Have you just started your own business recently? Wohoo! A big high five to you, this is a huge and exciting step. So what are the next steps to help you connect with your potential clients and tribe? There are 5 very easy steps to get you started and you can do this all yourself, at minimal cost. Don’t overthink things too much in the beginning, the most important thing is to just get started. Over time, you can hone, tweak and update everything. remember, done is better than perfect!
1. Create A Website
A professional looking website is your number one priority. It is your online shop/office and the place where people can find out all about you and your business. This is where all your most up-to-date, detailed and accurate information about your business should be. Include information about your products, services, opening times/availability and very importantly: how can people contact you, buy your products or book your services?
This does not mean you need to spend a huge amount of time and money on it – at least not until your business is ready. Most first time business owners would be best served by starting with a DIY website such as Squarespace. I don’t get paid to say it, I have tried various DIY websites out and my professional opinion as a web designer is that Squarespace provides the best product and service for a new, small business. It’s super easy to set up on your own using their template builders. They provide important add-ons such as online booking/scheduling systems, online shop etc. It’s simplicity is what makes it so elegant.
If you have been in business for over a year and feel ready for a more snazzy website that can do a lot more for you, then I suggest one built on WordPress (hosted, not the free one) which is better for SEO and blogging and allows you (or a web designer) more freedom to customise the design for you.
2. Google My Business
What do most people do when they are looking for a product or service? They do a search on Google. You want to make sure that you are as easy to find as possible. Google Maps is becoming increasingly important in helping people find businesses, particularly if you are one that serves your local community. It’s free to sign up to Google My Business, it means you have control of the information Google collates about your business and you will be easier to find in a search. I do not suggest paid ads of any sort. I always ignore paid listings because I don’t trust them as much as organic search results and recommendations – don’t you? So I’d say don’t waste your money on paid ads if you are just starting out, you need to prioritise your budget on other things in these early stages. Wait until you have more of a strategic marketing plan in place before spending money on any kinds of ads.
3. Social Media
Set your profile and accounts up on whichever social media platform you choose to be on. I imagine you have already set up accounts on Facebook and Instagram. But don’t forget there are other social media platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn that are very powerful. I generally tell people to be where your clients are likely to be hanging out. But to also balance this with where you have the time and energy to spend. If you are managing your social media on your own, then it can be exhausting to be everywhere at once. I have personally chosen to delete my Facebook accounts and pages. Do what suits you best, not just what everyone else tells you to do.
It is important that you don’t neglect your website at any time. Many people make the mistake of building their entire business on social media, which is a very risky way to do business and potentially excludes lots of people who may not be on your preferred social media platform – they might be too busy or just don’t see your content.
The number one rule of running a business is to never put your eggs in one basket. So with social media, just remember that any of these platforms could become obsolete, or your accounts blocked, and you have no control over that. So make sure you have other ways to communicate with people, ideally directly.
4. Mailing Lists
The best and easiest way to have a direct relationship with clients and potential clients is to create a mailing list. You can set these up so easily with a mailing list service such as MailChimp, MailerLite or a similar service. You don’t actually need to send many emails or newsletters out if that sounds too daunting, but if you give your followers, clients and visitors an option to sign up to your mailing list, it means that whenever you have something exciting to share, a new product or service to announce, you can reach out to them and tell them. The key thing to remember is that you cannot simply send emails to anyone, you must have their permission to do so (please refer to current GDPR rules) so the best way to make sure you are following the rules on email marketing is to use the services I mentioned earlier as they all comply and take care of it for you.
There are many courses about email marketing out there. The most important thing for you is to have a mailing list in the first place and to use it to help inform your tribe about your work whenever there are relevant updates. The best advice I can give to start with is to simply approach it with the attitude of being helpful and informative.
5. Look after your clients
The one thing that never changes over time is the power of word of mouth. The best thing? It’s free. All you need to do for it to be effective, is to focus on creating a great product or service, give genuine, great service and the rest will take care of itself. Most businesses will, over the course of their lifetime, generate most of their income from repeat business. I have personally found that about 75% of my business over the last 8 years has come organically from a handful of original clients and my friends – they either recommended me to friends and family, return to me for repeat business, or both. When I realised this, I stopped paying for costly advertising. So look after your customers well, give them an experience worth singing about.
Christine Wehrmeier is a small business owner & educator, photographer, web designer, content creator and founder at Kokoro Creative.