Get the Word Out
No one ever said that building a business from the ground up would be easy. Yet here you are — just two steps away from realizing your dream. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
Whether you care to admit it or not, shepherding a brand-new business is no picnic in the park. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new businesses fail within the first year. To prevent yours from becoming one of them, here are some suggested steps to take:
Build an image from the get-go.
As soon as you’ve chosen a name for your company, start thinking about a logo to represent it visually — on your website, business cards, letterhead, advertising, signage, boxes, billboards, bags, receipts, etc. Be sure that your logo is both visually appealing and memorable and that it is different enough from other logos you’ve seen to set it apart. And by all means, do not settle for cheap; be willing to pay the asking price of a seasoned and professional graphic designer to create your company’s unique “look.”
Make smart choices about your media options.
Even highly successful businesses with years of experience under their belts can’t afford to advertise anywhere and everywhere. Be selective as you consider these broad categories in relation to the needs/capabilities of: Your company; your product(s); the customers you serve.
Newspapers: Large and small circulation daily newspapers, weeklies and shoppers; select only those that will actually reach your target markets most efficiently.
Magazines: More targeted and costly than newspapers; study circulation numbers and reader demographics to ensure that your choices match the markets you want to reach.
Television: Provides excellent product promotion both visually and audibly, but cost-per-customers reached can be steep.
Radio: Similar benefits as television, but less expensive; varied format/programming allow for targeted audience reach.
Direct Mail: Delivers brochures, flyers, newsletters, postcards and coupons directly into the hands of consumers; may be highly effective if the recipient takes time to read them.
Outdoor Advertising: Includes billboards, transit advertising and signs on site; must be attractive and readable as exposure time is short.
Specialty Advertising: Giveaways such as pens, pads, mugs, caps and T-shirts bearing your company name/logo; expensive, but likely to be kept and worn if they are of good quality.
Company Website: Represents the face of your business online; consider it mandatory as this is where customers in this day and age will generally go first to learn about the products/services your company provides. For maximum results, be sure that your site is both computer and mobile-friendly.
Email Marketing: Continues to be a powerful and effective tool for businesses of all sizes as it provides efficient distribution of promotions, newsletters and coupons. If you elect to use this medium, take care to continue abiding by the CAN-SPAM Act as failure to do so can result in hefty fines.
Social Media: Includes sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, which may be used to build a fan base for your firm. Be aware, however, that these sites can be real time-stealers if you find yourself responding to every comment or query. To avoid wasting time, set limits on your social media involvement and/or designate a staff member to serve 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 or exceptional service. Conversely, it can be your worst enemy if you don’t. Review sites to consider include: Google Business Profile, Amazon, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Angi.
Is advertising worth the time and price?
That depends on who you ask. An ad rep will say “Yes! You can’t succeed without it!” But a full-scale ad campaign consisting of multi-media and numerous markets can cost big bucks. If you only have enough money to cover one promotional tool, make that tool your website. Prospective customers who hear about your business, whether from friends or an ad they happen to see, will typically head to your website first to learn more.
At some point you may decide to purchase advertising space and, if so, beware of falling into the “bigger must be better” trap. Media studies show that when it comes to paid advertising in traditional media, frequency and continuity are more important than ad size 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 are likely to 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 doing so in big ways.
So make it a priority to follow these three steps:
- Listen to your customers.
- If you make a mistake, fix it — with a smile.
- Strive always to provide such a high level of service that your customers simply have no reason to complain.