Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I just started my small business…now what do I do?

First of all, congratulations! You’ve got your business all set and ready to go - now it’s time to make some money! That’s the challenge for all small business owners, so although there isn’t a silver bullet, there are some things you can put in place right now to be successful.

The first thing you need to start doing is marketing. Do all of your friends and family know about your business? If not, tell them. Tell everyone you know about your business. Do you have business cards to hand out to anyone and everyone? Never leave home without some business cards. Put them in your car, in your wallet, everywhere. You never know when you’ll be somewhere and meet a potential new customer. Do you have a website? If not, get one. 70% of all searches for services begin online now rather than through Google and Yahoo!. A website will give you credibility, and chances are people will remember your company name rather than your phone number, so they’ll search for you online by your name when looking for a phone number. Do you have flyers for your small business? If not, buy them. Flyers are great for handing out in mass quantities, whether it’s at a picnic or a community event. They’re easy to hold on to and easy for potential customers to read.

The second thing you need to start doing is developing your service model. You will want to do what you tell your customers you’re going to do and do it with the highest level of customer service. You want your customers to know you are the number one specialist in your industry. Let them know you are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure quality. From the first time you meet a potential customer to each time you do business, you will want to build your service so that the customer knows what to expect from you and that they can depend on you. The key here is to make sure you treat everyone the same and treat them the way you would want to be treated. You never know who your customers know.

The last thing you want to do is develop some type of referral program. Once you’ve found new customers and service them with the highest level of care, you can start asking for referrals. If you have fulfilled your customers’ needs and provided a great service, you have earned the right to ask them who they know – and if you have done what you say you are going to do – they will be happy to refer their friends. When asking for the referral, confirm with the customer that you have exceeded their expectations. Then say that in order to grow your business, you are looking to meet other people that they know that may also need your services. Use open-ended questions like, “Who else do you know in the neighborhood?” or “Who else in your family might need help getting started?”, and make the questions specific to a group. You can offer customers who provide referrals a free service or money off their next purchase.

Good luck!
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