By Joe Bisogno
Wow, you now own a business! You’re rich and you’re happy… aren’t you?
Many business owners go into business excited and full of energy. They learn quickly that owning a business requires much more than excitement. It also requires dedication, passion, long hours, unity, support, and a little luck surely helps a bunch. And it’s vitally important that you understand that your business will have a brand. Much of what that brand says about you will be grounded in the way you’ve built your company.
So start at Square One: How do you grow the business? Hopefully you started with a business plan. Most folks say they have a plan when they start, but very few follow it or even read it after they get their business going. I call this ‘going’ vs. growing. It is a common mistake made by many owners of small to mid-size businesses who are working in the business as opposed to working on the business.
All businesses should have a well thought-out plan, such as operations, marketing, human resources and accounting, but there are many more areas, some specific to what you do, that are needed to build your business.
How are you going to get your business growing if you don’t know where you are going? Your business plan is your map. It is OK to change direction when it is needed, but all areas of the plan need to change as well. If not, your ‘going,’ not growing, your business.
To answer the bigger question, I want to talk about your brand, and the role of marketing.
You should build a small marketing budget into your business plan. Most business start-ups, even long-term small business owners, do not have a marketing budget or plan. Some who do have one don’t follow it. Don’t feel bad if this sounds like you; there is hope. The question now becomes: how do you market your business without much money?
Here is a simple way to market with a limited budget and I believe it is the best way: Word-of-mouth.
Here are some simple steps to follow:
1. Do you wear your colors/logos daily? Do you let everyone you meet know what you do? If not, start now.
2. Have you joined the Chamber in your area? Consider it.
3. Do you go to meetings and share your business’ capa-
bilities? Network for free when you can.
4. Do you visit other businesses that may need your services and ask for their business? Go and ask.
5. Do you have good signage? A good Web presence? How often do you update your Web site? Update it weekly.
6. Do you visit your trade area monthly? Do you know what your trade area is? Know for sure. Today, many people leave jobs and find other positions in new areas. It is so important to let the new hires in your trade area know that you’re there and what it is that you can do for them. Visit your trade area businesses often.
7. If you don’t track your daily customers and ongoing customers, start doing it today. Existing customers are low-hanging fruit—when they are not buying from you, who are they buying from?
There are so many companies that have grown with no budget plan for radio or TV advertising. They work their trade areas and so they know everyone within it and how they can help to service them.
If you build your business, you will be able to buy radio or TV or whatever media that you need. Don’t blame your business for failing because you don’t yet have that exposure.
Growing your business is your job. It is your livelihood and your future. Don’t take it lightly; sell your wares like no one else can or will. Wear your colors proudly. Be proud of your business and enjoy the fruits of your hard work. You are the marketing arm of your
business. There is no marketing budget that can out-perform word-of-mouth advertising.
All the best. No one should tell you it’s easy!
Joe Bisogno is the founder and chairman of Mr. Goodcents Pasta and subs and the School of Franchising and Business Development.
P | 913.583.8400