Recently my wife Lori and I ventured to a fall festival in our home town followed by another one in upstate New York. While both days produced a steady rain drizzle it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits visiting venues full of arts and crafts, music, and of course plenty of food.
The two occasions gave us time to observe and talk with many of the vendors, crafts and small business people about their products and services, and admire their tenacity and courage in making a go of it in what appears to be a very competitive market for their services. I was especially interested in knowing how their businesses were doing.
Most of the vendors were selling paintings, soaps or vintage clothing, but unfortunately they did very little advertising or promoting of their products. Some had business cards but you usually had to ask for them. One vendor who sold bakery products didn’t even have a sign advertising who they are. My wife and I thought what a shame, people who love their pastries won’t know where to find them!
This experience reinforced in me the importance of marketing and branding your products and services. When I first struck out on my own after working for other companies I knew I had to get the word out regarding my coaching practice. Even though putting up a website was a first step I instinctively knew (and later corroborated by others) this alone was not going to drive business my way.
Even if You Start Small It's Getting the Word Out
As I continue to talk with other business people and private practitioners, whether they sell insurance, provide legal services, design websites or provide coaching services the common challenge is how to attract business. And to attract business, whether its customers, vendors, or business partners you need to think big. In other words, think beyond the small town or community in which you work or provide a service. Here’s a few tips that helped me:
Join your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or other civic group in your area, city or community. The key here is not to expect that the members of these organizations will be your next customer or client, but it’s who they know that’s important.
Join professional associations such as the American Marketing Association or the Project Management Institute to meet like-minded professionals who can be terrific referral sources, as well as keep you current on trends in your profession.
Join a local networking group or two where you’ll meet small business owners and private practitioners who face similar challenges in running a business even though the nature of their business is different. Sponsored networking groups are another great venue for meeting people who can be helpful in promoting your business.
Conduct speeches, workshops or panel discussions within your community, even if on a voluntary basis, to promote yourself and your business. These are great venues to promote on your website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook and other social media. Not to mention meeting potential clients.
Most importantly, network continually. If you meet people who have a common business interest, or challenge, don’t let their business cards sit on your desk. Follow up with them, go to coffee or lunch, and do that deeper dive into their real needs, and how you can help. You’ll be amazed at how much people are willing to help you!
I only wish the crafts people at our two venues would get the word out because they had really good stuff. If you have another business tip to pass along that has helped grow your business or private practice please share it.