Get the word out
So, here you are — just three steps away from opening a business of your own and feeling pretty good about it, right? Take some time to pat yourself on the back but remember — you may not be as fail-proof as you think. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new businesses fail within the first year; by year five, that number jumps to 50%.
We don’t share this information to scare you; we just want you to know what you’re up against so you can look for ways to beat the odds and survive long-term. Here’s how:
Build an image
As soon as you’ve chosen your company’s name, start thinking about a logo to represent it. Considering that a business logo appears on everything — business cards, letterhead, advertising, website, signage, boxes, billboards, bags, receipts, etc. — be sure that yours is memorable and that it represents your business well. And by all means, hire a professional to design it.
Explore your media options and make smart choices
Two primary categories of promotional vehicles available to your small business are: Traditional Media and Digital Media, each offering a variety of options. Read on to determine which best match your customers’ media preferences and are likely to reach your target markets most effectively.
Newspapers Options include large and small circulation daily newspapers, weeklies and shoppers; select only those that will best reach your target market.
Magazines More targeted than newspapers in subject matter and audience, but also more costly. Study circulation numbers and reader demographics to ensure that any choices you make will reach your target market.
Television Provides the opportunity to promote products/services both visually and audibly, but cost-per-thousand-potential-customers-reached can be steep.
Radio Less expensive than TV, but with many similar benefits: captive audience (many listen while driving), targeted audience (format/programming varies by station) and local market appeal. Drawbacks: short lifespan and sometimes low audience comprehension (people tune in but may not pay strict attention).
Direct Mail Includes brochures, fliers, newsletters, postcards and coupons sent by “snail mail” directly to existing and/or potential customers; mailing lists are key — compile your own or rent one from a company specializing in direct mail.
Outdoor Advertising Includes billboards, transit advertising and signs on site; exposure time is short, so these vehicles must be attractive, readable and to the point.
Specialty Advertising Giveaways such as pens, pads, mugs, caps and T-shirts bearing your company name/logo enjoy a dual function: They are both free “gifts” for customers and advertisements for your business. For best effect, make them useful, reflective of your business and inexpensive but not cheesy.
Company Website Represents the face of your business and where potential customers often go first to learn about the products/services you offer; may include a mechanism for customers to shop online, if applicable, and should be both computer- and mobile-friendly.
Email Marketing Allows for efficient distribution of promotions, newsletters and coupons. Take care to abide by the CAN-SPAM Act as failure to do so can result in hefty fines. Also be sure that every person on your distribution list has given permission to be on the list and can easily unsubscribe if desired.
Social Media While sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube may help build a fan base for your firm, be aware that they also may create in you the desire to respond to every comment or query. To avoid wasting precious time that could be better spent, set limits on your social media involvement and/or designate a staff member as your “social media specialist.”
Review Sites A website that gathers customer reviews about businesses, products or services, and location information can be your best friend if you offer quality merchandise and exceptional service — or your worst enemy if you don’t. Review sites to consider: Google My Business, Amazon, Facebook, Yelp, Tripadvisor and Angi.
Is advertising worth the time and price?
Ad reps will say, “Yes! You can’t succeed without it.” But a full-scale campaign consisting of multiple media and many markets can be expensive. If you only have the money to cover one promotional tool, make it your website because that’s where customers will likely go first to learn about the products/services you offer.
If at some point you decide to purchase advertising space, avoid the trap of “bigger is better.” Media studies repeatedly show that when it comes to paid advertising in traditional media, frequency and continuity are more important than the size/length of the ad or the amount you pay for it.
One of the most effective forms of advertising — word of mouth — doesn’t cost a dime, but it can seriously impact your bottom line. Research shows that unhappy customers vocally share their experiences with twice as many friends as customers who’ve had a positive consumer experience. And thanks to social media, they aren’t shy about airing their grievances online for hundreds of strangers to see. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about comments already posted online. But you may be able to prevent future negative posts by taking these important steps:
- Always listen to your customers
- If you make a mistake, fix it — with a smile.
- Strive always to provide such a high level of service, your customers have no reason to complain.
Commit your plans to paper STEP 6
Find a way to pay for it STEP 7
Prepare for the unthinkable STEP 8
Hire the right people