Your situation is certainly not unique. In a poll of small business owners
my company conducted in September, 31 percent of them were also trying to
break into a new market in the next year. You have an advantage, however, in
that there should be significant crossover between your markets. Many SOHO
(small office/home office) users, by their very definition, are based in the
home. Following are a few ideas to capitalize on your advantage.
Referral Campaign. You mentioned that you reach your customers primarily by
word of mouth, and that you're interested in a low-cost method of reaching
more customers. The most obvious method would be a referral campaign from your
existing customers. Borrow an idea from a carpet cleaner I used once: They did
a great job, so I referred them to a friend. When they finished the job for my
friend, they sent me a hand-written thank you note with a check for $10. Did I
continue to refer them business? You bet!
Whenever you serve a client, ask for a referral. It can be as simple as
handing them two business cards, asking them to keep one, and requesting they
pass one on to someone else. You may offer an incentive at that time, or
surprise them, as my carpet cleaner did me.
Track Everything. Ask your new customers how they heard about you, what it
was that inspired them to contact you. Use this information to market to
Sig File. Bailey, from your note it appears that you either don't have a
sig file or don't use it consistently. You need a sig file! Include it on all
of your original e-mail correspondence. What's a sig file? Check out mine:
THE PR ACADEMY
Our Courses Change Lives
As you can see, a sig file is basically an electronic signature block that
includes your name (no title: that's for ego trips), your company name, your
tag line or unique selling proposition, and your preferred method of contact
(either your web site address, your e-mail, phone number, etc.). I like people
to visit my site, so I include my web site address.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP). And speaking of visiting a site, I
visited yours, and it's quite nice. I noted on your "About Us" page
that you identify what makes you different (your unique selling proposition):
"We aim to enhance the buying process by helping you find the product
that will be the best fit for you, both now and in the future." It's a
bit long for a tag line, but you could shorten it on your sig file to
something like, "Technology tailored to your needs." You get the
idea. Just make sure it tells people what's unique about your business to
differentiate it from other similar businesses.
Linking Campaign. In addition to your referral campaign and sig file with
your USP, consider a linking campaign. I did a quick reverse link search on
your site and found only three sites who'd linked to yours. Trade links with
sites whose markets are similar to yours but whose products or services are
- Take every opportunity to submit press releases on your company: sales
quotas, new customers, training, discounts, whatever you do that's news.
- Write how-to articles for business publications. No promotion, just
information with a brief bio letting your potential customers know where to
- Hang out where small business owners hang out: join the Small
Business Association or a local entrepreneurial group in your area and network
(the schmoozing kind, not the LAN kind.)
- You may want to consider some
advertising. To save your budget, limit paid advertising (banner ads, small
display ads) to target market sites (this one is a good example) and target
publications only. (A target publication is one that your potential customers
These are just a few of many low-cost and no-cost public relations and
marketing vehicles at your disposal. If you're getting 99 percent of your
sales from referrals, you've obviously got a quality package. All that remains
is letting your new market know about it.
About the PowerHomeBiz.com Guide:
Buchanan is a 20-year veteran of public relations, marketing and advertising.
She teaches public relations courses online for career changers, freelancers
and students through The PR Academy www.learnpr.com
and is co-founder of Real-World PR www.realworldpr.com
, a public relations information provider for small businesses. Real-World PR
offers public relations toolkits (manual/CD combinations) that allow small
business owners to create and maintain their own public relations programs.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the
author, not of PowerHomeBiz.com. Users should not treat the Guide's response as
legal, accounting, or professional advice as all answers are intended to be
general in nature. Such advice can only be properly given by qualified
professionals who are fully aware of a user's specific geographical areas or
circumstances, such as an attorney or accountant.