A few months ago I had a Skype call with a long time friend who was looking for ways to improve his business. He reached out to Business Online Business after learning that we offer free business advice on how you can start or boost your business through some pretty amazing and innovative ways that are simply out of the box, and yet simple. I shared a few personal experiences of how I overcame a similar hurdle some years ago. Let me backtrack a little to the time I discovered this method.
It was in 2002, I was the owner of a small computer sales business in my home town and business was extremely tough. I would be ecstatic if I sold two computers in a month. Despite the poor sales, I loved what I did. It would be through excruciating hard work and a lot of prayers that I would make it through every month, this was my reality for three years. I just couldn’t get consistent sales every month and I couldn’t get my small – one man business to the next level. Posting ads and distributing flyers was not working too well!
Some time in June 2002 I failed to pay my power bill and had to sit in the dark for a week. This was one hell of a blessing in disguise because not only able to unplug myself from the digital jungle, but it also gave me time to think without any interruptions. It was during this week that I had time to scrutinize my business entirely. I knew one thing for sure, I had to change something because I didn’t want to experience this again.
With a candle lit at my desk I wrote down the following:
– Who is your target market?
– How can you reach your target market EFFECTIVELY?
– What are the habits of your target market?
– When you have enquiries that don’t turn into sales, what do you do with their contact details?
– What is your weekly marketing and advertising budget?
– What services/products can you afford to give away for free?
As I asked myself these questions, it dawned on me that I really had been working in the dark and wasting a lot of resources.
My first step was to put some money together and hire someone to build me a professional website and create a professional e-mail address (the e-mail I had been using since high school was not appropriate and made me look unprofessional). The next step was a logo for my business. This helped my business look professional and attractive enough get the attention of my target market.
Once set up, I went on place ads in the local papers and at shopping centers in my area. Unlike before, this time I advertised free computer related assistance over the phone. My girlfriend was skeptical at first as she didn’t understand how giving away free things would help me earn money. On top of that I had already spent $570 on improving my business. Nonetheless, I went ahead because my new strategy was not to primarily make money, but to create relationships within the community and build trust so I would be everyone’s go to guy for computer services.
That very next day once my ads were were published, I began getting calls from people who needed help with the most simple tasks. As the help needed was over the phone, I was happy to assist at no cost and using my bluetooth headset, I could assist a caller while repairing another computer. One call led to another and within a week I was getting about 20 calls a day.
After a week people began to call me back and if they couldn’t do the work themselves, they would book me for actual jobs. On my second week I was booked from 9am to 6pm every day. After four months it only made sense to get an assistant as I couldn’t multitask any longer, the calls and the job were a bit too much for me to handle simultaneously. I then started encouraging people to send me their questions via e-mail. This in turn helped me build an email database that I would email offers and promotions to every now and then. I had a personal relationship with them all so I almost never got unsubscribe requests. Business was coming in from all angles, returning customers also known as repeat business, phone calls, emails and most importantly referrals. A few businesses put my small business on retainer so this meant I had fixed recurring fixed income too. With time the business grew, the days of power cuts were behind me.
My friend went on to try a similar approach. It worked for him and his fleet of mobile massage services in Atlanta. My advice to other small business owners is, take time to learn about your business, the market you should be targeting and the best methods to connect with your market. An ad or a flyer with no context no longer does it. Build relationships that encourage repeat business and take your business online seriously if you want to be taken seriously.
Your first interaction with a potential customer should consist of 20% information about you and your business. The remaining 80% should be about what you can do for that customer, what value your product or service will bring and lastly, how it will get your customer to the next level.
If you would like access to my collection of motivation, business planning and managing a home based online business ebooks, click here. You can also tell me about your business needs and obstacles and I’ll share my thoughts with you.