It all starts with a great idea. We all have them, some ideas are certainly better than others but you just don’t know how good your idea is until you try to validate it. As the saying goes, “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks”. In your mind it will stick of course, but how do you truly test the waters? This is a vital step in starting up any small business and one that should be done shortly after that initial idea pops into your head. Don’t waste your time getting business cards and opening up a checking account ~ right away that is. It’s a two-step process, first step involves a little time and a lot of effort, then the next step involves some cost and even more effort; read on to see my views on what to do first. I tend to be wordy sometimes and both of these two steps could easily be a whole book, but I will do my best to be as brief as possible and of course I will be happy to go into further detail if you leave a comment or email me.
If you ask a successful business owner if their current business was the first idea that came to them, I bet the answer would be a definite NO. Only a few entrepreneurs I bet are lucky enough to start a successful business with the first idea that came along to them. So how do you know you have a good idea or not? Validation is your answer. You need to validate that there is a need or a want for your business idea, just because it sounds good to you does not mean customers will be flocking to you for your product or service. Validation is your first step.
There are many ways to validate your idea and I would suggest you try as many as you possibly can in order to move forward to the second step. How do you validate? Quite easily actually, ask those around you, start with your family, your friends then you social media network. While I say start with friends and family you must use some caution here since friends and family will tend to tell you what you want to hear and not necessarily the honest truth. Social media venues will probably result in a more accurate survey if your idea has legs or not. Start with your current SM networks on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the like. See if anyone gets excited about the idea, does anyone ask you questions or ask you for more details? Both are signs that there may be something to work with here. Next, set up a new Twitter and/or Facebook account specifically apart from your personal accounts. See if you spark any interest now with the fact that your personal influence is not a factor in receiving your validation. If you start to receive interest from folks it’s time for the second step, promotion.
The validation step costs very little other than your time, this next step will take both time and money to do it properly. If you are ready to promote your business then you should be at a point where you are 100% certain that there is a need for your new product or service ~ it should be a “Given” at this point. Having said that sometimes it takes this second step to find out it truly is a great idea or perhaps the interest level was not what you thought it would be. Start out slowly and keep moving forward with more promotion and try every way to promote your business that you can think of. You’ve actually started promoting your business in the first step with setting up a business fan page on Facebook or a business (brand) Twitter account etc. There is no cost for this promoting technique which means it can be of an incredible value as you grow your business. The key to promotion is to always keep doing it, try different things and stick with what works for you and what works in your industry. To effectively use Social Media to promote your business you MUST MUST MUST use it on a regular basis and post relevant useful information to your potential customers. You must have value in your customer’s eyes before they consider you an expert in your field and think about purchasing your product or using your service.
While the promoting step will vary from product to product all will have common aspects that can and should be used. Business cards are always a good start, both physical cards to hand out to folks while speaking to them of your new business, or digital business cards such as your signature in your email, your profile on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. Those account profiles are your digital business card. Both physical and digital business cards should have the same information, your name, business name, logo and other relevant information, relevant to your business that is. Using the same format, color scheme and logo throughout your promotion and advertising efforts will create familiarity with your customers and help create a legitimate image for your business. OvernightPrints.Com and VistaPrints.Com are two of the numerous online resources to help you with not only business cards but other promotional products as well. I’ve used both myself and consider both of them reputable and reasonable in cost. Be creative, and if you’re not personally creative yourself, ask for help from someone who is! Your business card should stand out amongst all others who are selling the same thing or providing the same service as so many others in town. Visit your local gas station, spa, restaurant, anywhere you that go and see if they have an area where you could place a dozen or so cards, you never know who will see your card and be your next sale.
Give-A-Ways are also a neat little trick in not only breaking the ice and speaking with someone about your business, but when that person walks away with an item that has your name on it, guess who they will call when they just happen to need it, or talk to someone else about your product or service! Key chains, flashlights, bottle openers, mugs and of course pens. All inexpensive enough to give away and leave a lasting impression of you and your business. These items are not just for trade shows exclusively, but you can hand them out to folks you meet at restaurants, or picking up your dry cleaning etc. I once walked into a supply store to pick up a plumbing part, dropped off a few items and business cards and a week later had a sale due to that! NationalPen.Com or Quality-Resource.Com are two examples of great companies that I have used (and still do to this day) that can help you out with promotional items and also happen to have great customer service. Quality Resource Group actually can help you with everything that I am writing about today as not only do they have great promotional items and clothing, but they are a print shop as well! Give Jean a call over at Quality Resource Group at 262-754-2046; she has a great business sense and knows what works and what doesn’t work.
Clothing is another great way to promote your business. As you go about your normally daily routine, wear a t-shirt that advertises your product or service. You could be gassing up your car and advertising at the same exact time to the guy or gal next to you gassing up his or her car! Now give a few of those shirts out to family, friends or your first few customers and you now just multiplied your advertising efforts with ease! A company that I have used myself for clothing is Brew City Promotions, a great place to get some great quality merchandise while being priced reasonably. Give Jamie or George a call at 1-800-291-1144.
Lastly, promotional items don’t stop when you make the sale, they continue on. For instance, I have a client that sells some common items both locally and over the internet. When they were speaking about the lack of repeat customers I asked what measures were they taking to have the customer call them back? Do you offer them a discount on their next purchase? Do you leave them with anything such as a freebie Give-A-Way item or at the very least a sticker that reminds them where they received the product in the first place. Other than offering a discount on their next purchase you need to have mechanics in place for repeat business. Set yourself up for success; don’t simply rely on repeat customers as a given, you need to continue to promote your business all the time to past customers and potential customers equally.
Stickers are a great way to remind your customers where they received a product. If you sell something in a box or bag, put a sticker on it! Come up with some clever wording such as “Reorder from” or call us back when you need more ……. Ok, hopefully you are more clever than I am, remember I’m a bookkeeper not a wordsmith! Just think if that customer has that box of your product in the garage, or at the office, not only do you continue to promote your product to them, but to everyone else that sees it too! People will feel that if it’s good enough for that person it’s good enough for themselves – it’s like having an automatic testimonial of your product by a previous customer! Just one example of how stickers can be used, there are many others. Check out one of my quality business resources at OvernightStickers.com – fast, reliable and have great quality in all their products. Browse their website, and all of the websites mentioned in this post for numerous ways to effectively promote your business inexpensively.
Lastly, if you drive around town a lot and want to promote your product, what about a magnetic sign or two for your vehicle? Low cost advertising reaching a huge number of potential customers every time to drive your vehicle. Contact my buddy Nick over at www.MilWeb1.com for some great items including all types of signs, vinyl banners and magnetic signs for your car! Nick’s number is 414-979-5436
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