This question comes up a lot and I'm always surprised by the "words of wisdom" seasoned entrepreneurs give. Things like "make a website," "get your business license," "buy this software," "read this book," "write a business plan" or "open a business bank account."
This is great advice if (1) time is not of essence and (2) money is no object. Don't get me wrong, those answers are correct. But I find they often miss the point by adding unnecessary burdens like anxiety and expenses to someone who's just starting off. Most people I speak with don't have the luxury of time or money. They want to get their business up and running quickly and start attracting clients so they can start making money to care for their families.
If you fit the latter description, don't despair. I've come up with 7 steps to help you get up and running in no time.
Specify what you do. This is probably THE most important step. You can't start marketing yourself without being absolutely clear on what services you offer. Split your list in two -- services you DO offer and services you DON'T offer. Keep this list handy; you'll find as time goes on, this list will narrow down to what you really love doing and everything else. This first step will help you define your specialty.
Determine who do you it for. You'll often hear people (especially coaches) say you "must" choose a target market, or niche, if you want to succeed in business. It's true that narrowly defining a target market IS important. But when you're starting off, you can't know who you like doing business with until you've had a few contracts. Start the process by listing the types of people or companies you like to work with. Remember, you want to be more specific than saying something general like "stay at home moms," "small business owners," "lawyers" or "baby boomers." This second step will get you closer to identifying your target market.
Decide on your fee. Just because you're starting up a business doesn't mean you have to low-ball your fees. Base your decision on these 3 factors: (1) What is your competition charging? (2) How much are your potential clients willing to pay? and (3) Can you have financial freedom asking for this fee? Your decision may be mostly based on intuition or experience. Remember to ask for what you think you're worth and don't accept anything less.
Get business cards. And I don't mean cards printed on your friend's "really good printer." These days, you can get professionally printed business cards for cheap. Don't worry if you haven't yet chosen a company name; just use your name to start with. Once you've decided on a company name, a logo and have started getting clients, you can order more cards.
Design your 30-second intro. You must be able to answer the "So, what do you do?" question in 30 seconds or less. Remember, your audience is tuned in to the WIIFM channel ("What's in it for me?"). If something in your pitch doesn't pass the "so what?" test, it's best to leave it out (like "Hello, my name is Cristina Favreau and I'm a Certified Coach." Really! Who cares?). Make it compelling. Talk about the benefits of doing business with you. Identify what makes you different from your competition. Get help to brainstorming ideas. Practice it, until it comes naturally to you.
Network. Once you've complete these 5 steps, you need to get out there and start networking. It'll be difficult and scary at first, especially if your pipeline is empty, but the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more your pipeline fills up with contacts. Great places to start are local chambers and business networking groups. You may also want to join a few online groups where the people you identified in step 2 hang out.
Market your business each day. Marketing is telling people what you do over and over again. You have a limited budget, so stick to inexpensive strategies: give a referral, give away a free report, write a newsletter and blog, offer a free introductory session, give a presentation at your local networking venue or anything else you can think of that will get people to start seeing you as an expert in your field, even if you're just starting off.
The trick to these 7 steps is to keep it simple. Just because you have limited cash flow doesn't mean you can't be successful. Your strategies at the beginning should be to get your name out there and to get clients.
Obviously, these 7 steps are not the end-all-be-all of starting a business. There's still more to do. But going through these steps will give you a solid foundation to build on. In a following article, I'll share with you the next steps to take, once you have these ones in place.
Cristina Favreau is Mom to 2 kids under 2 years old. As a Certified Coach and Get Clients Now! Licensed Facilitator, she helps service professionals make marketing & self-promotion easy to understand & implement, starting at your level. Within 3 hours, she’ll help you identify where you’re stuck in the marketing process & come up with an action plan of immediate strategies to gain momentum. Visit www.cristinafavreau.com or blog.cristinafavreau.com
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