Growing Your Business at Home and Locally

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Many different things can factor into the process of growing your business, such as the effects of advertising locally.
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Business guru Robert W. Bly offers expert advice in "Start Your Own Home Business After 50."

Start Your Own Home Business After 50 (Quill Driver Books, 2013) is the perfect book to help you take care of your retirement income. Robert W. Bly offers advice and proven plans for starting a home business and achieving the income you’ve always wanted. Excerpted from “Launching Your New Business,” this selection takes you through the initial stages of growing your business, when advertising locally can create a big impact on your bottom line.

Announcing Your New Business to Your Community

It’s time to get your new business noticed!

If you want to get the attention of your community, you should submit a press release to the local media. A press release is generally a written announcement to the media regarding the launch of a business, a new product or development, an event, or a significant change in supervisory personnel. Basically, anything newsworthy and of interest to the public would qualify.

You can prepare and submit your own press release using online resources, or you can hire a copywriter to create one for you. Some online services will handle both preparation and submission of the press release for varying fees. If distributed broadly, it could be seen by local as well as national and worldwide audiences online and could generate both increased sales and traffic to your website. Although there is no guarantee that a press release will get “picked up” (or printed) by any media outlet, be mindful to maintain a “newsy” tone because copy that reads like a company advertisement will almost certainly be rejected.

An often overlooked, but very effective, tool for targeted marketing is the professional magazine, or trade magazine. These journals are specifically tailored to appeal to a narrow, targeted audience interested in a particular trade or industry.

Commonly filled with advertisements and job postings for the industry, a trade magazine is the perfect place for a business owner to publish an article of interest to his particular target audience. These publications are not read by the general public, but rather by the kind of people most likely to hire you. Just being published in a trade publication lends a sense of credibility to your business.

Be sure to check out Bacon’s Newspaper and Magazine Directory for the most up-to-date contact information at each trade magazine and newspaper.

Advertising Locally

If you have a home-based business that serves your community, you can advertise locally through billboards, local publication ads, and anywhere else you can imagine putting your mark—or sign. Obviously, if you live in a residential area, no signage will be allowed for your business, but you might be able to rent a sign for your business at the shopping strip a mile away.

Depending on the type of business you have, you can paint your signage on your truck or car, which can provide you a lot of “mileage” in your local advertising. You can also use magnetic vehicle signs that can easily be taken on or off as desired. Check online for “signage” to find both types of car ads.

Business Cards and Letterheads

Planning to send out marketing packets and business letters to potential clients? Use your company logo on your business cards and letterheads. Start out with a small packet of business cards until you see how many you use over a period of time. Then order more. Decide if you want to include an address or if you wish to use only your phone number, website address, and e-mail address. You should also include a USP statement on your business card. A USP—unique selling proposition—is a statement about what your business does for your client.

You should design your own logo—or hire someone to design it for you—and add it to your business card, letterhead, and website. Make it unique, something your potential clients will remember every time they see it. This use of your logo is a type of branding for your business, so that your clients will remember the logo and what it stands for. If you create your own business cards and stationery, you can save the designs onto a CD or flash drive to take with you to a print shop so they can easily transfer it to their computer and print your items.

Don’t try to do the printing yourself unless you use really good paper and a very high-end printer. Resolutions for colors and type should be perfect. The last thing you want to do is present yourself as an amateur. This is not an area to scrimp.

Attention-Getting Methods

An asphalt company once got my attention by throwing onto my neglected driveway a baggie full of broken blacktop bits with their flier inside. Simple. Clever. Effective. But you don’t have to throw rocks at the neighbors to get your business noticed.

There are other tried-and-true methods, such as talking over the fence or at the neighborhood coffee shop, or distributing fliers at the supermarket and public library, or buying very cheap ads in the local shopper that people receive for free by mail. Never underestimate the power of a small, cheap ad in a program for your local high school basketball team or in a church or temple bulletin.

Offer to do a presentation at the library! It’s free publicity for your business and will help establish you as a credible expert in your field. You can do the same for other local groups, like homemakers or seniors. To promote your business, be sure to bring business cards and free booklets—if you have them—and a sheet for attendees to sign up for your e-mail newsletter or e-mail list.

You need to network. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and other business-related community organizations, such as the Rotary Club or Knights of Columbus. Your new bank manager may also set you up with a local networking group, or you can check your local paper’s business section for other local networking groups and join one in your area.

Friends and Family

Share the good news with your friends, family, and acquaintances! These are the folks who are already “sold” on you and want to see you succeed. You don’t have to convince them to use your business; you just have to let them know about it. But if you stop there, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You need to ask them to refer your new business to their friends, family, and acquaintances!

Finally, you’re ready to employ the less personal—though very effective— methods of announcing your new business. There are bulk e-mail notices you can send to your address book on your own or through a service such as Constant Contact. Just be careful not to spam anyone when sending e-mails. You can also send out a direct-mail postcard announcement. These postcards can be ordered from online sources, a local printer, or created by you through some of the “Office Suite” business software programs.

A very effective and inexpensive way to announce your new business is through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, to name a few.

Create a “Local Business” Facebook page for your new business and ask all your personal Facebook friends to “Like” your business page. Use Twitter to tweet about your new business. If you are a professional, LinkedIn is a must to let your colleagues know about your venture!

Yellow Pages Listings

f you’re old enough to be reading this book, you remember when the phone book was one of the most important books in the house. Yellow Pages and residential/business phone books are still delivered to our homes, but few households rely on them much any more because all the information can now be found online. However, if your business is based heavily on local clients, it is crucial to get listed in both versions. If you have a service business, you may just need an online Yellow Pages listing, which can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

You can search online by using the term “Yellow Pages” and see what’s involved in obtaining an online listing and, perhaps, an advertisement. Ask a local advertising consultant about different pricing in your area if you want to be included only in the print version.

Word to the Wise

For some of your friends and relatives, anything less than a phone call announcing your new business would be an insult. So, first determine who, besides Mom and Aunt Betty, needs your personal attention, and then make those calls. Next, figure out who needs a handwritten note, as opposed to an e-mail or postcard, and get those cards in the mail.

Straight Talk from Bob

People frequently ask me, “What are your top five strategies for getting clients?” Here’s what I like to tell them:

1. Create a content-rich website describing your services. Then load it up with free content. The content positions you as an expert in your field. And, it gets visitors to spend a lot of time on your site. I have dozens of free articles and free special reports posted on my site.

2. SEO (search-engine optimization). Optimize your website for search engines using keywords related to your service. This will bring a lot of traffic to your site. Have a form on the site where visitors can register and tell you about their needs. This will convert traffic into sales leads. See my example at my site.

3. Start an e-newsletter. Write and publish a monthly online newsletter. Create a sign-up page and drive traffic to it using e-mail marketing, Google AdWords, and other traffic generation methods. Work to build your subscriber list from hundreds to thousands. The more prospects who see your newsletter, the better known you become.

4. Write articles. Writing and publishing how-to articles on your specialty further positions you as an expert in your field. You can post the published articles on your website to add content and impress visitors. You can also use article reprints as mailers. For more information on how to write articles for both print magazines and online newsletters, check out this site I created.

5. Give talks. Find local chapters of associations to which your prospects belong. Offer to give a talk at a lunch or dinner meeting. Since these local chapters don’t pay speakers, they are always looking for someone to give a presentation for free. Volunteer to do it. If you give a good talk, some prospects in the audience will become interested in hiring you. Offer a free article reprint or tip sheet in exchange for their business cards. Then follow up by e-mail or phone.

And, a bonus tip: Record your speech. Duplicate the talk on audio CDs and mail these with your brochure to prospects who request information on your services. Post the audio as an mp3 file on your website and send your e-newsletter subscribers a link where they can hear it. If you want to avoid travel or are nervous about speaking live before a group, give and record an audio teleconference on your topic. Invite your online subscribers to attend for free. Post-conference, make the audio recording available as an mp3 and CD.

More from Start Your Own Home Business After 50:

Creating a Website for Your Home Business
Expert Advice for Starting a Home Business
Setting Financial Goals for Your Home Business

Reprinted with permission from Start Your Own Home Business After 50: How to Survive, Thrive, and Earn the Income You Deserve! by Robert W. Bly and published by Quill Driver Press, 2013.