Marketing Plans

To get your Business Stable and Sturdy

by Norma Rist on October 13, 2010

03/04/2011 Aspen Mountain
Creative Commons License photo credit: Aspen/Snowmass


What does it take to get your business stable and reliable?  And how long does it take?


In large part we measure small business success by the revenue and profit generated.  The business is not stable until you can count on the revenue being steady and that the cost to produce the revenue is less than the revenue so that there is a profit.

So we need regular revenue, not a large chunk of revenue twice a year and nother in between.  And we need enough gross profit (revenue minus cost) to pay the expenses and also  pay ourselves on a monthly basis.


Constant cash flow – that is the ticket.  And just how do you arrange that?  You need to master the process of securing good customers on a continual basis.  It is great to stumble on a good client once in a while, but that will not provide the stability needed.  Your ability to market to find the best prospects, and then your ability to listen to the prospect to determine if their needs can be satisfied with your solutions, and then your skill in closing the sale, providing the products/services, and collecting the bill.  When you master the ability to do these things, you can have a stable and study business.  It is not the size or how great each customer turns out to be, it is your ability to keep improving the process until you are very good at it!  We will cover more about the parts of this process in the next few blogs.

Pic – creative commons from Flikr – Eadaoin Flynn


There are so many things that need to be done to run a business and make a profit.  In the beginning there are a lot of one-time decisions, and then later there are a lot of areas to cover. 

You are responsible for all of these areas.  You can obtain advice from your CPA, your attorney, your banker, and other owners, but in the end you are making the decisions.  You will be wearing all of the hats, at one time or another each month.

Perhaps you are an expert in project management, so you may not need much help in operations, but the other areas will be more difficult.  If you were an accountant in a professional position before you started your business you will not need much help in this area.  Think about the different functional areas of your business – and what person could be an advisor in each of these areas, where you are not an expert:


Your CPA will help you to set up your bookkeeping.  Perhaps you will learn to do the input, or have a bookkeeper do that for you.  You can find a bookkeeper by 1) asking your CPA for referrals, 2) check with your Chamber of Commerce for members, 3) read your local once-a-week newspaper for ads.  Interview several and if possible ask your CPA to interview your selection to be sure your selected candidate is technically capable.


Most start up businesses cannot afford to hire outside marketing help, the help to locate and connect with your best target prospects.  So you end up figuring out how to do that yourself.  There is a super advantage to doing it yourself; when you learn to do the marketing for yourself (in the beginning) you will learn what works and what does not work; you will figure out what works and be able to repeat it time and time again; you will feel in charge of your future  and that you can create your own success.  There are lots of resources to help you along the way.  Talk with other owners is one.  Also read good books such as Riches in Niches by Susan Friedman.  Susan helps you narrow your planned target market in a way that you can become known as an expert in that area.  Read good blogs abour marketing; a great one is Chris Brown’s Branding & Marketing.


In the beginning you will be handling all of the operations.  If you are a graphic designer it will be up to you to find prospects,  prepare and deliver proposals, get  signed contracts, deliver the work, send the invoices and deposit the checks.  Usually the start up owner is very good at delivering the work.  The other functions you need to practice, do over and over again, until you are good at it.  I sometimes suggest that a new owner deliver some services to buyers outside of their little home town.  Then if everything is not as perfect as you would like, you will not run into the previous client in the grocery store.


You are responsible to talk with your attorney and use contracts and agreements that  are suggested.  If you want to prepare for the meerting with your attorney, read on line to be familiar with the content of a sales agreement, or a non-compete (for an employee or subcontractor).  Here are two sites that cover legal info in lay language: nolopress or legalzoom.  You can read up on the topic, and then be better prepared to discuss the law and your needs with your attorney (and you won’t spend as much time with her teaching you about different parts of the law).


Make a list of the other experts you may need.  Computer repair, IT installation, software training, transcriptions services, cleaning person, graphic designer, writer, etc.  Keep a list of the people you meet who might be good suppliers to call and interview when you are ready for their services.  This will help you get ready to wear all those hats!

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Are You the Breadwinner? Need Fast Start Up Biz

by Norma Rist on September 4, 2010

Are you the breadwinner?  Need to get your little business to produce revenue as fast as possible?  The bills need to be paid?


Is your business a service business?  Are you going to offer training, or writing, or graphic design, or event planning?  If so, you probably are not going to the bank to borrow money.  You don’t plan to buy equipment; you have a computer and you are home based at the moment.


At this emergency moment you need a client who will pay you.  You do not need a business plan.  You need a marketing plan to produce prospects.  And out of those prospects you need to secure a client.  Think about the fastest way to find your ideal client.  If you are a photographer serving corporate clients, you need to go to events where you can meet corporate people. Corporate people go to Chamber events.  If you are an event planner, you need to be in the room with people who are responsible for their firm’s business events, adminstrative professionals.  If you are a graphic designer, you need to be around small business owners (established – because they can pay) and non-profit organizations who need upgraded materials.  The small business owners are at business expos, lead groups and boards of trade.  The non-profit organization managers are at their association meetings.


Ok, so what did that paragraph just say?  You figure out where your best prospects are going to be, and you go there.


There are three ways to connect with prospects if you are an individual professional with services to offer.

1) Find out where they go and go to the same place
2) Find out their addresses and mail or call on them
3) Find centers of influence who already know them and secure referrals


So we just started to discuss the first way.  Find out where they go and go to the same place.  Talk with your business supporters or your Boardroom Group about where you will find the ideal prospects for your services.  Look in the datebook in local newspapers and business magazines.  Find the dates and places that your prospects will be in the room.  You know you can attend because they list member price and non-member price – that’s YOU – the nonmember.  You are welcome.  They want you to attend.


A second way to quickly connect with prospects is to find out their address and call on them, or mail to them, or send a newsletter to them.  The main library always has a computer with all the names of the companies and organizations in the U.S.  It is searchable by city, county, or industry code.  Ask the business/reference librarian to show you the computer and how to use it.  You can print lists, or details about the organizations.  It will tell you the number of employees and names of officers.  Perfect information to get started – and it is FREE.


A third way to connect with prospects is to identify those professionals who already know many of these organizations and what services they may need.  A CEO of a small manufacturing firm will ask a current trusted consultant for names of other service company owners for additional outside services.  You identify local consultants and service providers, then you invite them to breakfast, coffee or lunch.  You indicate that you will be meeting a lot of people and you would like to know the kind of referrals they would like to have.  Trust me, after learning about them and the referrals they would like to have, they will ask you what type of referrals you want to have.


A long time ago a woman IT professional who wanted to install accounting software for small companies and non-profits ask me to join her for coffee.  She told me about her services and ask me if I would refer her if I came across someone who needed her.  I was familiar with accounting software (previously I was a Controller in a manufacturing firm) and she knew her stuff, so I said “yes.”  If was not more than two or three weeks when someone asked me for the name of any referrals I might provide for this type of work.  And she got the job!


So if you are the breadwinner in your family and you need to quickly start securing clients, delivering services, and making deposits in your back account, think about the best way to reach your prospects and start this low-cost marketing as soon as possible.  Soon you will have clients and will be growing your business.


bouquet for spring
Creative Commons License photo credit: shaferlens
A good step in the beginning of your business development is to decide how you want your business to be perceived, how you want it to be branded.  There are so many adjectives that could describe the way you would like to be known.  Here are some of them:
Happy, good problem solver, friendly partner, approachable, caring, welcoming, non-threatening, safe, comfortable, efficient, no hassle, turnkey, energized team, transformational, no-risk, professional.
Good listener, energetic, knowledgeable, credible, clean, businesslike, excellent service provider, steady, dependable, timely, easy, attractive, experienced, expert listener, pleasant, cutting edge.
Your branding will be needed in a number of places.  It will be easier if you consider a list of potential adjectives and decide on the ones that best apply to you.  Then as materials are designed, or the web site is developed, you will already have a good idea what to tell the designers.  
If you are a social worker or a therapist you may choose approachable and professional.
If you are a photographer you may choose experienced and cutting edge.
If you own a children’s store you may choose happy, knowledgeable, excellent service provider.
If you are an organization expert you may choose attractive, good problem solver, efficient.
 Places where these adjectives will help you carry out your branding could include:
Web Site
Media Kit
As you make your list of materials or places for your branding e.g. above, you will find that a few adjectives will show up in one place, but not necessarily in all places.  Perhaps the letterhead needs to be professional, but the brochure needs to be professional but also friendly and approachable.  So you will use some adjective repeatedly, and others in just a few places.
Review your choices every so often.  Sometimes you will learn more about your business and will add adjectives, or change the importance of some of the adjectives.  You will refine your branding as your business grows and evolves.

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A Consistent Image for Your New Small Business

by Norma Rist on August 7, 2010

Thank You Petit Plat – Flickr

It is important that your business have a consistent image.  All of the visual parts of the business need to look like they belong together.  Think about your business cards, brochure, envelopes and letterhead.  Could you imagine a business having purple cards, pink brochures, yellow envelopes and blue letterhead?  Probably not – unless you were operating a kindergarten. 

What else needs to look as though it belongs as a part of your little company?  Entrepreneurs sometimes use event materials or speaker sheets – those materials need to be in the same theme as your other materials.  Here are some other visuals that should carry the same logo, or look:  web site, packaging, media kit, portfolios, and proposals.  It does not need to look glitzy or expensive.  Just using the same font,  the same size font, and the same color design is enough.  Prospects will get used to seeing your materials and will know they came from you without even reading the content.