If you’re in the process of getting a business venture off the ground, chances are that you are already sick of checklists. The following version can serve as a catch-all to help new owners acquire customers, take care of taxes, learn how to do targeted research, budget, create powerful content, get their elevator pitch down cold, use business cards the right way, do precise budgeting, and follow up with key clients. There’s no perfect place to begin because you might have already covered a few of these topics on your own. Even so, go through each topic and be honest with yourself about whether you’ve really done everything within reason to address its challenges.
It’s easy to forget that research is part of marketing. Too often, entrepreneurs assume that if they’re not out drumming up business, then they’re not engaged in marketing. The truth is that it’s impossible to sell anything without doing at least some research. Digging into what your potential customer looks like, wants, and can afford should be among the very first steps you take along these lines. Consider how major corporations approach sales. Before their products land on store shelves, it’s common for a large organization to spend money on demographic studies, in-depth research, focus groups, and academic reports on the state of the market.
Websites, blogs, promotional materials, and general-purpose content can always be upgraded. Unless you’re an online marketing professional with years of experience under your belt, it’s possible to add an SEO strategy to your current mix of marketing tools. Try intent SEO, a way of building key words that include not just concepts by action terms that capture a web searcher’s intention. For example, a typical SEO term for a seller of office supplies might be ‘desk organizers’, but it’s possible to rev up the power and reach of that key word by adding an intention-related word to it.
“Compare desk organizers,” “Review desk organizers,” or “buy desk organizers” are ways to fine-tune your SEO efforts and drive more viewers and potential buyers to your website. Plus, intent SEO not only drives traffic but has the potential to multiply your company’s revenue. One of the smartest ways to get started is to review a comprehensive guide on SEO Pricing called “How Much Does SEO Cost.” It will help you discover how much of your marketing budget should you expect to spend on an effective, results-oriented SEO-based campaign.
Once you master the concepts behind intent SEO, remember to create content in two general categories: evergreen and current. People who visit commercial websites like to see a mix of both. The hardware and home improvement niche are a good example. Check out some of the better sites in the segment and you’ll see blogs full of relevant, helpful articles. But upon closer inspection you’ll no doubt notice that there’s a nice mix of pieces that have been up for many months and ones that are less than two weeks old. Create a list of 10 evergreen titles and 10 current titles you would like to have on your site’s blog.
One of the biggest pitfalls new business owners face is the question of taxes. When to pay, how much to pay, whom to pay, and related questions are par for the course. Even if you outsource your entire taxation function, be clear about whether you’ll be filing quarterly or annually. Depending what kind of company you operate, it might not matter for the first year, but after that you’ll likely be constrained by government regulations based on income levels, whether you have employees, and other factors.
No matter what you make, sell, or do, it’s essential to have a 30-second, 60-second, and 2-minute version of your elevator pitch. That’s the short, verbal summary you can give to anyone who asks, on an elevator or anywhere else, “so, what do you do?” Craft the three versions carefully and time them precisely. That way, you’ll never be in a quandary about which one to use. Then, take the time to memorize them perfectly. The strange thing about memorization is that the first few recitations can sound robotic and stilted. But, after you give the pitches a few hundred times in front a mirror, they’ll sound natural, polished, and conversational.
If you do your own budgeting, use one of the low-cost apps that lets you fine-tune cash flow down to the day of the week. This is especially vital for new owners because cash can be short when sales are erratic. Monthly budget apps are excellent at many things, but some don’t let you microscopically plan for daily cash flow. Be sure the app you use has this capability.
Remember three things about business cards. Post them on as many free online sites as possible, especially ones that cater to new companies in your field. Second, be stingy when handing them out. Cards are relatively inexpensive but they’re not free. Finally, give them in person, to as many local merchants as possible. Avoid handing them to direct competitors.
Write a paragraph or two describing, in detail, what your typical customer is in your mind and who you’d like to sell to. Use ranges for things like age and other demographics. Memorize the description and add to it as needed. Create a visual image of the categories of the people who buy your goods or services. Having this information in your mind comes in handy whenever you write content or ad pieces.
Your interaction with customers doesn’t end with a sale. That’s the beginning, if you prefer to have repeat business. Use a strategy to follow up with every customer in some way, either thanking them with a short email or sending a snail-mail postcard with a hand-written note of gratitude. This type of old-fashioned marketing works well for newer, smaller companies.