This is the playbook I recommend for small businesses that are just getting started or are still ramping up and have a limited marketing budget.
These 5 steps will help you focus on the things that actually move the needle for your business so you can scale, grow revenue and, most importantly, profit!
1. Focus on being a business owner and not an operator as soon as possible.
This means you’re not doing the actual work. You’re managing employees. This will help you scale.
How do you do this?
You need to build processes for everything. Everything. Pretend that you’re going on a three-month vacation with no wifi or cell coverage. How would the books get done? How would employee schedules get done? How would customer complaints be handled? Write down the process for all of these things and everything else that you do on a daily basis. You’re going to continue to do these things but, now that you’ve documented all of your processes, you can start to peel off some tasks and outsource them to an employee or contractor when you’re ready.
A key point about building processes. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Don’t worry about it being perfect. You’ll always be adjusting these anyway. Just document it somewhere that is easy to share. Google Sites are a great tool to do this and it’s free.
2. You need to build your company in your image. In other words, build your brand.
This way people will equate your company with you and vice versa. Your company will have it’s own values and reputation. This might sound like something only large corporations do but it is important at every level of business. It doesn’t matter if it’s just you or if you have 1,000 employees.
How do you build a brand? Stand for something. Have an opinion about your industry and express it in everything you do. Position yourself against a big competitor and tell the world why your approach is better for your customers. Define yourself clearly and express it in everything you do.
Finally, when you’re starting out or growing, a key way to grow your business is word of mouth. You are going to advertise too, but for now, delight your clients and be upfront about asking for referrals if they’re happy with your work.
What do I mean by delight?
Here’s one example. If you’re a home service company and you have an employee working on a job at a customers house, swing by and bring a box of cookies or cupcakes (store bought is ok!). Give the treats to your customers and ask them how your company is doing? Are they happy with your service? Get to know how they feel and address any concerns that they might have. Do that and people will start talking to their friends and referring you to new clients. I guarantee that your competitors are not doing that.
3. Take Yelp Seriously
Lots of people use Yelp. Do everything you can do to get your company rated in the top three of Yelp for your region. By everything, I mean do great work, communicate quickly with your customers and ask the happy ones to review you.
You might say, “Yelp’s not a player in my city” or “My industry isn’t reviewed on Yelp” and you might be right…today. If that’s the case, and then people in your city or industry starting using Yelp more frequently, well now you’re in pole position because you’re competition used to have the same negative outlook that you used to have. Now they’re playing catch up while you’re in the #1 position and getting all of the business.
There is another reason to focus on Yelp that is even more important. You can read about that here.
One last point. If Yelp never takes off where you are then you’ve still done great work and communicate well with your customers. That practice alone will pay dividends.
4. Get your MESSAGE right and shine a spotlight on it at all times.
If I ask you why a potential customer should use you versus your competition, what would you say? That you provide excellent service? Great prices? Years of experience?
The customer doesn’t care.
Your message needs to speak to the problem you solve for your customer. And it needs to say how you solve that problem better than anyone else.
Let’s say you own a bakery. Your customer has a problem. Their problem is that they need a cake for their child’s birthday party on Saturday.
Do you show that you can solve their problem by saying, “We have great cakes and the best prices in town. Proudly serving our community for 25 years”.
That doesn’t solve the problem. That’s all about you. Even worse, you’re competing on price meaning it’s easy to take your customers by simply charging less than you do.
Instead, you might say, “We are YOUR birthday cake solution! You choose from over 100 designs that kids love (like Black Panther and Wonder Woman), we’ll text you a photo of your design so you know it’s perfect and we’ll deliver it to your home on the big day for FREE!”
Which bakery would you choose for your child’s party?
The one with tons of designs so I know they’ll have something that my kid loves? The one that will text me a photo of the cake so I’m not nervous that Spider-Man looks more like Green Lantern when I go to pick it up. And, speaking of picking it up, I don’t have to do that because you’re going to deliver it for free which helps me immensely because I’m haggling with the bouncy house guy and trying to get my house clean for our guests.
Not only will that message attract customers in droves but those customers will pay a premium to use you.
Find your message. Put it everywhere. Repeat it constantly.
You don’t need a fancy website to do this. You just need to message on the website to be awesome.
5. Marketing and Advertising.
Finally, now that you have your processes done, you are taking a stand and building a brand, you’re taking Yelp seriously and your message is on point, you are ready to spend some money promoting yourself.
Do you have a website?
If the answer is yes, ask yourself this question: “Is my website awful?”. Be honest. If the answer is yes, then follow the “Get a Website” instructions below.
If the answer is no then, Get a Website. It’s 2019!
It doesn’t need to be fancy. Five or six simple pages is fine IF you clearly communicate your Message on those five or six pages. Don’t spend a lot of money on a custom website yet. There is time for that later. Use Squarespace or a WordPress theme and get it up and running. Remember, this website is there to relay your message and have some basic details about you and your offering. Also, don’t write in “marketing-speak”. When you write your text, just imagine you are writing an email to your favorite customer. If you don’t have any customers yet, then imagine writing to your mom.
Once you have your simple website set up and clearly stating your message then set up a Facebook business page and place the Facebook pixel on your site. Then, find a trustworthy contractor on Upwork for $25 an hour to set up a Retargeting campaign on Facebook. This will only show ads to people who have been to your website and will only cost you a couple hundred a month, at most.
If you want to accelerate your growth, take a weekend and write a five-page guide for your ideal customer that addresses their biggest concerns. This can be a How-To guide, an Ultimate Guide, or even a PowerPoint. Go back to Upwork and hire someone to take your words and turn them into a Lead Magnet. The final result will be a PDF. Set up a pop-up plugin like Sumo to offer your website visitors your Lead Magnet in exchange for their email addresses. Then, once a month or as often as you can, email these people something of value. This can be a tip, an offer, anything that conveys your Message and provides value. When the list gets too big to handle manually, sign up for an email service like MailChimp. Now you’re in the big leagues!
If you do those five things then you’ll be paving your path to success.
Total investment = 10 – 15 hours up front (and 5 hours per month) plus maybe $200 per month. You can afford that, right?
Good luck! Don’t forget to stay in touch.