Need customers for your home business? Wondering what successful home businesses do that you’re not doing? Here are several suggestions to help you promote your business more effectively.
You had high hopes when you started your home business. You figured you’d get all the business you need for your fledgling startup by posting on your Facebook page and telling all your offline friends and former business associates about your new home business. But customers have been few and far between. All those contacts who told you to call them when you launched? Most aren’t returning your voicemail. And the people who do express some initial interest in your product or service don’t want to spend the money to buy it.
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. Depending on what you sell, Chamber of Commerce meetings, PTA meetings, local civic associations, regional trade shows, professional conferences, formal lead-sharing groups, and phone calls can all be effective. So, too, can networking online through social media groups and sites, and online forums if done correctly. Don’t spam the sites or groups with ads for your products or services. Just participate in and contribute helpful information to the groups that are likely to include prospects for your services and you’ll get known.
Optimize your social media profiles. Be sure you have a business-oriented social media profile set up on the major social media sites and a business page set up, as well. Be sure your personal profile looks professional. Even if you point people to a business page, those who want to do business with you may also look for your personal pages. If what they see makes them think of frat parties and conversations they wouldn’t want their five-year-old to overhear instead of someone who’s a responsible, upstanding member of the community, they’re probably not going to do business with you.
Get a website set up and be sure it looks professional. No matter how many social media groups you participate in or how many local networking groups you belong to, potential customers are likely to take a look at your website before they call you to discuss your services. If you sell products, selling online makes it easy for your customers to buy, no matter what time of the day or night they want to shop.
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, no one will know you want it.
Talk to people. Talk to 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, including my own, that brought in significant new business through just such conversations.
Advertise on the web. Depending what you sell, pay-per-click advertising can be an 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. Someone online looking for a local dentist might search for the phrase “dentist in Centereach” and be directed to a website that has a phone number to call a Centereach dentist.
Don’t tell people you run a home business. Although more than half of the small business in the U.S. are home-based, many people still think it’s risky to do business with a home business. If you rented office space at 33 West Main St. for your office support service business, you probably wouldn’t tell people you run a “West Main Street” business. You’d say you provide office support services. So, why say you’re in a home business? Home is just the location of the office. It’s the business — the product or service you 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, and 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.