Promoting your start-up business – Part 3

blog picsnov 10 001Advertising

Advertising is a difficult subject for most small businesses, because there are many choices, but most of them will not be right for you.

If you have a shop or any sort of retail premises, then in advance of your opening your doors you might try handing out flyers along the lines of “Grand Opening” stating the date and any special offers. Of course do not lose money with any of your special offers in case you keep the habit later on.

There are other ways to advertise for both retail and service businesses, but you do have to think about these carefully.

Soon after you register your business you will get calls from the traditional paper directories which now have on-line presence, by which I mean mainly Yellow Pages and Thomson. For a small business these were fairly ineffective ten years ago and I believe have very little value now.

It is true that if you have a plumbing business your advert might be the first one someone sees when they have an emergency such as a burst pipe, but even then, they will probably call the firm with the biggest display advert, which is one you cannot afford. I think that even for someone as valuable as a plumber, the paper directories will not bring enough business to pay for your advert, let alone contribute towards your profits.

If you are going to advertise on paper you need to target your audience. If you have a specialist business such as in fishing equipment then you should advertise in fishing magazines or whatever publication attracts your potential customers.

If you have a business anyone might need, such as carpentry or decorating or accountancy, try advertising in one of those booklets that go out to your area once a month with the free newspaper. You could try advertising in the free newspaper itself of course.

One good lesson about local advertising is that you need to be in the publication regularly. If publication is once a month, you need to have an ad every month. That is because people will have noticed your ad and remembered something about your business, but will not look to call until they have an immediate need. They might have thrown the last booklet away so will look for you in the next one. You need to make sure you are there.

Of course you need to monitor your success from this sort of advertising, so always ask when someone calls where they found your name, or the name of your business. You do need to know how effective your advertising is, but give it a few months to start working and pull the plug if it does not. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback from people you know and alter the wording in the next edition.

One point to make about paper advertising, and also web advertising and marketing which I will cover later on, is to say what your business does and how you will make your customer’s life better. Don’t sound as though you are patting yourself on the back with “We maintain a proud tradition” or “We have the highest qualifications”. That sort of thing is not what will make people call you. They may ask about qualifications if relevant when you have met them and they are in a mood to buy from you, but none of that will get them through the door in the first place.

Remember that customers will buy because you have something they want which will make their lives better. So:

  • Target your ad to specialist magazines and / or to small local directories and pamphlets.
  • Sound attractive and welcoming.
  • Tweak your advert as necessary.
  • Always ask where a caller found your name.
  • Place regular ads for a few months, but make a change if they are not working.

I have had and still get good business from this traditional advertising. I am sure you will too.


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Names you shouldn’t call yourself

It is no secret that I don’t like the term “social media expert“. You can’t be an expert on a vast subject and know everything that is going on. You have to be a specialist in some areas, know how to find out things you don’t know when asked to, and have credibility as a capable person in a capable business. “Expert” doesn’t mean much.

Fortunately most people don’t call themselves experts. The very term is usually shorthand used in newspaper headlines  when a more descriptive term would be too long. It is a bit lazy. Another meaningless headline alternative word is “boffins”. Who would say “boffin” in normal speech?

Some terms people use about themselves which actually make me giggle are “visionary” and “entrepreneur”. While these words have some meaning, they are subjective and a matter of opinion, which is why they should only be used about an admirable someone other than oneself.

There is an individual I have come across who calls himself a “visionary entrepreneur”. ROFL. It is hard to take seriously.

When describing ourselves we have to be careful to define our USP and skills without comedy, unless of course we are comedians. Most of us don’t want to be the laughing stock, do we?

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Taking our business lives seriously

Be nice to your customers!

Playing at business

You may think the title states the obvious, but some people don’t use their heads. They take short cuts in their work, such as the carpenter who does a quick botch job, or they take long holidays and wonder why their business income falls and they are broke. It would be hard to believe for most of us, except it happens. Not attending properly to customers’ or clients’ needs means they will go elsewhere.

Doctor Doctor I feel like a pair of curtains. Pull yourself together!

If those slackers, because slackers they are, don’t pull themselves together and offer proper consistent reliable customer service rather than indifference and shoddy work, their businesses will suffer. In so many ways it is easy to make the change. I don’t understand how there can be such people who must rely on the next mug to sign up because they don’t keep their customers for long.

Don’t neglect the marketing

‘Doctor, doctor, people keep ignoring me.’ ‘Next please!’

It is no good setting up in business and not marketing. It is much better to make sure that everyone knows about you. You have to be visible. We know there are people who don’t market, but that is when they are so established and offer a great service or product. They get brilliant and deserved referrals.

If you have a new business or one quite young, that won’t work because you have no track record. Otherwise no one will know you are there. Get out there and market, and if you don’t know how, find someone with experience to help.

Make sure you are taken seriously

‘Doctor, doctor, there’s a strawberry growing on the top of my head.’ ‘I’ll give you some cream for it.’

Some people trash their businesses at meetings or networking event by talking too much and not managing their reputations. It is even worse on-line, so everyone needs to watch what they say on Facebook, in on-line forums, in their blog, or even in a thoughtless email. Google is our friend generally, but our enemy with our careless talk because it will come back to haunt us.

Reputation is the most important asset we have in business. Do you know people who are careless about their main source of income?

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Advice, logic, principles and beliefs

On our bikes, or at least Boris's bikes. There is no excuse!

Yes, business is tough at the moment, so it is hard to believe that some owners are making more obstacles for themselves rather than trying to make running their business more profitable and less stressful. Somehow people get ideas in their minds which prevent their taking action. For example:

  • Social media marketing wouldn’t suit my business.
  • Email marketing would never work.
  • I don’t believe in cold calling.
  • Networking is futile because you just see the same people.
  • Advertising is pointless now.
  • A proper customer database is a waste of time (really!).

Of course not every strategy works for every business. Just the same the list above and other imagined obstacles prevent so many of us from taking action, because we don’t have open minds, because we tried something once for a short time and it didn’t seem to work, and because we are afraid to ask for help for fear of embarrassment.

Life is hard enough for so many businesses because their owners don’t take action. No strategy works if you don’t give it a fair crack. Deciding which one or ones are best is an area where you may need advice. Do you need advice? Can I help?


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Be prepared to splash out

Downtown LA's office skyscrapers. Including th...

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Investment principles

We all know that when we run a business there are certain expenses we must meet before we can even function. We have motor costs, office costs, insurance, software, hardware and so on. If we have any sense we choose the best options in each category It doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest, but what fits us best. I think I could find cheaper broadband, but would it be as reliable as what I have and would the support be as good? Heaven preserve us all from my previous ISP!

Why are so many of us afraid to pay for sales and marketing? After all, sales are the lifeblood in any business. Without sales we don’t have a business.

I pay for things

We have to think a little about advertising first, and be choosy. I pay for one paper advert which works well. It is the only one that was ever effective and I have tested a few. Testing is what we have to do.

I buy in webby things too. I pay for decent hosting and management of my blogs.

I want to blog as best I can because blogging brings me business. I am a member of Problogger because I like to learn from others, and of course I pay the small monthly subscription. It’s well worth it. That is not an affiliate link, incidentally.

Banish the fear

Don’t be afraid

Test what works and find out what works for you. Talk to other people about what works for them and think how you can adapt it. That will help you not to get it wrong. Marketing isn’t a cost to the business. It is a way of increasing sales, and done properly is an investment that will return many times over the money put in. Buy a book or an E-book, but make sure it is up to date and that you read and act on what it says. If you want to pay a professional to do it for you,, that will take away the stress of thinking about what to do. You will still need to take action.

Your worst enemy

The enemy is inertia, the fear of getting on your bike and having to take your wallet or purse with you. We don’t sweep our chimney at home because we don’t want the whole downstairs area of our house under two inches of soot. We pay someone. If you haven’t got the expertise, pay someone else. Just don’t wait until your business sales chimney catches fire or is blocked because it hasn’t been swept by someone who know what they are doing. Take action!

Why not?

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Why starting a business is hard work for the brain

Holiday times are when we have space to think about the future, and for some it will be to seek new opportunities in starting a business.

When we go back to first principles to start a new business we need a business plan, and not just one for the bank. We need to think whether:

  • There is room in the marketplace for our business
  • We can stand out from the competition.
  • We have enough money to spend and to survive on before we get into profit.
  • If we borrow money we can pay it back
  • We know how to market and have done our research
  • We have support from our family and friends

We need to think hard about each of these things. We need to spend time going through each aspect. We need to think about lifestyle changes and the effect on our families and ourselves.

Getting on our bikes is never easy but it can be very fulfilling. It is not wrong to accept help along the way and even to hire someone else’s expertise or their bike of course. Just do it!

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Breakfast referral networking and gaining trust

When I started out running my own business I was lucky enough to be recommended to join BNI. In terms of business, it was not a huge success for me mainly due to local reasons, but it was great training for much more successful breakfast networking later; successful because I have met great people and won more business.

Networking for business involves getting to know other business owners and gaining their trust. We know that if we can help others to find business we will get referrals back. It is not always something that works instantly. We may have to wait for business to come to us because gaining trust takes time. Once we are part of someone’s network, they will think of us when talking to people they know who need a product or service we can provide, and they will refer us only when they have learned to trust us not to embarrass them.

Breakfast groups have the potential to become very tight-knit with true bonds between the members meeting every week. As we learned in BNI, attendance is important to gain that trust, and so it should be.

Why wouldn’t we want to have a weekly meeting with our sales team, for the breakfast referral group is our sales team? It is the most important meeting of the week and we should arrange our other appointments with clients and prospects around attending our breakfast meeting.

If attendance once a week at your breakfast meeting is not that important to you, you just don’t get it. But you do, don’t you? What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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