What do you do when the job you’re in “disappears” before your eyes, and leaves you without a paycheck? Like many people, I understand that feeling all too well.
And like many people, I took my entrepreneur spirit, and started my own business with very little capital.
One thing that makes a company stronger is when you have to look for ways to make it survive. When you don’t have money to spend on advertising, you look carefully for ways that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. And I only chose those activities that allowed me to see immediate results.
Looking back, I can attribute my success to the following five strategies.
1. Start with what you have. Everyone has contacts. Whether its family and friends, business associates, or networking affiliates, create a file listing contact information for everyone you know. Then generate a personalized letter and talk about your online services. Ask them to visit you online. Provide a motivator to ensure their visit. People can’t promote you if they don’t know what you do. So tell them! Mail it to everyone on your list.
2. Starting with a “friendly” list is a great way to get started. But don’t stop there. Next, figure out what industries your customers are in. Who is your target prospect? Continue to build your list by including people and companies in your target industries.
One of the best ways to build a list is to head to your local library (many libraries now have research tools online so you can do your research from your home or office), and ask for various business directories. Your librarian can be an invaluable resource at this point in time. There are many different directories, databases and research tools. One of my favorite databases is Reference USA. It has listings of over 12 million U.S. businesses, 120 million households, and 650,000 physicians and dentists. You can sort by many different characteristics, including company size, state, and SIC codes.
I’m a heavy believer in direct mail because it works. I’ve had incredible results sending out personalized letters, and asking people to respond. I’ve included response cards with my letters, and have asked people to visit my site for a free report. I’ve had luck with both techniques. But the key is to get people to take action. A letter is nice, but if they don’t contact your immediately, they will soon forget you.
3. When you get people to your site, again the key is to take action. A website should have enough information to entice a viewer to want more information. Once you’ve established that connection, motivate them to provide you with their contact information in exchange for an item of value. A free report or a subscription to an ezine are logical choices. Once you have their contact information, you now have the ability to contact them again and again. And sell them on your business and your services with every contact.
4. Driving traffic to your site becomes the next area of focus. Your lists provide you with initial contacts. But with the Internet, finding those same people all over the world becomes necessary to grow your business. Begin building up your name as the authority within your field or industry.
Get your personal name out there – not just your business name. Write articles for other websites and ezines with complimentary target markets. Become a guest moderator on forums. Become a columnist for a trade publication. Look for opportunities to build up your credibility.
The ultimate goal is to provide quality information to people in your target market. And to have the ability to provide your contact information, and ultimately a link back to your site, in places all over the Internet. Trust is built when people see our name again and again. Connecting with other like-minded entrepreneurs and businesses is a sure fire way of getting known.
5. No matter how hard you work, there will always be just 24 hours in a day. As your days become busier, learning to leverage other people’s time and effort becomes mandatory to facilitate growth. Most small business people try to do too many things on their own. Instead, ask others for help in their areas of expertise. Areas that I have found useful to ask for help are:
Hire virtual assistants to keep up with daily operations. They learn your business from the inside out, and can fill in for you at a moments notice. Hire professionals to do the tasks that keep you from what you do best. Hire a data entry company to input your daily transactions. Hire an accountant to do your taxes and provide you with accounting advice. Hire lawyers to help you write contracts.
Hire coaches to help keep you on track. Business coaches can do wonders for helping you grow your business with strong business strategies. And life coaches can help you sustain balance within your busy life. Hire help on an as needed basis. I love marketing and PR, and I must admit a great deal of my time is spent performing these two functions. But I’m also aware I can move quicker if I ask for help occasionally. Don’t be afraid to ask for help even if it is in your area of expertise, or you enjoy performing the work. Hire copywriters to make your letters, brochures and marketing tools as effective as possible. Hire a PR firm to cover a different target area. Hire an Internet marketing company to help optimize your website.
Each of these techniques will provide you with a healthy start to growing your online business. And as you work each one, remember you can always continue to add to each technique in the future. Performing the same task in different ways will only provide you with more people directed towards your business.