Small businesses are a growing market. They fill needs in the economy that large businesses cannot. For instance, who knew that your dog needed a plaid rain slicker? Well, an innovative small business owner, that’s who!
Small businesses are solutions to problems. Unlike the infomercial, which solves problems we didn’t really know we had to begin with, or that we will probably never ever have, (Didn’t you know you would need to slice through tin cans, or glue jewels to your jeans?) the small business takes the opportunity before it, and creates a company around it. So how do you let people know about your company? How do you get people into your store? Those are important questions, but the main question you need to ask yourself is “Are you working IN your business, or ON your business?” Here are some ideas and contacts that we hope can give your small business large popularity.
The primary driver of getting today’s small business noticed is the World Wide Web. Electronic communication — especially e-mail and instant messenger, are vital to getting the word out. If you don’t have a MySpace page, you might want to ask your computer-savvy offspring to help you out. There is a “networking” option for your MySpace page. Use it, and start making connections. Adapt your communication style to that of your potential clients. One size does NOT fit all in this society, so learn to communicate in all mediums, but especially online.
And while you are online, take a look at www.sba.gov. This is the Web site of the Small Business Association. There’s everything on the site from weekly seminar registration to information about how to do business with the government.
Then go to www.scorechapter34.org. This is the Cincinnati Chapter of “a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide.” This association is a partner with the SBA, and will be your partner as well. When you contact SCORE, you will be assigned a personal business counselor who will be there to give you unlimited, one-on-one business advice. And best part? It’s free.
Now let’s talk about who is working for you. Who is the face of your company? That might be an aspect you want to look at again. Small business means small staff, so the right people are key. They will help sell your company and give it credibility. Listen to how they answer the phone, or even how they greet the mailman. Have you read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins yet? Read it. That will help you out tremendously in this corner.
And finally, no business article would be complete without some talk of marketing. What are your ads saying, and where are you saying them? Be creative. Think outside the box. Get attention. It used to be that the side of a bus was an important place to be. But now, your ad can be the whole bus. Or it can be reading material on the back of the bathroom stall door. Not that it needs the publicity, but a very famous Swedish furniture company received a lot of talk when it placed a billboard high above a busy interstate that read, “Come check out our stool samples.” Risky, but it worked. Try being innovative. How about hosting an event? Partner with another business that holds the same demographic that you do, work together and combine client lists. Rent a space, bring vendors in to join you and have a mixer. For instance, if you are an interior designer, why not work with a real estate agent, as well as a furniture store and see what happens? Offer a service no one else can. Or at least, that no one else has thought of yet.
Yes the BeDazzler is fun, and “Mr. Microphone” was kickin’ cool at the time, but they were fads. You want your small business to live a life longer than your Chia Pet. So go get to work ON your business, and in the words of Madonna, “Express yourself.”
Go get ‘em girls!!
Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography