When you are just starting out in business, it can be a daunting process. You’re keen to work and you’re happy to go above and beyond the call of duty to help your customers – if only you had some. It’s not only daunting but it can sometimes be more than a little soul-destroying if there are few people walking through your store and fewer people buying your products. Or perhaps you’re in a service business and you spend more of your time waiting for the phone to ring than actually consulting or providing a service to people.
It can be tempting to take time off, rethink your business model or work out ways to cut costs until business picks up. While these actions are valid, I think it’s far more important to be spending any time you have on marketing and promoting your business. In this blog, we’ve often talked about online marketing strategies and social media as a smart way to promote your business. But it’s important not to forget about the basics. Sometimes, an ideal way to promote your business can be based on good old-fashioned principles.
On the weekend, I cleared out the junk mail from my letterbox and began sorting through it to see if any real mail was in the mix. There wasn’t. But there was a flyer that caught my eye – it was for local boxing classes starting this week.
1. Stand out from the crowd
Why did the flyer catch my eye? It looked a bit different to the rest of the pile which were printed on cheap, thin paper with screaming headlines and graphics announcing specials and good deals. This flyer was printed on thicker cardboard, was neatly designed and featured pictures of the boxing classes in action.
I’m not necessarily saying that’s what’s going to work for your business. But, sometimes, it can be worthwhile to go against the grain in order to stand out. Too often, we look to our competitors and similar businesses in the same industry to see what the industry standard is. If they are charging a certain amount, we charge a similar amount. If they offer payment plans, we offer payment plans.
While it may be counter-intuitive to go against the grain, it’s worth exploring. Remember that you are in control of creating the business you want. If you follow what everyone else in the industry is doing, you end up as a homogenous bunch and don’t give yourself an opportunity to shine.
If you are generous with your information, you not only have the opportunity to showcase – and, in some cases, show off – your expertise and knowledge, this will also give prospective customers a chance to know, like and trust you.
The flyer for the boxing classes included a website which I looked up because I wanted to find out more. You can only fit so much information on a flyer, so pointing your customers to a resource where they can find out more – in this case, information such as a schedule of classes, information about trainers, pricing and location – gives you an opportunity to showcase your business again.
I’m still amazed at the business owners I meet who don’t have a website. Most of the time, I think they’re nuts. If you are not getting the revenue levels or customer numbers that you would like, then don’t complain to me if you don’t have a website! From a marketing point of view, a website is vital.
3. Incentive to take action
Another oldie but a goodie. You want to encourage prospective customers to take action. You want to entice them to try your wares. And what better way to do that than ‘try before you buy’. The flyer for the boxing classes made it clear that the first class is free – so that you can see if this kind of exercise is your cup of tea. This takes the risk off the customer who can sample the product or service before committing to a series of classes.
Figure out how you can allow prospective clients to sample what you have to offer so they can get a taste of what’s in store. Product sampling is obvious but what if you offer a service? Whether your service is chiropody, law, professional organising or something else, I believe that your “sampling strategy” should be based around free advice.
Oh, I can hear a collective scream from those who believe that you should not give away your advice for free. However, I beg to differ. I believe that if you are generous with your information, you not only have the opportunity to showcase – and, in some cases, show off – your expertise and knowledge, this will also give prospective customers a chance to know, like and trust you.
When you are starting a new venture, it can sometimes take a while before others discover your brilliance or before they are as enamoured with your business as you are. The saying might be “Build it and they will come” but, sometimes, it can feel like they are taking a hell of a lot of time to get there.
Again, take the boxing classes. I decided to turn up to the class on Monday night. It was dark, cold and I really did feel like I could have curled up on my sofa with a glass of cabernet merlot instead. Somehow, I turned up to the class. However, I was the only one!
That was certainly great for me because I basically got a personal training session. Since it was my first class, it was free. Nevertheless, the boxing trainer (the business owner) gave his all in the class. He didn’t cancel it. He didn’t give a half-hearted effort because there wasn’t a full class there. He didn’t apologise sheepishly for the lack of numbers in the class nor did he try to make up an excuse for it . He stated honestly that he was just starting, winter tends to keep people away and that he was focusing on building the numbers in the class.
What’s your positive angle?
When your business isn’t pulling in the sales that you expect, the way you represent this sends a message to customers and prospects. For example: “There are still heaps of places in the boxing class – so join up now – we’d love to have you!” almost reeks of desperation.
Try this instead: “Only a few places left in the class – join now so you don’t miss out.” Although both versions are essentially saying the same thing, the feel of each message is very different. Be careful with the words you choose when you talk about your business.
It also boils down to providing good value because that’s what is going to keep customers coming back and referring you to other people. Last night, I went back to the boxing class – after all I enjoyed it the first time, so I was happy to return and bought a 20-visit pass. I knew my friend would also enjoy it so I brought her along. With that, the boxing trainer already doubled his class numbers. She liked the class and plans to come back. Another two people turned up as a result of the letterbox drop and, again, the trainer gave the class his all. There may have only been four people there but I can guarantee those four people will be back.
In fact, it’s pretty exciting to watch the birth of this business. I’m keen to see how much it can grow and how the trainer plans to take it to the next level. But I’ll report back to you on that one in a future post.
In the meantime, think of how the five factors listed above can apply to your business. Is there something you can add or change to market your business and boost your revenue?