Essentially, home business marketing is just like marketing for big businesses. In order for your business to be successful, you need to make money. For your business to make money, you need sales. To make or increase sales, you need to market your product or service effectively
What can you do? How can you keep your home business dreams alive? What are successful home businesses doing that you aren’t doing?
Here are several suggestions to help.
Expand your network. Your friends and family may be supportive of what you’re doing but they may not be the best sources of referrals. Consider who would make a good customer and then look for ways to meet those people. Chamber of commerce meetings, PTA meetings, local civic associations, regional trade shows, professional conferences, and phone calls can all be effective. So, too, can networking online through message boards and mailing lists. Don’t spam the boards or lists with links to your products. Just participate and contribute to the groups that are likely to include prospects for your services and you will get known.
Look for needs you can fill and ask for business. I ran a small business forum on America Online for 11 years because I got on the phone one day in early 1990 and called them to ask about writing a column for them. Remember, if you don’t ask for business, know one will know you want it.
Advertise on the web. Pay Per Click advertising can be a very affordable way to find targeted customers for your home business. Even if you just sell to consumers or businesses in your local area, pay per click can be helpful. The major search engines all feature local pay per click advertising, and AOL also has a search to call feature. A surfer looking for a local dentist, might search for the phrase “dentist in Centereach” and be directed to a web site that has a phone number to call a Centereach dentist.
Don’t tell people you run a home business. Although 53% of small businesses are home based, many people still think of home businesses as unprofessional. Think of it this way: if you rented office space at 33 West Main St. for your office support service business, you wouldn’t tell people you were in a “West Main Street” business. So, why say you are in a home business. Home is just the location of the office. It’s the business – the product or service your provide – that’s important.
Give a demonstration. Contact your public library to see if they’d be interested in a demonstration of how pottery is made. Build a website for a buddy for free, and use the site as part of your portfolio. Offer to decorate a local restaurant or coffee shop with your artwork (and perhaps to give them a commission on any works that sell as a result of the display.
Learn from others in your industry. Attend meetings where people talk about their successes and problems. Read trade publications, get to know who’s who in the industry, then find ways to introduce yourself to people you’d like to get to know. If you can’t meet them in person, try calling them. Don’t waste their time. Have a specific question or problem in mind that you’d like them to help with. Then follow up with a note thanking them and telling them how much you appreciate their help.
Stay in touch. Just because a prospect doesn’t buy today doesn’t mean they won’t buy. This is particularly true if you sell to businesses. Some industries and some products have very long buying cycles. Even if the initial prospect doesn’t buy, they may give your name to someone who does
Talk to people. Anyone and everyone, as circumstances allow. The woman next to you at the “friends” table at a wedding or the man sitting in the seat next to you on the airplane, might just be a customer. Instead of staring into space or twiddling your thumbs, strike up a conversation. Find out what they do, and eventually they’re likely to ask what you do. I know of several businesses who brought in significant new business through just such conversations.