How to Grow Your Business: Real Advice from a Small Business Owner
Years ago, when I started my landscaping business at age 22, all I had was a wheelbarrow, a shovel, and a borrowed pickup truck.
Oh yes, and a lot of high ideals.
It was tough for that first couple of years – and there is nothing more frustrating than feeling that you’re doing everything right but you’re still suffering from a lack of sales.
Today a person can go to the internet and read virtually thousands of methods that are guaranteed to build your business. The problem is that most of this advice is geared toward the already established business, but not the mom and pop starting out on Main Street.
After a few years of trial and error, I was able to build up quite a successful business for myself, and here’s what I found really works for growing a business from the ground up.
How to advertise
If you’re like most people, you’re thinking that online advertising is the route to go. After all, the one thing we most often read about is the importance of good SEO. That is true, but it isn’t the main solution to growing your business.
I’ve tried every type of online advertising there is and got absolutely zilch out of it. I also ranked first in the Google rankings and really, if I gain an extra sale a year out of that I’m lucky.
To this day, even here in the technological era, I gain most of my business through good old-fashioned newspaper advertising.
Believe or not, one of the most effective advertising tools you have is still the local paper. While yes, it’s true newspapers don’t have the circulation they used to have, those who do read it are the hot buyers.
They’re there because they’re looking for something and most often it’s the business they want to deal with.
With newspaper you don’t have to do a huge, expensive ad, rather the key to success here is consistency. What I mean by this is that you need to advertise week after week. If you get a call or customer out of that first ad, count your blessings, because most often that doesn’t happen.
According to the retail consulting firm ELW and Associates, it takes an average of three weeks of advertising before you see a turnaround.
The important thing to remember here is that it doesn’t have to be the most expensive ad in the paper, either. Those small ads in the business section can really pay off providing you run one every week.
The other important factor is don’t run the same ad week after week-mix them up and make them clever.
One week I ran an ad that simply said; “Our garden ponds are so natural, you just might want to get naked!” The next week I ran an ad for stonework that simply featured a picture of the pyramids that read; “Okay, so theirs is just a little bit better.”
The point is that after a couple of weeks the first thing people turned in the paper was my ad to see how funny it would be this week. As a result, my business boomed.
Build a loyal customer base
While a one-time big sale is great, what you’re really after as a business is a loyal, repeat customer base. You achieve this through great customer care.
A happy customer may tell one or two people, but the unhappy one is going to tell the world. That is not the kind of reputation you want to gain.
You want every customer who approaches you to walk away satisfied. They want to feel valued and appreciated and it’s your obligation to do this.
If there is a problem, don’t argue about it with the customer. Just do the best you can to fix it and in the end, that’s all the customer is going to remember. When they tell their friends about it, they’re not going to emphasize the problem, but rather how great you handled it.
I bent over backward for every customer and it paid big dividends.
Maximize your Facebook page
Most people don’t know how to use their Facebook page which should make sense because we’re business people and not tech-savvy computer whizzes.
That said, unless you’re a visual business text is far more effective than images or videos.
You can also pay to “boost” your post.
How this works is for five or ten dollars you can expand the reach of your posts to a certain number of targeted possible customers. I found this is well worth it. When you boost a post, though, make it something of broad appeal and interest with that personal touch people respond well to.
Facebook is also ego driven, so what I do is take a picture of the smiling, happy customer standing by their new landscape and include a caption like; “Wow! Bob Jones really loves his new stone wall!”
Because it has a picture of Bob personally and Facebook is egocentric, Bob and his family share that picture with everybody on earth which is just free publicity for you.
User friendly website
A website is a valuable tool if you use it correctly.
Unless you’re an online business, most potential website customers are there to learn more about the business. Customers visit a website for more than a “home page” and “contact me” page, so supply them with that.
The other important factor is to make contacting you simple and don’t make people dig through your site and then have to fill out a complicated form in order to contact you. Make it as easy as possible to contact you by including your number and email on every page of the site.
The key to success is that you want a customer to walk away from your website with a sense of satisfaction and ready to do business with you.
What I’ve learned is that the key to success is a blend of technology and the old school methods. The name of the game, though, is still building the good reputation that customers are attracted to.
About the author: James Wendland is a political sociologist and well seasoned investigative journalist with thirty years experience. He was previously the owner of a successful family-run landscaping business.