Are you a small business owner with very little time to spend on your marketing? If you’re like most small business owners, you probably focus mainly at what you do best—landscape yards or install car alarms or bake damn good cupcakes. You probably don’t have a lot of time to brainstorm creative, effective ways to find your next customer.
Despite the 10,874 things that must get done everyday, you should make it a priority to carve out time for this. You should always be thinking about how you’re going to generate your short term and long term business prospects. Don’t go organize your paperclips…I promise this can be productive and fun. No need to feel overwhelmed.
Still don’t have time? Still glancing nervously around looking for something, anything better to do? Ok—let’s keep it simple.
Here are the 6 actions you need to take for your small business in the next 24 hours. These relatively simple steps will give you an immediate lift and will put you a step ahead of your local competition. Best of all? They will help customers find you instead of you actively having to find them.
1. Google Places: Have you ever typed something into Google and then wondered how all of the listings of business popped up? No, the phone company did not just defeatedly hand over their big yellow book and say, “I give up, Google. Our lists are yours!” You want your business on Google, front and center.
All you need to do is to create a Google Places account. Here’s a perfect opportunity for you to describe your business, add your location and provide your contact information. You can also upload snazzy photos of your store and links to your website (although having a website is not necessary). Google Places is the perfect place to begin your online presence. This is a must do—that’s why it’s # 1 on the list. Best of all, it’s FREE. Get started on this right now. Go to Google Places to start.
2. Set Up A Twitter Account: Quit with the eye rolling. No, you do NOT have to be under 22 to be on Twitter. It’s the website that makes instant communication happen. Like Google Places, it’s FREE. Just go to Twitter and create an account. You get 3 lines to tell the world why they need you, and then ‘follow’ anyone who is interesting to you. Write a short post: New shipment of beautiful produce from Redbarn Farm arrives today. Closeout sale on reams of copy paper today only for our Twitter fans. Want to announce that your cupcakes are hot out of the oven? Tweet it to your followers. Suddenly have a client cancel their hair appointment? Tweet a discount to the person who can come fill the time slot. Want to make a virtual connection with a local business owner or a journalist or even a movie star? Follow them and then start conversing with them. Make it short, sweet and compelling.
Twitter only allows you a certain number of characters with which to communicate anyway, so don’t let it be daunting. While it originally was cast as a social tool, a faster Facebook per se, Twitter has transformed into a very effective marketing tool. For instance, we work with photographers overseas who post quick little reports on where they’re shooting for the day, how it’s going, when photos are up on their site so you can see the end result of their day’s labor. This activity keeps movement flowing to and from their site, and best of all it’s interesting!
3. Set Up A Foursquare Campaign: Foursquare is a company that allows you to ‘check in’ to local businesses using your mobile phone. You’re thinking, “Uh, what?” Foursquare is a game of sorts, only more social. If you ‘play’, you get points for checking in to business locations (or other types of places like parks, beaches, you name it). Arrive anywhere, go to Foursquare on your mobile phone and hit ‘check in’. It takes 2 seconds, tops. It’s kinda cool—really, it is.
Why is it important for your business? It’s free advertising. When someone checks in to your coffee shop, all their friends are alerted. As a business owner, offer specials to anyone checking in to your business. For instance, Chili’s offers free chips and salsa upon check in. Payless gives you $5 off for checking in. Find your local grocery on Foursquare before you head over and get a head’s up on what’s on special. There are amazing deals to be had via Foursquare, which is good for you as a customer, and if you use this to your advantage, even better for you as a business owner. Promote new customer visits while reinforcing relationships with existing customers. Like Google Places and Twitter, this one is free to use, too, and setting up a campaign is ridiculously easy.
4. Make A List Of Your Three Best Customers: The reason you want to do this is simple. Their are 2 parts to this step. First, take a few minutes and make your mom proud: do the old-fashioned good manners thing and pen a sincere email or note thanking these customers for their business. Remember, they could go somewhere else, but they choose to come to you. A thank you in these days of hurry-hurry media is almost unheard of. It shows you PAY ATTENTION to their visits and that they matter as more than just customers. This little bit of personal care will keep them (and their good reviews of your business) coming back. A small business owner we work with in Nashville who produces custom designed, handmade children’s drapery sends home a handy purse mirror with the final order, beautifully tailored in a swatch of the customer’s drapery fabric. You don’t have to go that far, but it’s the little niceties—like a note—that will set you and your business apart.
Secondly, by understanding these customers, you can get a sense of what other good customers would be like. In fancy marketing terms, this is called creating a persona. Now that you realize who your best customers are, it’s easier to develop marketing that is better suited to that type of customer. How to talk to them, what they like and how they found you are all very important questions. Big companies pay huge sums of cash to hire focus groups to give them the information you can get for free, just by talking to your best customers. Here is more info on creating a customer persona.
5. Make A List of Three Reachable Goals: Again, don’t go getting all overwhelmed. Be realistic, open-minded and optimistic. Don’t sell yourself short. Seriously, this is easier said than done. Growth in small business is about making incremental gains. You made $170K this year. Next year you’re shooting for $210K. Your kids want to go on a Disney cruise. How do you get there? Create small, but reachable goals. If you do this on a regular basis and stick with it, you can’t help but positively evolve your business.
Here are some examples: do steps 1-4 from above. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower percentage rate. Have that uncomfortable talk with Employee X about maybe, you know, taking a shower once in a while. The list can go on. Keep is small, though. Small is manageable, and like we said above, most small business owners keep it simple to get it done. Want a small business success story? Read about Gary Vaynerchuk’s wine business.
6. Get A Sense Of Your Cash Flow: Ok – this seems hard, but break it down to its base elements. You’ve got 24 hours, so don’t dig in like an accountant, but just write out big round numbers on a sheet of paper. You can check the accuracy later. The point is to get a sense of what’s coming in verse what is going out. Cash flow is king in every business, but absolutely vital in a small business. Looking for a reason the vast majority of small businesses go out of business within 2 years? They didn’t manage cash flow. Get a sense of it. It’s your business.
Look – running a business is hard work. Even if you can only get to one of the actions above, it will make a world of difference.
Suggestions for other action steps to take? Share it below in the comments section!