Small Business Networking – Create a Breakfast Club

The small business network is the single most powerful thing that you can join in order to bring our business to the next level. This group also acts as an insurance policy against disaster. Some business owners do not have time to participate in a full network. Here is an alternative method that you can use to help your business today.

It’s called a breakfast club. This is a small networking group of business owners that meets once a week, or once a month for coffee and donuts (or whatever you want to eat). These meetings are not formal, but they do serve a single purpose- to get more business for each of the owners present at the meeting.

The way these meetings work is that the meeting can only consist of members that are non-competing with each other. Perhaps you have a lawyer, a dentist, a plumber, an accountant, and a web designer. Each of these members has their own customer list, but they are not able to provide any of the other services of the other members. During that particular month of business, these business owners will try to find out additional services that their customers may need help with. This allows the business owner to be more full-service for their customers, which is an added bonus and helps keep the customers around longer.

When the owners get together, they swap customer leads with each other. They will explain the needs of each customer and then give the leads to the person that can help them. Now, the new business has a qualified lead, because the original business owner told the person that they had someone that could help them.

The new customer visits the business and is already pre-sold before they even walk in the door. All that the service provider has to do is assure them that they can solve the problem as best as possible and close the deal. There is no cold calling in this situation, because the lead is pre-qualified. This is only one of the benefits of a breakfast club. If you have the time, you can expand it to a full-blown network, capable of many other things. However, if you only have the time to meet once a month, you can still benefit greatly from this small act of lead exchanges. Just think, all you have to do is get a cup of coffee once a month and you can gain thousands of dollars worth of new business.

Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 2

What if there was a proven way to generate a surge of leads and new customers for your small business any time you wanted to? Would you do it? Well, there is a way to do just that. All you have to do is:

Give something away for free.

One of my favorite methods to instantly add new customers to your small business is giving your prospective customers something for free. This is by far the fastest way to attract new customers to your business. Now, if the idea of giving something away for free concerns you, relax. You don’t have to give away the entire farm for free! Just give a free sample of your product, service, or expertise.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

The owner of a new restaurant mailed 120 highly targeted letters to potential customers in the area announcing the opening of his new restaurant and offering the reader a free lunch. The results? 100 of the 120 people mailed accepted the offer and visited the restaurant to claim their free lunch. Half of those people were accompanied by one or more people who purchased lunch at the regular menu price. Most of the people who visited became regular customers.

As a result of using targeted direct mail to promote his business, the restaurant owner was able to build in six days what would have otherwise have taken him six months to accomplish with traditional print advertising. What about you? How much could you grow your business if you gave something away for free to attract new customers?

What can you give away for free?

The simple answer is whatever profitably entices your target audience. Your small business is unique, but here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:

Professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants and health care professionals could offer a free consultation. Restaurants – a free appetizer with a main course. Pool services – a free pool chemical inspection. Cleaning companies – offer to clean one room for free. Golf courses – free golf cart rental. Brakes/muffler/A/C shops – a free inspection.

Case in point: a local auto parts store offers free battery testing and replacement. Through their offer to give something for free they get the sale of a new battery and a new customer. They also offer to diagnose the problem when the dreaded check engine light comes on. On the weekends, there can be a line of people waiting to receive this free service. Many of them purchase the replacement part that caused the problem. I could go on and on and ON, but you get my point: to get something, give something of value first.

Why does giving something away for free work?

Giving things away for free works because it takes away all the risk from the initial transaction and establishes a relationship between you and your ideal prospect. It also engages prospects in your product or service who were not involved with it previously. Once a prospect has become your customer they are far more likely to buy from you again and again.

In effect, giving something away for free can give you the ultimate double whammy – you get the initial free transaction which often leads to an immediate, profitable sale and you get to bank the lifetime value of the customer. Now, I have a quick a word of caution:

You must test your free offers on a small scale before ramping them up.

When making a free offer, the goal is to do so in a way that is profitable. After all, you’re running a business, not a charity. Ideally you will convert many of the prospects wanting to take advantage of your free offer into profitable sales and customers immediately. Some you will convert later as a result of collecting their contact information and following up with subsequent offers.

Once you have proven that your free offer is profitable on a small scale, you can crank it up a notch. If it remains profitable, crank it up again, and again. The point here is not to get ahead of yourself. By all means create free offers, but do so only to the extent that they add new customers, sales and profit to your business.

That’s all I have for you in this, the second article in the series, “Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business.” Join me in the next installment when we discuss how you can quickly get new customers by legally accessing the customer lists of other businesses.

Avoiding the Most Common Errors of New Small Business Owners

The most common errors made by people when they are just starting out revolve around three central themes: preparation/research, time/money and customer relations.

Common Errors In Preparation/Research:

A. Going into business for the wrong reason(s): So many people go into business for themselves based on misconceptions and myths. Before you go into business for yourself you should look into the top myths of home businesses to try and avoid the common traps.

B. Not knowing enough about the business that they are going into: it is important to know about the business you are attempting to start. You should know: what qualifications/legal considerations could affect you, is there a market for your business, who is your competition, how much money can you expect to make from this business, how much money do you need to start the business, etc…

Common Errors In Time/Money:

C. Spending too money: The inclination for some new business owners is to throw money at a new business – to buy all the toys and tools they can get their hands on. This can quickly lead to a cash crunch, which in turn can lead to the failure of your business. There are many great products and services out there to help you with your small business – but it is important to manage your spending – especially during the start-up phase.

D. Spending too little money: Like many things in life – opening a business often requires some investment. The person who sets up a company and then never spends the money to promote and market it – will probably fail. The hard part is figuring out what things are important to start and grow your business and when you have reached the stage in your business when you should be spending money on the important things.

E. Bad cash budgeting: Without proper cash budgeting many small businesses not only fail but lead to personal cash flow problems and bankruptcy for the owners. Before starting a business you should perform a cash budget, which you should update periodically.

F. Errors in setting your product prices and consulting rates: If you set your rates/prices too low then you will not be able to afford to stay in business. If you set your rates/prices too high then you will not be able to get any business. Therefore it is important to do your research and set your rates and prices accordingly.

G. Not optimizing your business processes through continuous improvement: Nobody starts out in business doing things perfectly – the best way to be successful is to make sure that you not only devote time to working on your products or services but also invest the time to improve your business processes – whether it is finding a better way to find clients or a cheaper way to deliver your products or services – it is so important to always be looking for ways to do things better.

H. Working too much and burning out: Many new business owners think that you need to work around the clock in order to make your business work. The smart business owner knows that ideally your business should be making you money 24-hours a day BUT you should not have to work 24-hours a day to accomplish this.

I. Not investing enough time in your business: generally starting a business requires a lot of time and effort. Neglecting to give your new business the time it requires to build it into a legitimate business and maintain it – will quickly lead your business to enter a downward spiral.

Common Errors In Customer Relations:

J. Saying ‘yes’ to every client: some clients are just not worth the trouble, some jobs are not worth the time and some contracts are not worth the cost of the paper that they are written on. It is important to properly vet your customers before entering into a relationship with them. One bad debt or shady client could lead to the downfall of everything you’ve worked for.

K. Turning down too many jobs: While it is inadvisable to take every client and contract that comes your way – you need to balance this caution and selectiveness with a healthy understanding of which clients and contracts you need to take in order to stay afloat and grow your business. For me this has led me to develop two separate lists – the list of things I want from clients/contracts and the things I need from clients/contracts. This means that I will work for clients/accept contracts that do not have all the things I want (for example maybe it involves working long hours temporarily or traveling extensively) but I don’t take contracts that do not give me everything I need (for example if I have doubts about the integrity of the client then I will NOT take the job).

L. Trying too hard to look like a big business: This is an error on two fronts. For one thing many people go into business for themselves in order to escape the confines of the corporate world – working too hard to show yourself as a professional can put you right back where you started. The second way that this can hurt you is that it takes away the ability for you to connect with your clients honestly and openly. If you are projecting this persona then you never connect to your clients on a personal level – even worse when they find out that you are a “one-man show” they can feel misled and deceived.

M. Appearing too unprofessional: The flip side of the last point is that you cannot behave too unprofessionally. Most clients want to know you as a person but some topics should always be out of bounds. Further it is important to show your clients that you take your job seriously – things like having business cards, answering your phones professionally and delivering things on time and on budget are very important.

N. Not creating a business that adds values to your customers: if your services or products do not make your clients’ life better then they will not pay for it. Your business must be focused on adding value to your clients’ personal or professional affairs.

O. Bad customer services and after sales support: many small business owners complete a job and never look back – but great customer service and after sales support means return customers and great word-of-mouth – these are the most valuable forms of advertising out there. A flyer delivered to 1,000 may deliver a few clients who are curious about your business but someone who has dealt with you before or had you recommended to them is “pre-sold” – they already trust you and want to work with you.

The final issue to consider and one of the most common errors made by small business owners effects all three of the categories listed above.

P. Not doing things your way: people frequently get into business in order to “do things their way” and make their own decisions but quickly drop this attitude when confronted with the challenges of working for themselves. It is important to stay true to your own vision, your objectivism your values and follow your “gut” and intuition. This may be hard in the interim but it is critical to establishing a business that works for you.