This would normally be a busy time of year for Margaret, but business is slower than usual. She worries things will get ever slower in the months ahead. Greg came up with a terrific idea for building a second income from the Internet. Months later, his web site and advertising have only brought in a few sales. He is afraid all his time, money, and enthusiasm were wasted.
I hear similar experiences from dozens of people each week. Some are start-ups, others are mature businesses. Most business ideas flop on the first try. The key to success is knowing how to give yourself a BIG second chance. Sometimes you will need to try a third or fourth time before your new product or service brings home the bacon.
Here are five simple ways to give your business new life.
1. Give your business a tighter focus. Many businesses are too broad, trying to interest too many different kinds of prospects. Being too general will leave you lost in a crowd. America has more stores than at any time in history. Retailers are finding their markets split into tiny fragments as shoppers have a bewildering choice of places to spend their money. Meanwhile, the Internet is exploding. Christmas spending in 1998 is 2.3 Billion dollars, twice what it was in 1997. All that money is divided among some 300 million web sites.
How do you compete when there are so many others? Tighten your business focus to include a narrow, very well defined audience. The man who sells John Denver memorabilia from the 1970s has a very specific, almost peculiar business. But he is selling his product like crazy on the Internet. He is filling a niche that deeply interests a particular group of people.
2. Make your prices more competitive. For the past few years consumers have told us they want quality and service with price being much less important. The tightening of the economy has changed that. Now consumers are ranking price as one of the most important reasons they buy from one business and not from another.
Think of ways you can tighten your belt or redefine your product or service to offer it at a lower cost. Maybe you can limit your service to fewer, but still important features. Perhaps your prices are already lower than competitors. You just need to emphasize your lower prices more in your marketing. Lower prices are suddenly an important way to get people to buy.
3. Choose the product or service that sells best for you, then expand it. Go wide and deep. Offer more versions of the same product or service. If the green one is selling well, come out with a red one and a blue one to offer along side your start performer. Look for more related products or services you can offer. I write press releases for people. I have also found those same people want me to write articles for them. That is a related service I can offer along with the popular press release service.
4. Sharpen your marketing materials. With all that competition in the business world, you profit when your marketing and advertising stands out and hits home with consumers. Give all your marketing pieces a headline. Busy prospects need a way to quickly find out "what's in this for me" before they will take the time to read your sales letter, brochure, classified ad, or web site. Relate the features of your product or service to the benefits the buyer will get. Your "Widget 900" has a clever lever. Tell prospects how that lever will save them time, money, and make their day more enjoyable. It is the benefits that your buyers really care about.
Take a closer look at where you are putting your advertising dollars. It is tempting to place all your cash into big media that reach a lot of people, but are all those people your best prospects? Marketing is generally more effective when it can be closely targeted to a well defined audience. If your audience is made up of lots of your best customers, you get sales. Consider advertising in trade publications, email newsletters, and neighborhood papers. Postcards are cheap and prospects read them without having to open an envelope.
5. Expand your promotional effort. It takes a LOT of advertising, marketing, and promotion to get into the heads of your busy prospects. People are constantly bombarded with ads and commercials. You need to hit your best prospects over and over again before your message sinks in.
Look for several ways you can CONSISTENTLY market your business. Find affordable methods that reach your best customers and use those methods over and over again. When marketing doesn't work, it is almost always because the business ran out of money and gave up too soon.
Give your business a big second chance. The children's story of the "little engine that could" might as well be a $1,000 business seminar. The best way to clobber competition and build your business into a cash cow is to give your business a tight focus, make prices more competitive, expand what works, improve marketing materials, and promote big and consistently.
Dr. Kevin Nunley provides marketing strategy, Internet promotion, and web design for businesses and organizations. Reach him at [email protected] or (801)253-4536.