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From the Making Bread archives – Marketing advice for business owners

Make a Joyful Noise About Your Business!

5 Marketing Tips Guaranteed to Help You Increase Sales

By Elizabeth Kaminsky

When I ask my business-owner friends what the hardest part of running their own business is, most often they tell me, “Selling myself.” I have heard “It feels like bragging,” and “I sound like the telemarketers that I hang up on.”

I tell them that while many women have been raised not to blow our own horns, the person best qualified to talk about you is you! So, toot away— make a joyful noise about yourself and your business. Try these tips to get started:

1. Find your biggest fans. Thankfully, we are all likely to have one or more people in our lives who love us and want the best for us. Be they family, friend or therapist, use your biggest fans as a source of marketing information. Ask them what they like best about you, about your product or service. Are you reliable, a good listener? Maybe thrifty, clean, brave? Do you create an environment where people feel at home? Are you organized, precise, outrageous, energetic? Your fans know, and they will probably be glad to share their opinions with you. Once you have a solid list or items, translate them into business attributes. For example, if I depended on a shipping company to get my products out, I’d want it to be led by a reliable, precise, energetic owner.

Find a way to communicate your attributes in press releases, packaging, and advertising. Believe (and live up to) all the wonderful things your fans have said about you and your business. If they didn’t say great things, find new fans!

2. Remember what you like about your business. What got you into this business in the first place? Money, fame, more time at home, being your own boss? Whatever it is, your reasons for being there can help you effectively market your business. Maybe you like the fact that you only carry recycled products, or that you have Sunday hours when none of your competitors do. The things that you like about your products or services can be the very things that set your business apart and make it special. Capitalize on those likes, and let your customers know about them. Let’s face it, if we’re doing the things we like, the rest gets easier.

3. Keep in touch with your customers. Speaking of customers, we all know that no product or service will survive without somebody to buy it. (Remember the DeLorean?) When you did your initial business plan, I’m sure you surveyed, assessed and gathered potential market data. Is that information still valid? When was the last time you checked with your customers? Are they satisfied? Do they want more or less? Do they want it faster or cheaper? Talk to your customers, but more important, listen to them. Their needs can be a wellspring of ideas for new products or services that you could offer to expand your business.

4. Get out there. We get so busy running our shops, consulting firms, etc., that we forget there’s a great big world out there full of opportunities to introduce people to our business. Make the most of professional organizations. Network at luncheon meetings, set up a display at a pre-conference session, sponsor a cocktail hour or coffee break. Create useful give-away items for trade shows that create name recognition for your business. (Everyone always loves the shopping bags that help us manage all the information we pick up at trade shows.) Use the Web to offer discounts or downloadable coupons for the first how ever many number of people who stop by your site or fill out your survey. Sponsor events for nonprofit organizations or charities— buy their pencils or help them with a press release. Barter with other business owners to help make the most of each other’s strengths; trade advertising layouts for office cleaning, for example.

5. Stick with it. Nothing’s worse for a business owner than a slump. It may seem hard to get excited about drumming up business when nobody’s playing your song. During those times, keep running through steps 1 through 4. Call your biggest fan, and ask for a pep talk. Remind yourself what you like about your business, even if the only thing you can think of at the time is “It’s mine!” Reward your loyal customers with a two-for-one offer or some other incentive to keep them interested. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander into the sublime. Be open to ideas that come through. Don’t filter or judge, just brainstorm. You never know what wonderful miracles may land right in your lap.

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