Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Promote, promote

     Free daily tips, information, advice and ideas
     to help you better manage your small business.

     Small business should never be static. Either you're growing or you're in danger of falling behind. Treading water is not a good option.

     The business environment, like the weather, is always changing. What worked last year might not work as well this year. Keep your ear to the ground and try new things. 

     Example: Dale is trained and certified in acupuncture. He set up a place and has a growing list of clients. To grow more, he set aside a large room where several people can lie down, relax in a communal setting. These are short, inexpensive, stress-reducing sessions. It's quiet and no electronics of any kind are allowed. Individuals pay $20 for a short session. To attract more attention, Dale offers discounts to those who bring along a friend. He posts pictures on Facebook and short explanations on LinkedIn. Many of his clients are corporate types looking to relieve the stresses of their work. They spread the word and more referrals come in. Best of all, it's working to bring in more private clients with problems that require longer sessions.

     Example: Cheryl runs a fitness center. She tried joining several networking groups with limited results. She knew she could do better. She went on MeetUp.com and formed her own networking group for people looking to lose weight, get in better shape, and deal with post-surgery problems. Her monthly sessions have become a popular community gathering. Regulars look forward to interacting with others, and they bring new attendees. Cheryl spreads the word on Facebook, LinkedIn and MeetUp. The result has been a great deal of publicity for her fitness center, and she has signed up additional private clients.

     Example: Vicky runs a small neighborhood restaurant. She serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. She knows that her reputation is spreading because new people are showing up. To speed up the process, Vicky had coupons printed offering one dollar off any meal. These are printed to suggest the size and color of real money. (You cannot print a dollar bill unless you want a visit from the Treasury people.) Vicky hands out these coupons every time someone pays their bill, encouraging everyone to take a couple extra to hand out to friends. Her regulars gladly promote Vicky's restaurant. One dollar coupons work much better than percentage off coupons.

     Inexpensive promotional ideas are everywhere. Try something and build on it. Notice that these examples cost the business owner little to put in place. But the results are real. 

     Promoting your business is an on-going activity. And promoting can take many forms. I frequently write about promotions that any small business can use--see previous write-ups. 

Starting up

     Free daily tips, information, advice and ideas
     to help you better manage your small business.

     Hobbies and interests can point to starting up, or expanding, a small business. It's a matter of figuring out who you are and then targeting the marketplace.

     Example: As he was growing up, Bill worked in his father's auto repair shop. When his father retired, Bill took over the shop. But Bill's interests extended beyond replacing alternators and exhaust pipes. He began taking on collision repair jobs, establishing a body and paint shop on the grounds next to the repair shop. This got Bill into a much bigger market. Gradually, he grew even more by taking on restoration jobs--returning an aging muscle car built in the 1970s to its former glory. Today, Bill still handles repairs and collision work, but muscle car restorations are the main thrust of the business. This market extends far and wide--well beyond the area where his business is located.

     Example: Dawn loved jigsaw puzzles and board games, and she hated her corporate job. She had collected hundreds of these over the years, and her husband encouraged her to open a small shop. They found a place on a side street in an up-and-coming town and rented it. He built shelves and the two of them painted the place. They found a large farm table, fitted it with a glass top, and surrounded it with chairs from thrift shops. Dawn searched yard sales for more jigsaw puzzles, board games, and video games. Soon the shop was filled with things that attracted customers. Two nights each week, Dawn convenes a community event around the big table--generating interest and bringing in referrals. She generates more interest using social media and by selling on eBay. It's taken some time, but Dawn now equals her paycheck at her former corporate job--and she is happy running her own operation. 

     Example: Bob was a CPA working in the tax department of a large company. He often wondered how he came to be stuck in his position. His interests were in gardening--in his spare time, he raised many vegetables in the big yard behind the family's home. He decided to make a change--with a transitioning time. He built raised beds in the yard, covering them with plastic, and planting several types of lettuce. When the lettuce was ready, Bob gathered several bundles and went calling on local restaurants to see if there was interest in farm-fresh, organically-raised greens. What he found surprised him--every bundle was sold in an hour or so. Bob came home with more orders in hand. He is now in the process of expanding his raised beds to cover the back yard, and he is looking forward to the day when he can do what he loves and leave the company job behind.

     Many people in corporate America have exchanged their hearts and souls for a regular paycheck doing something they don't like to do. Many are also discovering the joys of being their own boss by setting up a small business. 

     Making the transition is not easy, but it is possible. Working hard in your own business is much more satisfying than working hard for someone else. 

     Do a personal inventory. What interest of yours can form the basis for a small business? Remember, if you're interested, others are as well--and they are your target market. 

     Keep in mind that several giants in computing technology never finished college and they started out tinkering in their garage. Your interests might not revolutionize technology, but a small business can support you and your family, and it might grow into something larger.