When starting a business, be it a PR agency, web design firm, or boutique, the key to success is attracting and retaining customers. However, a lot of first-time entrepreneurs get stuck at the “how” part. In this two part series, you will find the top ten tips to help promoting your small business without breaking the bank. Let’s start with my top five.
- Establish a digital presence – If your target market would be likely to use the internet, participate in online groups/message boards/forums, have some semblance of a social media presence, etc., then you should be there too! Set up a legitimate web site on a domain that YOU own, even if it’s just a landing page with your contact information. If you use no other social networking sites, establish a Facebook page and Twitter handle to post resourceful content that’s related to your business or industry. If you have the time, also consider blogging, but that’s only if you can carve out time to maintain it with rather frequent posts.
- Network, network, network – Identify allies within your contacts that you can tap for referrals. Although it may seem awkward as first, learn to ask both existing customers and acquaintances for referrals. They are usually happy to do so. Be sure to contact non-profit organizations, schools, and other businesses who have patrons that may benefit from your services. For example, if you own a dry cleaning business, it’s probably a good idea to get to know the local bridal salon down the street. This principle can be applied to dozens of industries. Also find out what federal, state and local government programs are in existence to assist your business. You’ll find that most offer free business consulting and some may be able to recommend prospective clients.
- Position yourself as an expert in your field – If you’re going into business, you’ve clearly acquired an abundance of knowledge. Put your skills to work by writing an article or white paper that demonstrates expertise in your field. Offer to be a speaker on panels through professional organizations, libraries and online forums that often need speakers and moderators. You’ll expose your business to dozens of potential clients and build your database of new leads.
- Form partnerships - As crazy as it may seem, aligning yourself with others who are doing the same type of work as you is a smart tactic. Let them know you’re available to handle their overloads. You should also discuss co-branding opportunities. Also identify groups and individuals that are making an impact in areas that you’d like to see your company make inroads within. Inquire about ways that you can work together to lay the foundation for a long-term strategic partnership.
- Join 1 to 2 professional organizations – Research national and local organizations that are highly respected in your industry that will give you access to development opportunities and contacts. To get the most out of your affiliation, look into becoming active on the local level. You should also look into the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and civic associations that your business should be affiliated with.
Although you’ll have your hands full with these five tips for a few months, part two will give you even more helpful hints. Check back soon!
-Monique Myles Carswell
A seasoned industry professional, Monique Myles Carswell is currently the head of marketing at Black Enterprise, a business, news and career centric resource for African Americans. Prior to that, she honed her skills shaping campaigns for CosmoGIRL! Magazine and Keen Management Group. She also advises others in the art of brand management through her agency Myles Ahead Consulting, LLC. A founding member of the New York Urban League Young Professionals, the current Leadership Council Director for the WorldofMoney.org, a non-profit that teaches financial literacy to underserved youth, and as the former youth advisor for the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the NAACP, Monique is committed to giving back. She has addressed many audiences, from Princeton to Rutgers University, and has been featured in The New York Amsterdam News and on C-SPAN. When not wearing her brand champion and humanitarian hats, Monique runs a relationship blog with her husband, YoungBlackandMarried.com and a production company, Red Ladder Events. You can follow her daily musings on Twitter @moniquecarswell.