Starting a business isn't the easiest thing most people do. Forget about all the passion and desire you have, at the end of the process of getting your business off the ground you're most likely going to be ready for sleep, another bottle of aspirin to replace the one (or several) you've used, and up to your eyeballs in credit card (and other) debt.
If you started a business from scratch and the above doesn't describe you now or before, count yourself lucky. As someone that places commercial business insurance policies with brand new (with new-car smell and everything) entities daily, I know the most common two questions people have a hard time answering are
1. How much revenue do you anticipate making in the next 12 months?
2. (if they're hiring people) how much will your payroll be?
Most have at least a guess, but for some, it's a tough question because they have zero idea. It's a question that business insurance applications require. I typically follow up with "how much and where are your marketing dollars allocated?"
This is also another tough question because some of it is usually based on how well things are going. Let me tell you right off the bat that when it comes to marketing and advertising, there's often an urge to spend spend spend because you want the phone ringing and/or customers walking in the door. Risist the temptation as much as you can. This bears repeating….
Resist the temptation to blindly spend on marketing without first performing small tests. Why??? Because you will quickly find out that 80% or more of your marketing dollars are totally wasted. If you spend a lot right off the bat, you won't have the results you want, plus you won't have the dollars to spend once you do figure out what works. Plus, like most good things, it takes time for marketing to work. If you're not in business long enough to reap the rewards, that's obviously a problem too.
- So the first marketing idea is to go slow and test test test small before going full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes. If you're thinking that's not much of a tip, you'll soon find out if you ignore it just how valuable it is.
- Get a Facebook Page. Not just one for yourself, but one for your business.It's a great way to promote your business at little or no cost. Yes, you can pay a pro, but you don't need to just to get it started. Facebook has tools to promote to your friends etc…
Look at General Electric or 1 Reason Insurance's Facebook page to get ideas about how you want to present yourself. In a nutshell, don't turn it into one big advertisement. Use it to educate, inform, and humor people. People don't go to Facebook to look at ads, they log in to see their friends (or at least people they know and/or have "friended"), to laugh, or see something interesting. Ads aren't usually interesting, so unless you can make ads that others think are interesting, don't do it
- Use your Facebook page to drive traffic to your website (if you have one)
- Lots of pictures and don't get too serious, and don't get too unprofessional. Think of who your target demographic is, and stay within those established norms
- Post something no less than once per week, and ideally, two or three times. You don't need to go on there everyday (you have more important things to do anyway)
- Can you make an instructional video of what you're doing. Instructional videos of your services are awesome
- Get a WordPress website. WordPress is software that started out for bloggers and is now powering a large chunk of the internet because it's relatively easy to get started with. The userbase is so expansive, that updates and add ons called plugins allow it to do just about everything you could want for your first few years in business. You may grow out of it, but there's a good chance you never will.
- As part of a WordPress site, you will want your own domain name. Buying a domain name is cheap, you can get one for under $10 and hosting is cheap to begin with too. GoDaddy and NameSilo are where I buy domain names. I think NameSilo is better from the standpoint of the price is nearly the same, but NameSilo will allow you to keep your name, address, and email hidden from the public for free. GoDaddy charges extra. You want your name hidden and especially your email because scammers use registry names/email to spam
Submit your website to Google and Bing for indexing. It's going to take time for the giants to notice, but sooner or later they will.
Get a Google Plus page.Google is the numbr one search engine and outpaces everyone else by so much, that if you totally ignored all the others and used every minute to make Google happy, your time is arguably just as well spent compared to trying to please everyone.
Then, when you post a page, or want to promote one of your clients or customers, you post similar to using Facebook. Google Plus hasn't died (yet) and I think the reason why is because many SEO experts claim it helps your SERP (search engine results page.placement). Because everyone wants great placement, many use it just for that reason. For many of my clients, if they use it (or most of the suggestions) they will be miles ahead of the competition. Ideally, when someone types in a search, you want your business not only of the first page, but near the top.
Having a Google Plus page will help you reach the top. If you're not on the first page for searches your clients are likely making, you need need need to change that. Second page in Google is nearly worthless, and third page might as well be the 422n'd page. Even the bottom of page one isn't that great, so if you're on page three, only about 2% of your potentual customers will ever know your excist, much less purchase.
It takes time to build a decent Google ranking, so plan on starting the social media aspect long before you're ready to open the doors
Start a Youtube channel. Create content based on "how-to". Obviously if you're a OB/GYN trying to build your practice, the how-to isn't about what you do, but you can discuss (in polite terms) why your clients should do some things and not do others. The idea here is to position yourself as an expert (same applies to Facebook, your website, G plus). Again, as mentioned earlier, how-to videos are almost always a hit. Make them fun and at first, you probably don't need to worry about how professional they look.
You don't have to turn the videos into a Hollywood production. Make sure they're easy to hear, and they not annoying. It's probably a good idea to find someone who is willing to ge brutally honest feedback, otherwise you could be wasting your time and maybe even hurting yourself. If you have a hard time in front of a camera, it's just a matter of shooting enough video and you won't think twice about it. Youtube videos will bring your service in front of potential cliets, and it (should be) much cheaper from a long-term ROI perspective.
Build an email list and stay in contact with your clients and or leads. Ok, admittedly, I'm a better coach than I am a player when it comes to email marketing, but I do know first hand it works and it's one of the lowest cost marketing you can do. As some in the online marketing business say, the money is in the list. So start building your list and make sure you're not spamming them. I don't mean legally, becuase you must stay within the law anyway, but I mean sending crap they don't want to read. Make sure your email has value to the reader, not the writer.