You start a business to sell a product or offer a service to someone at some place: You are confident in your product, you have a strong belief in the existence of the market and you have had some traction but, the sales are not exactly anywhere near your projections.
This is not the time to start doubting and second-guessing yourself: The storyline is the same with every new business.
You want customers? You have to hunt them down. It's not enough that you took the long walk from an idea to a product or a service – You need to put that product or service in front of potential buyers. How do you do that? Marketing.
A mistake you can easily make early on, as a business owner, is to neglect having a proper marketing strategy for your business. Don't wait for customers to come to you. Instead, do whatever you can to identify and introduce them to your business.
In this post, I am going to discuss some simple but, effective strategies you can use to market your business.
Do Things That Don't Scale
This one is from YC Combinator's Paul Graham. Though his advice is directed at early stage startup founders, I believe a small business owner can benefit from it as well. In the famous blog post titled as above, he argues that businesses do not magically take off – they take off because the owners make them take off.
You may have to recruit customers manually. For example, If you are a home business owner that bakes and sells birthday cakes, one thing you can do to score early clients is to ask your family and friends about their friends and families that will be celebrating birthdays soon. You can then reach out directly and introduce your products using pictures or, even consider giving out a free sample. Do this for the first 10-100 customers and the others will come organically.
And, in doing so, don't forget to ensure that they have a great experience the first time because, you may not get a second chance.
Have an Online Presence
I can not emphasise the importance of this enough. In today's world, a lot of us spend the better part of our days online. That's a wonderful opportunity for business owners to easily reach new and existing customers. There are two free ways you can do that:
Create a Website for Your Business
There are free website builders you can use to create one for your business – one of which is Wix. It is easy for beginners to get started with and you can have a presentable website in a matter of minutes using one of their readily available templates.
Wordpress is another alternative.
Business Accounts on Social Networks
You should create pages for your business on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Linkedin. The default instinct would be to have a presence in all of them but that might not be the best strategy. Instagram is not the best platform to market a consultancy service; Linkedin might be a better choice.
So, before you decide on which platforms to be on, take the time to understand which one better fits your kind of business.
Create a Referral Program
A very effective marketing strategy by small businesses is the referral program. It's amazing how people are willing to go over and above to share the news of your business with their friends and family for a little incentive.
Say, you are a freelancer that creates landing pages for your business. You could tell people that you are willing to let up 10% of a completed project that they get to you.
Create an Email Newsletter
As a founder, it is very important for you to maintain a relationship with your customers. Neglecting that will have you miss out on getting a direct feedback on your product or service on how you can better improve or even the ability to turn first-time clients into returning customers. There are many ways to stay in touch with your customers and one of them is email newsletter.
For this you can use Mailchimp or Zoho Campaigns. Search for tutorials online on how to get started with email newsletter. With newsletters you can share exciting updates about your business, ask for feedbacks, inform customers about amazing deals and many more.
Continuously Adjust Your Pricing
Great pricing is a marketing strategy and chances are you won't get it right the first time.
Pay attention to your competitors. Compare their products or services with yours and how your pricing compare. According to Jeff Bezos, customers will always one three things:
- Low prices
- Fast delivery
- Vast selection
And, he is right. It's always easier to build a business strategy around things that are stable and, take it from me, customers are never going to NOT want lower prices.
Great marketing is not about branding or cool content on social media – It is about genuine care. As a business owner, you have to care about customers getting value for what they are paying for. You have to care about solving problems.
Be authentic with your messaging. Humans are very good at detecting inauthenticity.