As a busy person who runs a business you may have uttered these words. “I am so busy I don’t have the time to market my business.” Who really has enough time to do everything they want to do or enough financial resources? The good news is there are a lot of things you can do to market your business without a lot of time or money. Many marketing efforts are free or very low cost to implement. If you’re a new business you can practice good marketing tactics from the very first day you are in business. If your business has been around a while, you can re-evaluate these basic steps and make sure they are solid. Then increase your marketing efforts to grow your business when time and money allow. It begins with these basic things.
Your handshake– The handshake is like the three chairs in Goldilock’s story – there are three basic variations. If your handshake is too soft it sends a bad message (weak or lack of confidence). If it’s too hard it causes pain. I worked with a senior executive who gave people the Kung Fu death grip by pressing the fleshy space between the thumb and index finger when he shook their hands. I remember thinking, “This guy isn’t going to succeed if he doesn’t know how to shake hands.” He didn’t. The third version, a nice, firm grip with eye contact, is just right.
Your appearance – Do you look like you take care of yourself? Are you healthy? Are you at your optimal weight? The way you or your employees look sends a message to people about your business. For cigarette smokers – smoking is a huge turn-off. If you don’t think people you meet can smell cigarettes on your hands, clothes and hair, you are wrong. Stop smoking and give yourself ten or more years of your life back. Present the appearance of health and you’ll present a healthy business image, too. No apology for the rant – there’s nothing good about cigarettes.
Your photograph– Your head shot is everywhere: on your LinkedIn page, your presentations, your facebook page, your business card and so on. How old is your photo? If it’s ten years old what does that say about you? You wished you still looked like that? You’re disconnected with reality? You’re living in the past? It’s not authentic if it’s more than about 18 months old. You have a phone on your camera so you don’t have an excuse not to update your photo.
Your telephone greeting– How do you answer the phone? Are you positive and upbeat or do you sound annoyed that someone called you? If you don’t know, pay attention to other people when you make calls for the next two weeks. Pick the greeting and tone you like the best. Answer the phone in your new style from now on.
Your follow up with telephone calls– Return phone calls, every one of them. I recently placed a media buy for a client who wanted to buy air time on two local TV stations. I called the top four stations in Tampa Bay and left messages for the sales managers to call me back. One called back to tell me he didn’t offer what my client wanted. He was very pleasant. One called back and handed me off to a very professional sales person. Thank you, WTSP. One handed me off to a sales rep who called me back. (I wound up placing a buy with them and the sales rep did a 2 out of 10 job, not a big surprise.) One never called me back. Never called me back after I left two phone messages and sent two emails. [Astonished pause here.] What does it say about a business when they don’t return phone calls? They have so much business they don’t need you?
Your choice of business cards – Many people are stuck with a corporate template for their business cards. That sends a message: “This person works for a big company and their creativity doesn’t get to show in their business card.” Don’t apologize for it; just show your creativity in other ways. Write a handwritten note on the back of each one to give it personality. “Thanks for asking for my card. I’d love to serve you – let’s have coffee.”
If you do have creative control, try this to see if the card is a good marketing vehicle. Give it to a group of people you don’t know and ask them to give you feedback on it. Is the type size large enough? Does it say what you do? Is it something they’d want to keep or throw away? Get feedback and make changes before you pay for 100 more copies of something people don’t like. Also, have it printed on a good, heavy card stock. It may be the only representation of your brand a person ever sees so make it count.
Your attention to branding– Everything you send out of your office should be looked at through your brand lens. Every credit application, form, set of instructions and directions to your location. I got a form from a local business recently with no logo, no contact information, no next steps, just a plain Word doc. You spend a fortune on your logo but you don’t put it on a document you send out hundreds of times a year? What does that say about a company?
Marketing is an ongoing challenge. It begins with a concerted effort to provide the best experience possible to everyone you interact with, every chance you get. If you don’t respect your own brand, why should others? Marketing begins with you.
Nancy Summers is the Founder of Veranos Resources, a video production and marketing company in Tampa. Nancy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to help you tell the story of your business to attract new customers in Tampa Bay and the rest of the world.