Copyright to Sean C. Castrina, © 2014. All rights reserved.
Published here May 2014

Editor's Note | Introduction | Assess Your Strengths and Do Your Homework 
Keep Your Overheads Low | Balance Income with Expenditures
Promotion and Customer Focus | Final Thoughts

Promotion and Customer Focus

7.  Buy some online real estate

Many would-be small business owners (especially those who plan to do all of their business locally) figure that traditional print or radio advertising will be enough to spread the word about their companies. That's archaic thinking. Since most of your prospective customers — even those born during the heyday of newspaper and radio — are surfing the Internet, websites are no longer optional.

Developing an online presence is as essential as having a business card. At minimum, you need a homepage that functions as a business storefront, conveying your unique selling proposition, pricing, and contact information — though sections for customer testimonials, employee bios, and photos don't hurt! Check out the competition's websites to see what works and what doesn't. If you can't afford to hire a website designer, check into the growing number of DIY systems that allow you to plug your specific information into cheap built-in templates.

8.  Focus on providing great service.

After your business opens its doors, it will develop a reputation. Whether it's a good or bad one is largely up to you. To make sure that customers hold your company in high esteem, focus on providing great service to each and every customer from day one. Word of mouth is important for the growth of any business and providing those little extra touches will get people talking about you in a positive way.

Let's use a lawn mowing company as an example. To show that you do the little things that big companies won't, you decide your employees will pick weeds out of flowerbeds for no extra charge. In this scenario, I would recommend giving employees a postcard printed with two boxes (labeled "lawn mowed" and "flowerbeds weeded") for each visit. At the end of the job, employees check each box and leave the card with the customer. Not only does this make sure your employee does the work — it also shows the customer how important this "extra" weeding service is to you.

Another aspect of providing great service is putting quality control measures in place. In other words, make sure your customers get what they pay for. Be prepared to listen to the occasional complaint and to rectify the problem. It's also a good idea to periodically survey customers to make sure that they're satisfied with the goods or services you're providing and to see if they have any ideas for how you can improve.

Balance Income with Expenditures  Balance Income with Expenditures

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