Marketing. The domain of the used car and double glazing salesman? Afraid not. Marketing is the only way to get new business, and to build up a thriving, (even if small but perfectly formed) business. And as it’s so important, we’re going to go straight into the checklist of how, what and where. No humour or prattle today.
First of all, you need a business card. A business card is the ‘reminder’ of you and your services, and can help immensely if it’s done well. You can often get business cards done on the cheap, or, if you’re lucky, for free (try www.vistaprint.com). Pick a simple design, choose something sensible for your job title if you want to use one (seriously, not CEO or MD or anything overdone) and make sure that you choose a message to portray what your business does, including your phone number, email address and any other form of contact available to you. If you have to make your business card yourself, get some good quality paper/card, a good guillotine (used safely and according to the instructions of course) and use Word or Publisher to knock yourself up a card. If you’re going for the home made option, less is more every time.
You could also make some flyers/posters to hand round and to put up on noticeboards. Remember to keep the end ‘viewer’ in mind when you’re doing this – who are your normal clients? What appeals to them? How good are there eyes? (Not kidding – how are they going to read your leaflet/poster if the writing’s tiny and they are mostly older people!) When you design your marketing leaflet/poster, if you’re doing it yourself and printing it at home, go for the best you can afford, and research where you are leaving the poster/flyer to make sure that your intended clients either live, shop or visit the places you are leaving them, for example, if you were aiming for older new IT users (like me), look to leave leaflets in their clubs and even deliver them through doors in areas known to be populated by older people. The success rate of something like this is small, but it all helps, and one new customer may recommend their friends and family…and so it goes on.
Another option is to get any customers you do have to pass on your details to their friends – give them an excellent service and a good price and maybe an incentive for doing so (free computer health check or whatever you can offer), and you’ve struck gold, for virtually no money.
You can also give something away for free – what about printing some advice (a checklist on data backup for businesses maybe, or a checklist on staying safe on the Internet for home PC users?) onto a sheet of paper with your company details on? Again, make sure if you are printing things out, you make it look as professional as possible, check your spelling and grammar, check your layout and then get someone else to cast an impartial eye over it too.
Write advice, guidance and articles (I did this at Christmas), and submit them to your local newspaper, along with the details of who you are, what you do, and where you can be contacted. Eventually, if you keep trying, you’re going to hit lucky and someone will publish something you’ve written, and just because of this, you’ll get some publicity and free marketing, and hopefully some new business, or write for a forum. Offer your advice, guidance and help online through the forums, and, eventually, the exposure will pay off.
Email people – emailing is free, and, with a company domain email address, you can target businesses and possibly let them know what your services are, and even promise to call them to follow up. And then do it.
One of the things to bear in mind always is that marketing is very very very hit and miss. It can be demoralising and irritating. You need to do as much as possible, as often as possible, as professionally as possible, to generate business. And you’ll often not be quite sure what worked or why. But all the while, bear in mind that you are doing this for you, and it’ll be worth it in the end, and it’s much better than having to make someone else’s coffee, do someone else’s marketing or generally play ‘suck up’ – you’re empire building if you run your own show – and that means marketing!