ASK ATTORNEY MO!: Growing Your Business by Marketing and Networking

Whether your business provides off-the-shelf products, such as groceries, clothing, or technology items

, or it provides services (such as salons, medical, accounting, or legal), you will need to attract and maintain a loyal customer base. While word of mouth is an excellent way to build a business, one cannot depend solely on goodwill to attract a sufficient number of new customers to grow a business. In addition to all of the other tasks a business owner must perform, you must figure out how to market your business so that you attract new customers. There are two ways to do this: one is to create a brand and a marketing program. The second way is to network successfully with those who can help you grow your business – either by referring customers to you or by introducing you to others who may need your products or services.

                A successful marketing campaign creates a demand for your products or services by answering the question “Why?” David Ward, attorney and expert marketer says that a successful marketing program answers “Why” a lot. Use your marketing tools to explain to your customers or clients why they need your products or services. Explain to them why they should use your bakery, photography or concierge service as opposed to someone else’s. Answer why they should trust you over another accountant. Give them a reason to read your books, attend your events, or seek your services. People are more apt to choose you if they hear the message from you. You must help them understand why they need your products or services or they may not realize the value of what you have to offer. If you tell them “why” at the moment of need, they are much more likely to select your business over another’s.

                A successful marketing effort will cost you both in terms of time and money. For example; in a product-oriented environment, you may want to engage a marketing firm to design a media campaign that uses Web, print, or video material. These services, of course, cost money – and time, as you as the business owner must either create or approve all material. Even though you may be (will be!) especially busy with running your business, you must set aside time to market; otherwise, your potential customers will not know that you exist. You need to create the habit and routine of blocking out time to market daily, weekly and monthly. Do at least one small marketing task a day: post a blog you’ve written, research events that you may want to attend or speak at, plan a monthly marketing email, write a quarterly newsletter. Do what you need to do to keep your name, the name of your products, or the types of services alive in the minds of your target audience. Marketing works, but only if you do it, Over time, it will grow your business.

Networking is the second important way to grow your business. Networking is the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. But networking isn’t just about meeting people and exchanging information. It is about how you meet people and what happens after you have met them. The most successful networkers are people who take a genuine interest in those they meet, and they are not afraid to offer to help others. Networking is a win-win proposition. It is not a one-way street.

You can meet people through mutual friends. For example, I just met an accountant this week through a mutual friend. We liked each other immediately, and we have scheduled a meeting to see how we can refer clients to each other. Although each of us may benefit from the other, we will make friends first. If a business friendship develops, we will connect on a different level. Business friends help each other, and when it is time to refer someone that needs your product or service, your business friends will think of you first.

Friends can introduce you to groups to which they belong. This gesture may provide you the opportunity to meet people outside of your usual circle of friends and associates. Make yourself available to friends new and old by finding out how you can help them, even if you can’t provide the product or service they may need. Introduce your friends and business friends to people that can use their services and products. Friends help each other because they are friends, and that’s what friends are for. If you don’t already have many friends, go and make some. Volunteer your time at organizations whose mission interests you. You will surely meet people with whom you can connect.

Additionally, networking allows you access to entrepreneurs and professionals in different types of businesses, and if you show interest, you can tap into the information and knowledge these professionals have to offer. So not only may you gain referrals, but you will surely gain information. Be aware, however, that asking for free advice from a professional who charges for such information is a big No-No. There is a difference between asking a simple, quick question, and asking for a true consultation.

Running a successful small business is all about making certain that your business remains at the forefront of your target audience’s mind. A marketing strategy that ensures that people know what your business is and why they should choose to buy from you or work with you is critical. Effective networking, building relationships, and taking positive action are part of creating and growing a business. Networking allows you to share ideas and knowledge, and gain feedback from friends. It also allows you to be a problem solver (not just a name on a business card). Networking also gets you noticed. As you offer useful information and support to your network, your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable, and supportive business person will be enhanced.

Now take action: create a marketing plan and execute it. Network selflessly, regularly, and consistently. Build and grow your business!

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