Far too often small business owners can be their own worst enemy when it comes to growing their business.
You may have come across data such as that from the Small Business Administration that says only 66% of small companies survive the first two years and only 50% last the five year mark. For example, in 2010 roughly 560,000 new private businesses were opened and by 2015 only 287,000 of those businesses were still around. But we don’t want to dwell on failure. The goal here is to point out that many businesses do succeed but to do so you’re going to need to be above average, not just in your appointed business skill but in a wide range of skills you might not have thought about.
If you’re a small business owner you probably have a specialty. Maybe you’re into accounting, or maybe you are a real estate professional or a consultant. So you have developed a skill which you are good at but if you’ve primarily been working for someone else, you rarely have to sell yourself very often. Normally once you are hired you just do the work.
As a small business owner that’s probably all you want, is to do the work. But to get the work you have to do some selling but most of you aren’t sales people.
You’re great accountants, consultants, contractors or widget builders. None the less, at some point some selling has to get done or no one will hire you.
So many choices.
After dealing with many small businesses it seems as if this is where many of them freeze up. As professionals they pride themselves on making smart decisions and building knowledge about a topic and making the best choice so when they have to begin marketing and selling themselves they dive into the internet looking for answers. But unlike going to WebMD.com for a solution to your sore elbow the Internet is fraught with so many different opinions about how to sell your small business services that you can’t help but come out confused.
And confusing it is! Never before have there been so many options to market your skills, yet none of them appear to be the ideal solution. In the past you had fewer choices such as newspaper and magazine advertising, direct mail, radio, television, billboards and shows/events. But with the entry of digital marketing the choices have grown immensely while those aforementioned analog marketing solutions have lost their audiences. With so many choices business owners are often like a deer in the headlights. They just freeze up. It’s not like you can go to the Consumer Reports of marketing and find the best rated media options and use that system. Also of importance; there are dozens of additional media options than listed here but make sure to choose active media and not passive (waiting for someone to discover you) media.
This article is not going to get into the pros and cons of each selling or marketing approach. Books have been written about these things and there is more detail to be known than any one individual could provide. And suffice to say that just about everyone in the sales and marketing game have their own opinion about what works and why you should be taking that route.
Stop worrying about right or wrong.
The reality is that no one knows what will work for your business because each business and their customer base is different. You’ve heard the sales joke about the salesman who could sell ice to eskimos? Well he doesn’t exist. Selling and marketing is hard work and takes time. Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great” put it best when he said your sales and marketing program is like a flywheel. Getting it moving takes an enormous amount of effort to make the thing turn. But once you have it moving you are more likely to be able to sit back and reap the rewards of your up-front efforts.
What you are going to have to do is begin your sales and marketing efforts by experimenting. That is because what may work for one company may not work for another company. And don’t be alarmed at the word “experimenting” because companies much larger than yours do it all the time and waste millions if not billions of dollars doing it.
Here are a few examples of companies, with a lot more to lose than you, that did what they thought were smart choices:
- Coca-Cola’s “New Coke” launch in 1985 lasted just months before they returned to “Classic Coke.”
- FORD’s launch of the Edsel and Subsequent Pinto were both catastrophic failures for the company.
- McDonald’s ’84 “When US Wins You Win Olympics promotion lost $ millions when the USA won 174 medals.
- Burger King’s “Where’s Herb” campaign ran for 1.5 years and wasted $ millions and was a huge flop.
- GAP spent $ millions on launching a new logo design in 2010 and the new design lasted just 2 days.
Here’s an idea of how to get started.
What should you do to build sales for your small business? To begin with figure out if you’re a do-it-yourself-er or not. Why not begin by writing a 2 page sales letter. Sell yourself and your services. Even if you never mail it, this can be the basis for many other marketing options in the future. Your two page sales letter can be transformed into multiple emails, a website or landing page, Facebook posts, a post card or a series of web or print advertisements. If you can’t write it, then find someone you can speak to about your background and services who will transcribe it for you.
Even if you already have some marketing actions in place, the idea of writing an updated sales message is an ideal way to update your thinking and remind yourself why someone should do business with you. If this is something you can’t do then you should rethink the idea of having your own business.
Once you have a general message in place consider options for media. Don’t stress over which is right and which is wrong (remember how large companies get it wrong all the time), just try something and see if you get response. Note that this suggested action does not include putting up a website. While a website is a great idea, there are about 300-500 new ones put up every minute. What YOU need is something to drive traffic to your website, emails to your inbox and phone calls to your smartphone.
In summary the definitive word is take some action. Stop worrying about what is good or bad and as Nike says “Just Do It.” You can sort out results in a few weeks and you will be all the smarter for doing it. For help and guidance in your best action steps, or for help in crafting the right message and choosing media give GMS a try. CLICK HERE.