Whether we are thinking about starting or have been operating a small and home business one for a period of time; we all confront the challenge of finding enough customers to support our business. All businesses are faced with burden of “spreading the word” in hope of luring the most precious of all commodities, “the customer”. It doesn’t really matter whether a business is home based or “brick and mortar”, each business owner needs to find, court and sell goods or services to “customers” in order grow and prosper.
It may appear that the typical brick and mortar business has the advantage if they are situated in a high traffic area where exposure to people who need their goods or services occurs daily. This benefit becomes evident when someone notices the business signage and visits in search of the solution to their problem; a product or service. The best case scenario in prospecting for customers occurs since traffic is walking in the door qualified lead and potential customer.
Those of us who operate a home business give up the storefront benefit in exchange for others such as low overhead, short commutes, and comfort of working from home. Obviously, this may leave the home business person somewhat “behind the eight ball” in creating and building their customer base. After pondering this dilemma for a time, the light clicks on for many of us and out pops the pencil and eraser and the process to create the customer development plan begins.
Since marketing budgets are usually limited for most home and small businesses, how does one go about starting a customer development plan and not go broke doing it?
The process first begins by considering marketing strategies that may work for our business and identifying the different, low-cost avenues available for advertising. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks and many of them may be utilized at different stages of the plan. Possible marketing and advertising options include:
· word of mouth (via warm market or other advertising);
· direct contact with warm market;
· leads purchase – cold calling;
· direct mail;
· business cards/handouts via canvasing;
· presence at area public events (social clubs, bazaars, fairs, etc.);
· hold informational/promotional event;
· print or broadcast media advertising; and
· Internet network marketing.
Each of these different methods has their strengths and weaknesses as well as optimal times to be used. Some of these approaches fit better into different types of businesses at varying stages of the marketing plan. Another key factor is the marketing and advertising budget your business has established. Remember, in the case of many home based or small businesses; money is tight and the expenditure ends up being negligible.
With so many possibilities, are there any that might be preferred for a given business?
In most instances, the first eight of the nine options listed above are typically associated with traditional network marketing and/or “brick and mortar” businesses. Additionally, a growing number of those same businesses have been moving toward Internet marketing as well.
The home based business owner typically resorts to the least expensive of the options and focuses on word of mouth advertising, warm market prospecting or those options where the expense is low. Many of them are also readily drawn to the Internet (so long as their product/service is easily shipped) due to the countless number of surfers present 24/7/365 on the “Web”. There are also a great number of free or low cost options that can be utilized to help establish a web presence including blogs, social networking sites, free website, social bookmarking sites, etc.
The thought of utilizing the internet to prospect highly qualified leads dates back over a decade for many home and small business owners. The problem has been making it happen.
Even with an audience that appears to be nearly infinite, however, most businesses still people struggle with luring customers from the “Web”. Though many people consider the Internet a viable marketing option most are not familiar with the different venues available; they’re inexperienced at creating websites; or don’t know the best approach in marketing on the Internet.
Beyond the lack of experience in creating websites, there is also a tendency for most independent entrepreneurs to be novices in driving qualified traffic to their sites once they are established. As a matter of fact, these were exactly the problems I encountered when researching internet marketing options for a product and service business during its launch. So here we are concluding that Internet marketing is likely one of our best avenues to prospect and identify future customers only to be left hanging over a cliff?
In reality the Internet never really took anything away from us. Most of the obstacles really relate to a couple of under-developed skill factors many possess:
1) Not enough knowledge to create sites and establish an internet presence and 2) Uncertainty in how to effectively market our “WWW” presence.
Is this really a problem? This is, after all, the same system that delivered us Google, Yahoo, Ask, and a whole host of other search engines.
Part of the plan should involve the obtaining the education and background needed to accomplish both the development of optimal marketing strategies and learning the technical side of establishing a web presence. A plethora of information and tools exist on the Web such as free or low-cost training websites like Renegade University or My Private Classroom for Marketers.