I am helping out a friend who has owned this company for about 9 months. We are a production company that also specializes in graphic design, photography, portraits, modeling portfolios, business cards, fliers, circulars, and to top that off we have a warehouse adjacent to our offices that is over 6000 square feet. So, as you can see, we have our hands full. The problem is that I haven’t been selling the ads, products, or photos like I thought I would. I have resorted to going to new businesses like ourselves, but I feel even they don’t have a lot of confidence. I truly feel we have something going here, but I feel impatient as we wait for it to blossom. Are there any suggestions or contacts that you can give us? I am, like I said 21, and I see this as a perfect career move, if I can only get it off the ground.
ANSWER by Yvonne Buchanan
You have great enthusiasm. This quality provides strength to an entrepreneurial group such as yours. To capitalize on that strength, however, you need a battle plan. Your friend’s business seems to be very widely spread out. When you try to be everything to everyone, you are fighting a losing battle. Here are some first steps you should take:
1. Define what you will offer.
Can you define your core product (this is the one your business does best that has a strong market need and is profitable to do)?
2. Define who you will offer this to.
Can you define your ideal customer? You can define this customer in any number of ways: by industry type, size of business, length of time in business, etc. Who are your existing customers, and where did you find them? Are they sole proprietors? Corporate customers? Why did they purchase your friend’s services? Based on cost, relationship, quality? The answers to these questions may offer a clue as to your ideal customer.
3. Locate your market geographically.
Where is your market, geographically speaking? Do you want to serve local clients, national, global? This will determine where to do your marketing.
4. Create and marketing and sales plan based on the above.
Your next steps should be creating a marketing and sales plan directed at your target customer. When creating your marketing and sales plan, determine your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This is the “aura” you want to convey with every product or service. Make certain you provide a benefit message in your ads, PR, direct marketing, web site (if any), etc. By way of example, Lands End conveys old time values of quality, reliability and origin. McDonalds: speed and consistency. Victoria Secret: sexy, pampered. Ford: tough. Disney: family entertainment.
A typical marketing and sales plan will be one year into the future. You may want to plan 3-4 promotion cycles within a 12-month period to test and modify your efforts as needed.
5. Seek help from an informal board of advisors.
If you haven’t already done so, create and informal group of advisors — professionals in marketing and sales of your type of products and services, who would assist you in some manner (at little or no cost initially). Strive to find four to seven quality individuals who will mentor and nurture your young group.
It can be difficult at first getting your market to recognize you. When youk have completed steps 1-3 above, develop a portfolio based on your core product and targeted to your ideal customer. Use this when meeting with potential new clients. If you do not have enough items for this portfolio, consider offering these services for free orat-cost to high-profile charities in your geographic market. This will bulk up your portfolio while beginning to make a name for your business in the community.
Best wishes to you, Amanda. Let us know how it goes.
Recommended Books on Startup Businesses:
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
- Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours
- The Six-Figure Second Income: How To Start and Grow A Successful Online Business Without Quitting Your Day Job
- Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible
Yvonne 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.