Article #73, September, 2008
Don’t be Discouraged!
Just about every small business owner I have met with has felt discouraged at some point. Usually it happens around the end of the first year, but it could happen at any time. Why does this happen?
There are many contributing factors, but the most common problem is the lack of sales. In many businesses, you can sell to your warm market first. These are your friends and family, and even acquaintances. Often, this source dries up, leaving you with no new clients.
Small Business Marketing can be daunting! There are so many choices and you get so much conflicting advice, it is overwhelming. Sometimes when this happens, business owners decide they need to take action with their marketing, so they hire a marketing consultant and spend $1,000s to do a PR, advertising or direct mail campaign - then get no new clients from it. That's very discouraging and I have seen it over and over.
There is definitely hope!
First, please hear what I am saying - you are not the only one who has felt this way. There are many, many business owners, including myself, who have gone through a rough patch.
After taking a deep breath, take stock.
Really look at your business objectively and ask these questions:
- Is there a market for your product?
- Is there a good target market to whom you have access?
- Are you willing to work hard to achieve success?
- Do you have any kind of plan?
- Do you know what you need to do to be successful?
If you feel confident as you read these questions and answer them in your head, then get going! Follow your plan. Taking action will probably snap you out of your funk.
If, on the other hand, you do not feel confident reading any of these questions, you have preparations to do before you can take action.
1. Is there a market for your product? In other words, is your competition making a profit? Are you sure of that? Also consider, do you need to have any special contacts that you don't currently have, and can you make that happen? If your product is so cutting edge that there really isn't any competition, do you have the resources (time, people and financing) to introduce it and educate your target market about it?
2. Is there a good target market to whom you have access? Unless you have a huge marketing budget, you must have a clear, accessible target market. If you have defined your target as corporate people, this is too vague and too large, and how would you gain access? If your target is stay-at-home mothers, do they gather somewhere that you can access them, and can they afford your product? Ask the hard questions.
3. Are you willing to work hard to achieve success? It may appear that some people don't work a lot of hours and make tons of mon'ey, but in truth, that is rare. Most of us do not start our businesses with big budgets for start-up or with a built-in customer base, so we will need to contribute sweat equity. This means hard work. If you are willing to study business in addition to being an expert in your industry, you have a shot. You will need to do things you find uncomfortable, like speaking in front of groups or incurring debt, to make it successful. Then you'll have to keep doing it and be patient. Bottom line: you have to really, really want it.
4. Do you have any kind of plan? Even if you don't exactly know what to do to be successful, you still need an action plan. What will you be doing every day and how will you stay focused if you don't have a plan? If you need to experiment with different marketing strategies before deciding on those you will ultimately use, put together a plan for experimenting. What will you do? How and when will you do it? Be sure to include deadlines and measurable results.
5. Do you know what you need to do to be successful? If not, figure it out. Study your competition - especially other business owners doing exactly what you're trying to do and are already successful. It does you no good to study your competition's actions and copy them if you have no idea if they are making any mon'ey.
You just might need help with this. If you decide to hire a marketing consultant, be sure to ask them for references, then call the references and ask how much their sales increased because of the work the consultant did. If the consultant has never worked with anyone in an industry even similar to yours in type and size, find someone else. If they cannot prove that they have increased sales for their clients, find someone else. They will not offer you a guarantee, so you need to be very selective.
If you decide to hire a small business coach, be sure the coach can fulfill your needs. It is my opinion that a business coach should have business training and should be very familiar with your size of business. You should click with them and they should make you feel good when you talk to them. Also, they should be able to teach you what you need to know in business so you are empowered to make the best possible business decisions. Check them out before hiring them.
If you have a marketable product, you can make it work. It may take some time and effort, but you can do it!