You decided to start a business: did your research, bought the necessary equipment, and set up your shop. You even prepared and distributed press materials to announce to the world that you are open for business. You wait … one day, one week, or even one month … but only trickles of customers come (for some, even none!). You expected a party, but instead, your days are spent asking yourself, “Why aren’t they coming?”
How do you pump up your business to be the moneymaker that you envisioned it to be? Here are some tips to help get your business off to a good start and getting that first customer:
1. Your ex-employer can be your first client.
A number of entrepreneurs strike out on their own after seeing untapped opportunities in their former employer’s business. Present your business to your former employer and the benefits he or she can receive in subcontracting your services. One important thing going for you is that your former employer already knows your capability. This can be a viable strategy even if you are going into an entirely different business.
2. Tap the power of strategic alliances.
Most customers demand stellar performance history and reputable client base from their vendors. You need to show proof that you have been able to deliver as expected. But like the classic case of chicken-and-egg situation, it is difficult to create a performance record when no one gives you the job. If you are a newbie in your industry, your best chance of carving a name for your business is to hook up with your competitors. Your competitors can be an excellent source of business, successful businesses get as much as 25 percent of their business from their competition. Offer to do work they can’t take or don’t want to do. Join them in large projects, to enable you to share in the pie and gain the needed exposure. When word starts spreading around about the quality of your work, getting new customers will become much easier.
3. Present your business as tempting as possible, even if it means giving out “special discounts.”
Determine your potential customers, and make them a “special offer” that they cannot resist. While your product or service is discounted, remember, some income beats no income. Note that discounting your price is not necessarily the same as under-pricing your product or services. Clarify to them that your usual price is much higher, but you are simply giving them an “introductory offer.” Your goal is simply to get the attention of your potential customers. However, be sure you can at least cover all your costs, including some value for your time. Also ask them to serve as reference for you in the future.
4. To get your feet wet, volunteer your services.
Some work beats no work, and work tends to beget more work. There’s nothing worse for your morale than having your skills lie dormant. Valued volunteer efforts can turn into paying efforts. It helps get the word out about your business. Many volunteers find their experience leads to paying contracts or orders. At the very least, volunteer efforts can be a source of experience, contacts, and references that you can leverage into their business you might not otherwise know about or be able to get.
5. If things are not working out as planned, be flexible enough to consider other alternatives of breaking into the market.
One way would be to work as temporary employee in a field related to what you’ll be doing in your business. Working for a temporary agency can provide valuable experience and excellent contacts. At the same time, it provides a flexible source of immediate income while you’re building your business.
6. Get help.
Sometimes, try as you might, there are limits as to what you can do. It is important to recognize your own limitations and weaknesses, and find ways to compensate for that. If marketing or sales is not your forte, you have to admit and accept it — and then work on it. You may want to try to acquire the skills and knowledge yourself, such as taking some courses or buying books that can give you ideas on how to do it yourself.
Another option is to bring in a partner to the business who has the skills that you lack, and let that person handle the areas where you lack expertise while you focus on your own strengths. If you do not like the idea of getting a partner on board with you in the business, hire a consultant or professional on a contractual basis to work on marketing. Or you can try to find a mentor who can guide how to do those things that the business needs.
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