Starting a new business is always tough. You have spent hours and hours putting your Business Plan together, sorting out the financing, arranging your office and buying equipment. And the big day arrives you have to get out there and secure your first customer. It all looked so easy when you were planning, but now this is real and doesn't seem as effortless as you thought.
What practical steps can you take to ensure your business gets off to a flying start?
Put a Plan in Place
If you didn't write a Business Plan then putting pen to paper is your first step. You have to careful plan what you want to achieve and what you are trying to do. A Plan will help crystalise your thoughts and ideas and act as a spring board for creative thought.
It also will be a useful boost when you come to review your progress against what you set out to achieve.
The key element in your plan is to spell out exactly who your typical customer is going to be. Are they young or old? Well off, or on the look out for bargains? Single or married? Once you have clearly defined who you are after then chasing your first sale becomes easier.
E-Mail All Your Contacts
You may not think that personal friends and family may be interested in your product or service, but don't forget that they have friends and family as well and so can help spread the word!
E-mail every one in your address book and tell them, if they don't already know, that you are starting up in business and need their help. In your e-mail describe what you do and the products you offer and request that they forward it to everyone in their address book. For those family and friends who don't have e-mail, call them; write to them, to officially launch your business. Very quickly word will spread and enquiries and orders will start to flood in.
Ask For a Referral
It's possible you may have ‘road-tested' your business before you decided to go full time. In that case you will already have a small database of customers. Ask them if they can provide you with some names of people or businesses whom they think may be interested in what you have on offer.
A referral, or positive recommendation, is a powerful and easy way to give your business a kick start. If you want, why not offer a small gift, or a discount on the next sale, for all customers who refer someone to you? This gesture will further cement your relationship.
Tell Everyone You Meet
Be a walking advertising board for your business! Find any opportunity to tell people, especially strangers, what you do. Be enthusiastic! Have a rehearsed opening which encapsulates everything about the benefits and problems your business offers and solves.
Take your business cards wherever you go and leave them all over the place! Supermarkets, restaurants, shops, anywhere where people will find them.
Be a Media Star
The local newspaper or radio stations are always on the look out for stories which are of interest to the locality. Don't expect them to run a story along the lines of ‘and today, Joe Bloggs has just started in business doing'. Your story needs to be interesting and have an unusual slant.
Did you travel the world and come up with your idea whilst riding a train in India? Did you have a flash of inspiration following a shocking experience? Carry out a survey which shows that local people are crying out for a service such as yours. Think of something that will grab the editor's attention and this will increase your chances of appearing in print.
Don't be disappointed if you don't get a sale on the first approach. Sometimes you have to patient. A way of achieving your batch of first sales is to concentrate on building a relationship with your prospective clients. Keep in touch, remind them you are still around and, assuming you have targeted correctly, they may eventually place that coveted order!
If you are about to start your business get planning right now and start to implement some of these ideas to get your new business off to a flying start.
BPW Innovative Business Woman of the Year 2005
Finalist in Midlands and West of Ireland Regional LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2005
Finalist in JCI Galway Entrepreneur Award 2006
Listed in Top 40 Irish Female Entrepreneurs: Image Business 2006
Double Finalist Network Galway Business Women of the Year Award 2006
Listed in Top 100 Women in Business by Entrepreneur Magazine 2006 & 2007
Finalist in the Image Magazine Young Businesswoman of the Year 2008
Finalist Network Galway Self Employed Business Women of the Year Award 2009
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