We get weekly inquiries from small and big business alike, asking for help with their marketing. But in my 25 years of business it was the first time the call was quite this desperate in nature. “I’m going to lose my business unless you can think of some way to save me.”
The first thing I thought of was “The Dragons Den” and all the small business people on the show who poured everything they had into their business only to hear comments like “walk away”, “stop the bleeding” and “it’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard”. Most didn’t listen to the advice. Most had no choice but to carry on with the dream as they were too far in to stop.
I remembered back to my early years in business and also the many suppliers I had that have fallen by the way, over the years. Being in business is tough and quite frankly it has never been tougher. The commoditization of products and the ease of finding comparable products and services through the internet make it a very competitive environment.
The answer is simple. You need something tangible that sets you apart and then you need to promote that difference to the marketplace. The principles of “Good to Great” ring true. You need to be passionate about the business you’re in, do it better than anyone else in your space and ensure that it is something required by your intended market… such that it provides a good economic return. In addition, most successful businesses also add diversification to the mix and provide complementary offerings that support their core service.
This particular business was geared to pre teen children’s entertainment. Their target was Mom’s with birthday parties within a ½ hour radius of their location. They had been in business for 7 years, had seen their business drop in half since the recession and as yet, had never taken a salary. I mentioned “The Dragon’s Den” and I could tell by the silence on the other end that her mind had gone there too. I decided to keep it positive. My tips were as follows:
1/Government assistance. There are government bodies that have been established for the sole purpose of counselling and providing funding for Canadian entrepreneurs. Check out what is available. I personally started my business with a $15,000 new venture loan back in 1988.
2/Groupons. There is no more immediate way to turn on the sales tap than utilizing the Groupon phenomenon to your advantage. If you have a consumer based product or service that is solid and priced well, it will bring people to your door. If you have a good product, they will come back again at full price. Most businesses can’t even handle the immediate sales volume this approach brings.
3/Your web presence. This “desperate” business had an out of date, all flash site that was not optimized for web searches or mobile devices at all. The photography was poor and the sales message was not clear. The best investment any small business can make is with their online marketing and most businesses don’t have the money to make that investment…the proverbial Catch 22.
4/ Social media. It’s here, it’s affordable and it’s feared by most over 40 but it is a super way to spread the word about your product or service, especially in consumer markets.
5/ Traditional methods of promotion. Don’t rule out postal walk mailings, Chamber of Commerce and Business Group networking, and traditional print advertising that reaches your target market. Get your story down and go shout it on the mountain. Make an offer to entice a trial run. But don’t sell price as your long term, unique selling proposition…as today there will always be someone cheaper. Make sure you are adding something to the mix that sets you apart. If you don’t have it, find it. If you can’t find it, make it up…and stand behind it like it matters most.
Lee’s Quote for the Day
“I feel sorry for entrepreneurs who see their business fail but even sorrier for those with a great idea who were afraid to give it a try. Sure you could lose everything, but at least half of us will eventually get divorced… so that’s going to happen anyway.”
We’ve grown and are at the point
that we need to add more structure and streamline our processes. We provide a great service but I believe we can reach higher.
We’ve hired a champion whose expertise is project management and we are starting down the road once more, to elevate
the performance of our company.
What I’ve learned from past experience will help us on this journey. For anyone else looking at this, here are 5 common sense tips as a reboot for you… and myself:
Lee’s quote for the day
“We can always improve and turn disappointment into opportunity. A healthy first step is consciously flipping that internal switch from ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I Can, I Will and I Must’. More importantly, down the road when the circuit breaks (and it will), flip it on again and again and again…”