You can start with a registered URL and a blog from one of the free blog providers. The great thing about a blog-based website is that you can edit and update it yourself, control the content, and have the ability to load it with keywords and phrases – all for FREE!
Make sure your website includes photos of your work, your professional credentials, a map, contact information, and a little about yourself personally, in addition to your keyword-rich content pages about your services and products.
You should add a new blog post weekly and as soon as you can add testimonials that you get from your customers.
Next, you need to list your new website in as many FREE directories as possible. There are hundreds of regional and national yellow page directories that accept FREE listings, as well as vertical sites that specialize in your industry. Remember to only take the FREE listings initially. That way, you can wait to see which sites bring you the best traffic before deciding which, if any, will pay for a better placement.
You will also need to get your business listed on social networking sites. These sites allow you to link to your website, introduce your business and network with potential customers and neighboring businesses, and tell your story. Once again, all of this is FREE. All social media requires is time. The short-term benefits are nice, but the long-term relationships and optimization you build from networking can lead to thousands of dollars in future earnings and you pay nothing.
Now you are starting to make your way in the world of the Internet. Next, you will need to be recognized as an expert in your field. Time to start writing some articles like this. Pick topics you are an expert in and make sure you check them out. Select an online article editor and use their tutorials to write better articles. These expert articles are great ways to get more customers and will ultimately create a body of evidence on the internet about your experience that will significantly increase your marketing effectiveness. If you think consumers don’t do their research before they call you, then you need to reconsider your desire to open a small business.
By focusing your attention on FREE advertising and marketing opportunities and building an internet network and reputation, you will generate new customers and short-term profits and long-term residual profits that increase exponentially over time. Exchange your time, which you have when you start a new business and keep your money in your pocket. That way, when you start to see exponential growth in your business from all the wise decisions you made early on, you’ll have the financial resources for expansion and growth.