How to Market Your Business

Marketing yourself and your business can be the key to your success. Whether you’re developing a new relationship with a potential customer or speaking about your business to a friend, you’ve got something great to offer. Your business won’t sell itself; so you need to let others know how your business works and how they can benefit.

1. Develop relationships

Developing a personal connection with people can help you build relationships that will be the foundation of your business. When you develop a connection, you’re establishing trust with the other person — your customers.

One way you can begin to develop a relationship is by initiating casual conversations with the people around you and really listening to them. Developing and strengthening relationships is less about talking than it is about listening. Understanding someone’s needs will help you determine how you can best serve them through your business.

By listening, you learn what others want and need – and how they like to be treated. It shows that you are genuinely interested in others’ lives, and not just focusing on your own. In conversations, listen to learn about others’ personalities, their interests – and what they consider important.

By asking questions and listening to people’s responses, you’ll know what you can offer them that will be most appreciated. Begin with people you already know – your family and friends. Think about what you can offer them through your new business.

Once you understand potential customers’ wants and needs, you’ll be able to determine how you can help them. Be open to and interested in other people; give them an opportunity to ask about you; and then explain your business in terms of how you can provide services that will help them.

Once you’ve developed a connection, you’ll feel more comfortable about asking people to give your business a try.

Ask questions to gather this information. As you’re talking, you’ll naturally be thinking, “Do I have any product or service that this person needs? How can my business benefit them?”

Always take your conversations to the next logical place. Offer people a complimentary product or service. You don’t need to be “pushy.” You do, however, want to be persuasive enough to get to a commitment to go to the next step.

2. Create your prospect list

Spreading the word about your new business – and getting customers right from the start – is the best way to set your business on the road to success.

The most logical place to start marketing your business is by contacting people you already know well: family and friends.

Begin by making a list of these people – and then go on and list every person you can think of who plays a role in your life, including relatives; friends; colleagues; acquaintances; people you know from groups you belong to or volunteer with; other parents in your children’s school, etc.

Everyone you know is a prospect – and provides you an opportunity to develop a relationship that can lead to expanding your business. Try to come up with at least 50 names. These will be your first customers.

3. Tell everyone about your new business

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to spread the word about your business. When you meet friends, acquaintances, co-workers — anyone with whom you come into contact — mention your business.

4. Distribute your business cards and marketing materials

  • Keep a stack of business cards in your pocket, bag or car ready to hand out whenever you find an opportunity!
  • Distribute your flyers and brochures everywhere you think you might find potential customers.
  • Look for community bulletin boards or kiosks.
  • Take your flyers to work, family gatherings, etc.
  • Post flyers in the teacher’s lounge at schools, in the lunchroom at work, or on large bulletin boards in apartment buildings or community areas.
  • Leave brochures and flyers with local businesses such as drycleaners and convenience stores.

5. Ask for referrals

We all have a tendency to believe what our friends and acquaintances have to say. If an acquaintance, colleague, friend or family member refers us to someone that they trust, our instinct is to trust that person too. So with referrals from your existing customers, you have a solid foundation to build upon!

Referrals don’t happen automatically though—you’ve got to continuously ask for them. Unfortunately, people are more likely to talk about a negative experience rather than positive ones. So, we need to ASK for referrals, however uncomfortable it might make us feel—simply because it doesn’t occur to people to share this type of information.

Make asking for referrals a habit.

  • Realtors do this very successfully—in all of their follow-up communication and literature, you will often see “Tell a friend” type of referral requests
  • Most customers are more than happy to tell others about your services if you provide outstanding service and work to develop relationships
  • In all of your correspondence (email/mail), include a simple sentence at the bottom letting them know that you appreciate their referrals

Make it easy for your customers to tell others – here are a few ideas:

  • Send a “thank-you for your business” email and mention that you’d appreciate them referring your service by simply forwarding your email to friends that they think might be interested. (Make sure the email doesn’t contain anything private that they wouldn’t want to forward and that it has all of your contact information—name, phone, email and website address.)
  • Send a thank you card by mail requesting them to tell some of their friends—include a few of your business cards.
  • Ask permission to mention them in a flyer that you would like to send to their neighbors (another commonly used Realtor trick) or for that matter, residents of the county you live in (perhaps to send in a direct mail flyer). Tell them what your note will say and that you’d be glad to pass it by them first for approval. Please make sure that your customer is fine with this type of correspondence—you don’t want to overstep your customers’ privacy boundaries. Try to get positive confirmation via email or snail-mail so that you have it in your files for safekeeping—always a good idea. One way to do this is to tell them you’ll send the exact written correspondence to them via email (or mail) to okay first. Their “okay” reply is all you need for your files.
  • If you have any business customers—try to get them to give you a written testimonial that you can then use on flyers to distribute to other businesses.

6. Provide an incentive for your customer to refer you as a thank you

While most customers are happy to help you by referring you to others, it never hurts to provide an incentive. Of course, you should always say thank you! Providing an incentive DOESN’T mean discounting the price of your products or services. That can actually backfire – by undermining its perceived value. In any event, it’s much more powerful to send a small token of appreciation with a personal touch, which helps to build your relationship.

Here are some incentive ideas:

  • At the bottom of your email or communication, put in a P.S. If you liked my product/service, I would really appreciate your referring them to me! (By the way, studies show that the P.S. is the one area that everyone reads, even if they don’t read the rest of the piece.)
  • If the referred customer ends up becoming a profitable customer (your determination), treat your customer to his or her next cup of coffee at Starbucks, a movie rental or a gift card. Gift cards are easy to order online, and everybody likes getting them! Again, it’s just a small token of appreciation that reinforces your name and personalized service to your satisfied customer once again.
  • Even if you decide not to include a small gift, make sure you follow-up with a sincere thank you!
  • Keep track of how you’re doing with referrals. Remember, you can and should ask more than once!

Tips

  • When you give someone your business card, always remember to get the person’s name and phone number so you can follow-up.
  • Be sure that your name and phone number are clearly marked on all your materials, so that potential customers can contact you easily.
  • After you offer to give prospective customers a free visit, schedule a day and time to follow up with them or schedule a pick-up appointment

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