Anyone starting a business today must realize that the technology we have at our fingertips leaves excuse for failing to put ourselves on social media. There is so much that YOU can do to spread info about your business--and it starts with the spreading of your social butterfly wings!
Just like I talked about in last week's post, choosing your business name must come before everything else so that it is possible to make decisions on things such as your website domain name, social media URL's, logo design, and business cards. Definitely do that before moving forward with the information below.
Here's something icky about the domain name system--people have made a business out of buying domain names they think people will want, and then selling them to businesses that want them for crazy inflated rates. That domain that was once $20/yr? It's now selling for $2,000. Or more! I’m not kidding. It's a ridiculous, unethical practice, but there's no way for business owners to get the domain name they want without legally buying it from whoever has it. Take a moment to type in a domain that seems it would be very common here, and wait for your heart to stop.
What can you do? This: take the extra time to come up with a domain no one has ever thought of before. Heads up: this will be challenging, because there are a lot of people who have done a lot of thinking about this. I spent days typing random domain names into search engines and domain websites trying to find one I liked that wasn't taken by anyone.
Things to keep in mind: .com means ".company", .org means ".organization" (generally a nonprofit), and pretty much anything else won't be taken seriously, so I wouldn't do it even if it's cheaper. Do yourself a solid by getting a legit domain you can be proud of that will confirm to leads looking at your website that you're real and professional.
When registering your Fictitious Business Name at your country office, you will be denied if there is already that same business name registered in your state. Do your homework to make sure there is not another business in your state registered under your same business name; go the extra mile by checking pages and URLs on Facebook and Instagram that might tell you that someone is doing business under that name without owning a website. You can do business under a name that is registered in another state as long as it's not also in your state--but I wouldn't do this either, because customers may find it unoriginal. Plus, what will happen if you move to that state? What will happen if you go Nationwide?
There IS a business name out there that will fit you perfectly. Take the time and patience you owe the legitimacy of your business idea and find it.
I debated between Wordpress and Squarespace for quite a while. My old blog is run by Wordpress, which I was drawn to initially because I was already familiar with it and because it's free. Why Squarespace won out despite its monthly fee is largely based on its user-friendliness, which I can personally vouch for. As one guy explained it, Wordpress is perfect for people who can code It's a big supermarket of widgets that enables a coder to build their site from scratch--but for those who can't code, and who want a professional-looking website, it's a nightmare. Either you're going to spend weeks of your life trying to figure out how to work it, or you're going to pay someone else to build your site for you. I decided to pay for a site I could build exactly the way I wanted that required very minimal understanding of website formatting. Here I am. And pretty happy with what I have so far. I support Squarespace, but I still use Wordpress to host my other blog. Here's the article that lays out the pros and cons.
DO NOT fail to make accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those are where your leads are. That's where you can market yourself everyday to people who may not know til they see your posts why they have gotta hire you to do whatever it is you do. Other sites you can create are LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, and even Vine. Some people even Vlog on YouTube, if they have enough content to share. Tap into these rich social environments and see what it can do to increase your customer base.
It totally depends on what you sell, but if you sell products, get reviews on and claim your business there. If you sell services, do the same thing, but also create accounts on Thumbtack, and Gig-Salad, which are pay-by-the-lead sites that put you in contact with leads in your area who are looking for your services. If you're a planner like me, also look into Eventective, which is similar, and anything wedding-related warrants profiles on WeddingWire, The Knot, Wedding Nook, and WeddingBee.
Business Cards and Other Advertising Methods
Create a logo, even if it's very simple. Get that logo onto business cards, which aren't as challenging to get as you think. For starting out, you can find Free templates online and print them with card stock, or you can find a business card printing company such as VistaPrint or MorningPrint where you can choose from a template and fill in information blocks, or design your own card on Photoshop (like I did) and upload it to an empty template option. Vistaprint typically offers very reasonably priced packages--something like $7.99 for 500 cards--while MorningPrint has more expensive options based on their flexible templates. I went with MorningPrint, and am extremely happy with their product, but I paid $33 for 400 cards. Keep in mind that the expense is often in the kind of paper you choose. The thicker and shinier the paper, the more you should expect to pay. Something I really wanted to do was get clear plastic business cards with simple black print you could see from both sides. This was an option on MorningPrint, but it was out of my budget. Someday I may return to that dream. But if you can afford it, they're really neat and trendy. People will want to hold onto your card because of how cool it looks, I promise.
Consider making flyers you can pass out in your neighborhood or give to friends to hand out that advertise your product or services. Make a paper ad with tear-off information slips that you can pin up on coffee shop/book store bulletin boards. Imagine where your clients will be on a regular basis, and find a way to reach out to them.
I have a friend who's a total Scrooge about networking in the Wedding Industry because he has witnessed competitiveness that turned him off. "You can't trust anyone else, because everyone is just in it for the money--your money," which can definitely be true in some cases. Networking is a lot like making friends, though. Not every friend out there is gonna be a keeper...there are the fair-weather friends, and the ones who commit to being with you in the thick of things too. There are shrewd business-men and -women who are just going to screw you over, but there are also some who want professional, friendly connections just like you do. Network with these people. Network with everyone you can. Networking with the people already in your social groups is also a must, because they already know you and want you to succeed. How much more than strangers are your friends going to advocate for you as you're just starting out? If you are surrounded by truly loving and supportive people, this should make a difference.
Building a customer base takes time. Boosting posts on Facebook and making fliers and passing out business cards and getting a return on your efforts doesn't happen overnight. Statistics approximate that about 10% of the audiences we reach will respond with interest. So if you print 100 fliers, expect maybe 10 people to respond--at best. If you want to sell 1,000 of a product in a certain amount of time, you are going to need to reach 10,000 people well before your deadline. It's a great deal of work to put yourself out there, but think of this: once your product or service satisfies a customer, and someone else inquires about it, they will vouch for you. And that person may come to you, like your product, and then also vouch for you. It's a good thing.
For all who have followed me on this 2-part series, THANK YOU! I hope it has given you valuable information so that I can help reach entrepreneurs who are trying to figure this business thing out just like me. If there's a discussion topic you'd like me to touch on, mention it in the comments!