Have you ever heard of Eve’s Garden Café? No? No one else has, either. That’s because Eve never promoted it.
Would you rather have your fingernails pulled out with pliers than have to promote your business or book or “brand”? You’re not alone; many people who love their businesses still hate promoting them. And it’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable doing that. However, as any successful businessperson, agent or publisher will tell you, promoting your biz is not just a “nice” idea, it’s the difference between success and failure.
Now for the good news: promotions don’t have to be scary. Rather, it can be fun to promote your business or your brand (and even if you’re job seeking, you have a brand: you). Just recognize two things: the fears surrounding promotions and the ways to overcome those fears.
Fear #1: “I don’t have what it takes.” Let’s face it, not everyone has a “salesman” personality, meaning not everyone naturally feels comfortable pitching their product or service to others. The fact is, when we think of a successful salesperson, we sometimes make two wrong assumptions. First, we assume a person has to be obnoxious in order to succeed in sales, and second, we think that a person is either born a salesman or not. But both are myths. Still, we think these things are true so we fear even trying. After all, we’ll fail. And then we’ll look stupid. Or we’ll tick people off because we’re too pushy. And we’ll look stupid some more. And then we’ll hurt our business because who wants to do business with stupid? Right?
Being pushy is only one way of selling something; it’s not the only way, and it’s not the most effective way.
Fear #2: Fear of failure. Let’s be clear: If you’re passionate about your business (and who’s not?), then you’re halfway to being a good promoter. The other half is simply telling people what’s great about your business (or book or brand). Tell lots of people—and then leave it alone. You don’t have to be aggressive or arm-wrestle them into buying your product/service or signing your book or hiring you; just hand them a business card, offer to answer any questions they may have, and smile. That’s all. They’re adults, if they want to do business with you, they will. But here’s the key: the more people you tell, the more customers you’ll get. It’s like planting seeds; who goes out to plant a garden and plants only one seed? (If you do, no offense, but that’s why you don’t have a garden.)
Will you convert every conversation into a sale? No. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed—no one turns 100% of their pitches into sales. If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying. Just begin your conversations with a simple, “May I tell you about my product or service?” If you’re required to present your pitch in writing, make certain it’s the best proposal, query, or resume you can. And if you don’t know how to write one, find someone who does and learn.
Fear #3: Spending money. As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” A portion of your budget should be allocated to advertising and promotions. However, if your budget doesn’t allow you to invest much, there are a few inexpensive things you can—and must—have. First, get a logo for your business. A logo is simply a uniform presentation of your business name and can be as simple as finding a computer font and color you like and typing your name. “Coke,” for example, is just one word, but it always looks the same; that’s a logo.
A logo can be more elaborate with pics, etc. but it doesn’t have to be, and you can DIY or hire someone. Regardless, your logo should be on all your promotional materials because it helps customers to visualize and remember your biz name.
The same is true of a business card—you must have a nice business card. They’re not expensive; you can get 500 or so for $10-$30 on sites like GotPrint.com or VistaPrint.com. I designed and got my own four-color, glossy cards for around $35 (and having the company design your card doesn’t cost much more). These companies also offer brochures, signage, banners and any other print thing you might need. However, whatever you can design on a computer, like letterhead with your logo, do yourself.
A website is also a must-have but here’s a tip: you don’t need an actual “website” for a stunning-looking site with multiple pages, pictures, social media links, etc. All you have to do is to choose a free (yes, free) “blog” site from somewhere like WordPress. You can pick from hundreds of styles and then choose options to make the site your own. Just pay for your domain name from somewhere like domain.com for $10 a year!! (If you don’t want to pay for a domain name, you can get a free one from WordPress but it’ll have “wordpress” in the name and I don’t recommend that.) I pay $18 a year for my DestinyHighway.com domain name and not one penny for this WordPress blog site you’re reading.
Now, for the disclaimer: If you want lots of other things on your site that involve code, you may have to go with a web designer to put it all together. That will cost up to quite a bit more so do your research first. The point is you may not need to do all that.
NOTE: When choosing a business name, ALWAYS check domain.com to see if your business name domain has been taken!! DO NOT PRINT ANYTHING UNTIL YOU DO!! Just type in YourBizName.com to see if it’s available. (And try to get “.com” because that’s what people are used to typing in.)
Social media is another must-have and accounts are free! While you may not be on all social media, begin with the major players: if nothing else, a Facebook business page should be a priority and then Twitter if you want to push special promotions on your FB page. If your biz includes products or services that will benefit from pictures, have an Instagram account.
And did I mention that it’s all free?
Industry trade shows are another great way to reach customers actually searching for the products and services you offer. Just buy space at these shows and you’ll meet these potential customers in person. Trade shows include bridal fairs, home and garden shows, health and wellness fairs, and car shows as well as lots of others. Granted, these can cost hundreds of dollars for exhibit space but, like any investment, while not guaranteed, there should be a return on your money. My rule for making any kind of investment, whether it’s promotions, products or anything else is this: “What can I afford to lose if this investment doesn’t work?” If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t spend it.
Want low-cost ways to market your business? Mailing lists or databases of potential customers can start at relatively low prices and then, to save on postage for mailings, look into bulk rates. Also, check out radio and television sponsorships for news, weather, or special programming which tend to cost much less than actual 30 or 60-second ads.
I could go on but you get the point: promoting your business is easy and fun! Plus there’s nothing like seeing a professional-looking postcard, website, sign or vehicle ad with your name and logo on it! In-person selling is just a small part of promotions and you don’t have to be a pro salesperson to talk up your business.
So pick a promotion and get busy because one thing will always be true: You can have the best product or service on the planet but if no one knows about it, it won’t sell. Period. But once they know about it, there’ll only be one thing you’ll have to worry about…
Can you keep up?