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You’ve taken the plunge.  Your business name is registered, you have a logo and business cards, the phone is connected, your office is set up and you are now officially in business.  So, what next…..stare at the phone waiting for it to ring?  Like it or not, nothing will happen next unless you get marketing.

Marketing is the engine that will actually drive the dollars into your business so you can survive.  (I’m a firm believer that eating shouldn’t be an optional extra just because you own a business).  Marketing can also be pretty scary when you start out as most of us assume we will have to spend megabucks on advertising or promotion.

In fact, there are lots of cheap and cheerful ways of finding those all important first clients.

Marketing. Where to begin.

It’s a good idea to put aside an hour or so every day to work on your marketing in the first few months.  Although you may be tempted to splurge on one big ad or send out a thousand flyers you will find a little and often approach will help you avoid the feast or famine cycle which is so common in start up businesses.  At this stage you also have more spare time so it’s good to start the habit of marketing on a regular basis.

First of all you need to start to think of yourself as a business owner not an employee.  It’s a difficult transition to make for some people and it’s easy to sound apologetic when you talk about your new business, especially if you are having a crisis of self confidence.  Keep in mind that every “wage slave” out there dreams of telling the boss to “shove it’ and would love to be in your shoes.  Come up with a couple of interesting sentences that explain what your business is and how it helps clients.  Make sure you don’t filter the enthusiasm and passion for your business out of your description.  Enthusiasm sells.

Start confidently telling people you own a small business.  Talk to family, friends and relatives first.  Then go through all your old contact lists or piles of business cards and categories those people who may become referral sources, clients or even mentors.  Build yourself a simple database or mail list. Send all those people a letter or email telling them what you are doing and ask for their help in spreading the word.  Get on the phone and follow up your letter or email, you’ll be amazed at how many people want to help build your business. Make appointments to catch up for coffee and a chat or visit potential referral sources and ask for their feedback.

The Ripple Effect of Marketing

You will find this ripple effect usually produces a number of “leads”.  I tried this approach when I finally could afford business stationery.  I simply sent out a letter on my new letterhead explaining what I’d been up to and enclosed a few extra business cards.  One of those letters led to a $1,500 project and another a referral source who still sends me clients today. In the early days of your business you should be  prepared to “kiss a few frogs” before you find your Prince Charming of a client but this is great experience as it helps you to refine your sales spiel and gives you an idea of where your market may be.

Once you’ve decided the types of clients or industries you want to target, start to look for ways to get to know the decision makers in the marketplace.  Go back to your database and ask if anyone has contacts, search the web for articles or information, join their associations or networking groups, attend their conferences as a delegate or associate and network like crazy.

If your business concept is new and exciting try for publicity.  The traditional approach is to put together a simple press release and send it off to a publication read by your target client or customer. Keep in mind that press releases should be newsworthy and not just a disguised advertisement for your business.  Read the target publication from cover to cover to give you a good feel for the style of information needed.  And don’t forget you can also increase your profile by contributing content to newsletters or websites that will be ready by target clients.  If you don’t mind public speaking put together an interesting key note presentation and offer it to target organizations or companies.

Remember that action conquers fear, especially when it comes to marketing.  Don’t sit there waiting for the phone to ring, put together some marketing activity targets such as making four phone calls a day and then follow through every time.  One of my clients who has a black belt in procrastination finds the best motivation is to give herself a reward for marketing so she keeps a box of chocolates by the phone!!  But the real reward for marketing will be the money in your business bank account.

Linda Hailey

Australia’s Leading Small Business Marketing Expert

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