I started Faulhaber Communications on my laptop in my kitchen 19 years ago. My business grew mostly from referrals and industry connections, but decisions made in those early days played a pivotal role in getting Faulhaber to where it is today; in 2017, our company was included on the Profit 500 list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.
From experience, I appreciate the inherent difficulties in establishing and growing a small business. The most significant piece of advice I can give? Stay true to your customer base. Stay in touch with your customers – their faces, their hands, their nails. You know their wants and needs, up close and personal. You’re the expert in your craft, but turning your passion into profit requires promotion. Twenty-five years of working in public relations has led to the following 15 tips and tricks for successfully getting the word out there.
1.Determine what you actually need. What is going to move the needle? Do you really need printed business cards? What about an automated email system instead? Or maybe, those beautiful business cards will effectively set you apart from the competition.
2. Start with grassroots marketing. Have you told everybody in your personal and professional network what you’re doing? Have you posted it on your Facebook? Does your mom even know? She might have 20 friends who will help spread the word!
3. Get to know your local business partners. Literally, knock on the door and show up with a coffee or a sample of your product, and shake the hands of all the business owners in the neighbourhood. They’re all in the same boat as you, so have you reached out to your local market and introduced yourself? It’s that easy, and
4. Use social media. If you’re not on Instagram already, and you’re selling something attractive, you’re doing something wrong. Look at what your competitors are doing, and figure out which social platforms are best for you. Are you a business owner? Do you have something to say? Perhaps you should be a thought leader on LinkedIn. This is a great way to add professional credit to your brand. Be an expert in your industry and post thought-provoking content. Do you have a beautiful spa or retail space? Take pictures. You don’t have to invest a lot: iPhone X photos are great! If you do want to kick it up a notch, invest in a professional photoshoot. A day’s work can provide you with a month of quality content.
5. Spend time engaging. Once you gain followers, it’s all about engagement – and this takes time. Someone has to do it, and in the early days, it’s often the business owner. Carve out an hour a day to do engagement and talk to people. These days, this is just as important as it is to service your customers.
6. Know your limits. Don’t try to be everywhere. If you don’t have the resources to keep up a Pinterest, a LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter – then don’t try to do them all. Expand when you can.
7. Communicate the same message in-person and online. Your website and social media channels are an online extension of your brand – whatever you are saying to your customers in person is the same thing you need to articulate online.
8. Be polished. How do you present yourself? Is there a spelling mistake on your website? What happens when people Google search you? Have you made sure that your website is easily accessible on all platforms? Polish is one of our key values at Faulhaber Communications. Aim to outshine your competition.
9. Don’t be afraid to go “old school.” Depending on your location and your advertising budget, there are some original advertising methods and platforms that might work for you. Is there a local media publication that you know your customers are reading, or a billboard or a bus shelter that your clients pass regularly?
10. Don’t buy into expensive schemes. Your marketing and ad expenses should commeasure with your sales. If you don’t have any sales, what are you doing spending money on promotion? First, use your elbow grease and pound the pavement.
11. Don’t underestimate your clients. Referrals from satisfied customers are incredibly important, especially when getting your feet off the ground. To date, our business is almost all from referrals (I always knock on wood – because you are only as good as your last client).
12. Look internally for all the successes that you have. What makes you great? What do the customers tell you they love? Do more of those things. And then take those things and figure out a way to communicate them to more people.
13. Look for big wins. Choosing where to put your effort and resources is important. No entrepreneur can attend every support group, conference or networking event. Choose wisely. The world has so many touch-points today that nobody in an entrepreneurial capacity should do one thing just for the purpose of one thing. When you are at a conference, make sure that you’re using it as an educational tool for your team, posting about it on social media, fact-finding about the industry and finding new clients or collaborators. Make that one hit equal 10 wins.
14. Consider influencers. When you are ready to scale up your efforts, look into influencers. Originally, influencers were authentic collaborators: They chose to promote your business because they loved it, so it was a win-win for everybody. Times have changed: Now there are multiple levels of influencers (nano, micro, mid-tier, macro and mega), and each serves a different purpose and caters to a different budget. Do not just give stuff away. You want to be looking for a return, and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
15. Lastly, trust your gut.