Starting a new company is tough work. If you have navigated the legal requirements to start-up, you know what I am talking about: taxes, accounting, employment law, zoning restrictions, and the list goes on and on.
Now that you have put in all of that work, it is time to start marketing your company! Yippee! Here is the problem: being legally able to sell is not the same thing as being able to sell. Here are some tools you will want to invest in to help with gaining some early sales:
1. Brand Identity
You will be paying to market your business. Business cards, flyers, letters, and other basic required collateral all cost some amount of money, even if you are printing them “in house.”
Before you start printing anything, hire the best graphic designer or marketing firm you can afford to create a business logo and simple brand identity. Your nephew, who is a design student at the local community college, is going to be cheaper than someone who actually knows what they are doing. Even so, if you are truly boot-strapping, paying for someone with some knowledge of design is better than doing it yourself.
Even if you are planning to mow lawns for a business, you need a website. Yep, service businesses need a website. If you plan on being a “referral-based” business, know that most of your prospective customers are going to check you out online before they make the first transaction with your company. (Referral-based companies have marketing expenses, ask any owner of a highly referred business.)
Ideally, you should hire a reputable firm (ahem) to build your website. You can review my tips on finding and hiring a good web design firm to get started. Some firms, like Winding Staircase, offer payment options that enable start-ups to get going without crushing your cash flow. Always ask.
3. Business Cards
Business cards have been declared unnecessary since the mid-90s. People still use them, and you still need them. Please, do not print your cards in your office. Again:
DO NOT PRINT YOUR OWN CARDS.
The costs to print a business card are miniscule compared to the cost of running a business. The cost of making a poor first impression as you try to find your first clients, however, is huge. I use and recommend a local printer to my clients. If you ask a few established business owners, you will find a quality printer that will be both more convenient and likely cheaper than online solutions.
Many graphic designers will “throw in” a business card design when you buy your logo design work. If you can get if done for free or a low cost, a well designed business card is nice to have.
4. Company brochure
Assuming you went into business knowing what you were going to offer and why (big assumption), you must have a tool that enables others to sell for you.
Decisions are not made in a vacuum. The bigger the investment, the more likely it is the person you pitched is not the only person making the final decision. Giving a prospective customer a tool to talk through with others will have a huge impact on your business: business partners convince business partners, husbands convince wives, wives convince husbands, owners consult with mentors, and executives consult with legal. You get the idea.
I recommend you have materials specific to each major service or product you sell. Assuming you want to start simple, though, you really should have a company brochure that explains:
- who you are
- what you sell
- the value of what you sell
- why you are the best choice
- how you can be contacted
Your brochure should help convince a prospect to become a customer. As an added bonus, prospects that aren’t sold right away will have something to remind them of you later.
5. Follow-up materials
Most of the prospects you meet will choose not to buy from you. That is ok. You can decrease your missed opportunities by having an established follow-up process. This process can happen a week or two weeks after a missed sale, or it could be more appropriate to launch your follow-up campaign months after the initial contact.
The phone can be an effective method of follow-up, and I do use the phone to follow-up with prospects I felt were promising. However, you probably don’t relish the idea of calling on lost deals.
Use a series of letters to try to reestablish contact with prospective buyers.
Have a process where you send 3-5 mailers to leads that became prospects but never closed. Here is a simple order of mailers, sending 1 every 10 days, you can use:
- Brand reminder postcard – Send a general offer postcard or brand awareness postcard
- 1-page letter – A short letter reaffirming your interest in the original deal proposed
- Long-form advertorial – Re-pitch the business via the mail
- Discount postcard – Offer a narrow time-limited discount
- Event invitation – Invite the prospect to your next seminar, open house, or training session
This process will not work for every lost deal. Your response rate will be higher than with cold leads, however, and closing prospective customers you have already met will take less time.
Marketing Your Company – What tools do you use?
The above list excludes general advertising. I have also not included industry-specific awareness tools, such as signage and on-site merchandising. (You might not need your logo on the side of your truck, but every business needs the tools listed above.)
Excluding advertising and niche-specific marketing, what tools did you find were especially helpful when marketing your company? Share your experience and tips in the comments.
- Service Business Marketing: Communicate the Obvious
- Marketing your company – 3 Questions before you advertise
- Service Business Website: 7 Design Tips