Do you want to start your own small business? Many people who are tired of working for someone else or who have been laid off find themselves taking the road of entrepreneurship. I found myself on that road many years ago and have never looked back. I discovered some simple secrets to success that I want to share with you!
Ten years ago I answered a small help wanted ad in the local newspaper for a rep to sell advertising space on movie screens. Having no experience in ad sales, I bluffed my way through the interview. The company sales manager had been interviewing all day so I knew my competition was formidable. I really wanted the job, so I sent a big bouquet of flowers to my interviewer along with a thank you note. Guess who got the job?
I went through training and learned I was only allowed to sell ad space at certain movie theaters in town but not all. Many of my new clients wanted to advertise market-wide on all the theaters in my city. I began to see a need for someone to help these advertisers make a seamless media buy that involved various theater companies. This unmet need became the seed for my new business idea.
I resigned from my position and started a full service ad agency that bought all forms of media but specialized in movie theater advertising. I built a database of every movie theater in the country that offered an ad program. Now an advertiser had access to a one-stop shop to place a media buy across a market, a state, or the entire U.S. My idea was a big hit! My first client was Disney.
Over the past 10 years, I have bought cinema media for clients such as the state of Florida, the city of Los Angeles, Disney, Haagen-Dazs, U.S. Army, the Justice Department, state of Virginia, Royal Purple Motor Oil, New York Courts, Nordstrom, and more.
Here are some secrets to my small business success. If you are planning to start your own business these ideas will launch you in the right direction!
Do What You Know
It only makes sense to start a small business in an industry that you understand and have experience with. Do not try to venture into uncharted waters. If you have a business idea for an industry you are not familiar with, go work for another company in that industry for a year. This will give you a basic understanding of the major players, business models, and needs of the industry.
Find a Need Not Being Met
Business is about filling needs. The most successful companies have found a consumer demand that was unfulfilled. Sometimes large companies get lost in pleasing shareholders and move slowly in responding to customer needs. Find a niche and become an expert. Customers will begin flowing in.
Become a Partner to Your Client
Your goal should be to create a product or service that helps your client make more money or solve a problem. Your approach should be stepping into the shoes of a business partner to your client. Successful business owners approach new customers with the attitude, “How can I help you grow your business?” If you wear the persona of a typical sales rep, only wanting to make a profit for yourself, you will struggle to find new clients.
Say Thank-You in Creative Ways
Knowing that other ad agencies typically send out holiday cards at the end of the year, I send out cards to my clients at Thanksgiving time. This way I am ahead of the pack and really stand out. I also send some gourmet popcorn or movie passes. Clients appreciate knowing you value their business. I also send gifts or handwritten notes after completing a project for one of my customers. A personal gesture of appreciation builds brand loyalty between your company and your clients.
Use Social Networking to Build Your Brand
As soon as possible, build a top-notch website and begin branding your company across the internet on websites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I used WordPress to create a simple blog that is integrated with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. When I post a new blog entry, it automatically migrates to my other social network websites, saving me time. Email programs such as MailChimp.com, can be set up to send out an email with your newest WordPress blog post. Building your brand online builds your credibility. Show off your knowledge and expertise in the industry to attract new clients. Allowing your customers to interact with you personally on websites such as Facebook or MySpace strengthens your relationships and increases your chances for repeat business.
I started out with no money or employees – just a great idea that filled a need in an industry I understood. Take inventory of all your experiences and think about products or services that no one else is offering. Focus on helping your clients achieve their goals and success will follow!