How To Use Marketing and Sales To Expand Your Home Business

Warning: Reading This And The Following Sales and Marketing Articles
May Cause Your Business To Grow Beyond What You Are Presently Able
To Handle.

Are you willing to take the risk and put in the effort to build and
grow a home-based business? Then read on and prosper! For in this
issue of HOME BUSINESSÆ Magazine, we will tell you what you need to
know to launch and maintain a winning sales and marketing campaign
for 1998.

The Problem

Many home-based entrepreneurs don’t know how to best market their
products and services. Some neglect proactive marketing all
together, praying earnestly and waiting for prospects to fall
through the ceiling. Others market full-force, but produce shoddy
publicity materials or other key marketing mistakes that kill their
business credibility, pushing clients away. Either approach will
keep you from achieving your business potential and financial
dreams.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’ve been thinking about starting a home business or
you’re already a seasoned home-based entrepreneur, the principle
remains the same ó your business’ survival and success hinge on how
effectively you penetrate the marketplace. There fore, examine how
the following marketing strategies and tools can help you boost your
home business profits in 1998.

The Home-Based Advantage

Low overhead costs, no commute to work, the ability to be home with
the kids ó these are just a few of the advantages for the home
business owner. Gear your marketing efforts to capitalize on these
and other home-based strengths including:

ï Adaptability. The Information Age has escalated the rate of change
in the marketplace. To survive and thrive, you must be prepared to
act ó and act quickly. As a home-based entrepreneur, you can make
adjustments instantly, without having to cut through the red tape of
bureaucratic decision-making procedures of larger business.

ï Technology. Computers, the Inter net, fax machines, and emerging
video-conferencing can take home businesses to a more level playing
field with bigger companies, empowering entrepreneurs to accomplish
tasks that used to require hiring staff to perform.

ï The Part-Time Op tion. Unlike conventional store-front businesses
that require full-time attention and high overhead costs, home
businesses can be operated part-time, at low cost, and ó depending
on your financial goals ó can be phased into full-time operations.

Taking Your Business To The Next Level

A common reason home businesses fail is because owners neglect the
up-front planning needed to position their ventures. Once you have
defined your market position ó where you want to take your business
in the next year ó you will have moved one step closer to success.

Begin by taking inventory of where your business is right now. What
specific goods and services do you provide? How do you set yourself
apart? What is your business’ reputation? How are you perceived by
your customer as far as your prices, reliability, and other elements
of your products or services? If you already have a business, seek
feedback from existing clients.

The next step is to project where you want to take your business in
the next year. What market position do you want to occupy? Is the
niche market you want large enough? How will your benefits outsell
those provided by the competition? Do you have the ability, capital,
resources and support to make your market position a reality? Your
answers will give you the information you need to begin designing or
updating your marketing plan.

Planning For Profit

Once you have determined where you want to go, outline the essential
steps to get there. Begin by writing a one sentence purpose
(mission) statement for your marketing campaign. The rest of your
plan should include a brief description of each of the following:

ï Benefits of your products and services.

ï Your target market.

ï What marketing tools will best help you achieve your mission.

ï Your market niche ó what sets you apart in the market place.

ï Your marketing budget.

Keep your marketing plan brief. The more concise you make your
marketing plan, the more effective it will be in evaluating your
marketing efforts throughout the year.

Finding Your Niche

This is often the hardest task for a beginning home-based en
trepreneur ó but also one of the most crucial. In order for your
venture to survive in a competitive marketplace, you must
distinguish yourself from other businesses and find a niche. What
makes your business unique? Why should someone choose to buy from
you over a competitor? Prospective clients want to know. If you can
give them a compelling answer, you will position yourself as a
leader in your industry ó boosting your profit potential.

Marketing Tools That Hit a Home Run

No matter how you choose to publicize your business, one principle
should guide your promotional material: Get to the point ó fast.
You’re vying for the attention of consumers bombarded each day with
advertisements from countless companies ó some being your
competitors. Don’t waste any time getting your message across.

Ad ó Vantage

You have determined your market position and drawn up a marketing
plan; now you’re ready to proactively spread the word about your
products and services. One effective tool is mass-media advertising.
You have a variety of media choices ó depending upon your target
market and your advertising budget ó including magazines,
newspapers, television, radio, and the Internet.

Start by evaluating how and where your competitors advertise. What’s
working for them? Take their best ideas; then design your own
winning layout, positioning yourself as having the best offer.

Seductive Headlines

As the first phrases seen in advertising copy, headlines should
arouse enough interest in the reader so that they will want to read
or listen on to learn more about your product, price and offer. To
get ideas about what headlines will work best for you, scan
different types of ad copy, particularly those from your
competitors. Effective headlines:

ï Capture the customer’s interest

ï Build business credibility

ï Highlight the most important benefits

ï Are always positive.

Testing Your Ads

Advertising can be expensive, but for just about any business a
mandatory investment. To get the most out of your ads, test them by
the following criteria:

ï What is the quantity of leads or prospects that the ad generates?
Compare this amount in terms of a unit cost of advertising (dollars
in advertising per leads generated).

ï How many of these leads convert into sales? Different advertising
media ó due to the audiences they target ó will vary in the numbers
of actual closes.

Continually check the response from your ads, make changes or run a
new ad if necessary.

Regional & National Exposure

Magazines and trade journals are the Energizer Bunny of the
advertising tools ó they keep going and going and going. Not only do
magazine ads have the longest “shelf-life” of any advertising medium
(giving your business exposure for as long as that issue is in
circulation), but you can make reprints of that ad that will last
you forever. You could run an ad in a major national magazine (a
cost-effective option for home-based entrepreneurs to build
credibility and compete with larger companies) and then order
reprints of that ad to use as powerful credibility pieces in sales
presentations, direct mailings, or whatever promotional means you
choose.

To find out if a publication will give you the exposure you want and
fit in your marketing budget, call and ask for their media kit. Not
only will you find out a magazine’s ad rates, but you’ll learn about
its circulation, demographic focus, etc.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Newspaper ads are very effective for home-based businesses that
market their products and services locally. Not only can you reach a
large number of people in specific metropolitan locations, but you
can also target pros pects via their interests (e.g. sports,
lifestyle, and business sections).

Go to your local library to study back issues of the newspaper in
which you’re interested in placing an ad. What would be the best day
for you to run an ad? If you were running a catering business, for
example, you would choose Wednesday or Thursday because those are
the days most newspapers print their food sections. What section of
the paper would be best geared to your target market? If your offer
is directed toward males, the sports section would be one for you to
consider.

Advertising costs depend on a number of factors including: the size
of the ad, where in the paper it’s placed, the day it runs, etc. As
with magazines, call and request a media kit from the newspaper to
determine what advertising steps you can take that will fit within
your marketing budget.

Making Waves With Radio

Radio advertising enables you to home in on your target market
depending upon the type of station, time of day and day of week you
run an ad. The advertising costs for the large, more popular
stations are out of reach for most home-based entrepreneurs.
However, smaller stations provide less expensive options.

When deciding whether or not you can afford to place a radio ad,
determine how many times you need to run the ad in order for it to
be effective. Initial placement may fit well into your budget, but
the true test is to consider the overall costs of running an
effective radio advertising campaign.

For many home-based entrepreneurs, radio is not a cost-effective
medium for home business owners, especially those who market to a
national audience. However, if you target a local market and have
the funds to run your ads consistently on a number or stations
throughout the year, radio advertising may very well be the ticket
you need to take your business to the next level.

Now You Too Can Be on TV!

A television commercial ó when done properly ó is the most powerful
way to get your message across. The combination of video and audio
appeal to more senses than any other advertising method. His
torically, be cause of television’s drawing power, only the big-name
companies could afford to use it to advertise. However, with the
dawn of satellite and cable TV, more affordable options are
available for the home-based entrepreneur.

As with radio, consider how often you need to run a TV ad for it to
be effective. Then add up expenses. Placement costs have plummeted
significantly, but if you purchase only one or two thirty second
segments, you won’t likely make enough impact on your target market.
Therefore, decide how much of your marketing budget you’re willing
to devote to television advertising. If you cannot afford a
significant number of runs, invest your advertising dollars
elsewhere, such as magazine advertising. If you can, take full
advantage of this powerful medium.

The Power Of Printed Material

Once your ad has generated interest, how do you keep your prospects
hungry to know more about what your business can do for them?

Brochures To Generate Closures

Whet their appetites with a compelling brochure that showcases your
business’ features and benefits and promotes your business
expertise. Add attractive graphics and attention-grabbing headlines
to give your brochure a professional appearance and build your
business credibility.

Home-Based Basics

Your brochure is just one component in you marketing arsenal. Don’t
overlook the sales-generating potential of basic business printed
materials:

ï Letterhead and Stationary: Use high quality paper. Consider
including your mission statement and a brief listing of services.
Incorporate all ways to contact you, such as e-mail and fax.

ï Faxes: A fax cover sheet should mirror the letterhead. Include
your company name and number across the top of the page.

ï Business Cards: When meeting a potential client, the business card
is your first introduction. Put a headline on it that defines your
mission. Fill the blank space on the back the card with the top
three benefits your business has to offer.

ï Invoices, Statements & Mis c ellaneous Correspondence: In all
correspondence you have with a client, even sending a bill, use
these as opportunities to market your business. As an example, an
invoice to a client might contain a special discount only for
previous customers.

ï Flyers: Less formal and shorter than a brochure, flyers are used
for impersonal promotions targeted to a time-specific event (special
discount, sale item, etc.). Home-based entrepreneurs who market to a
local audience can tack them up on utility poles and bulletin
boards, place under car windshields, insert in newspapers, or
deliver through carrier route mail. For national marketing, flyers
can be send through the mail.

Catching Clients With The Web

Imagine! You can have a salesperson working for you 24 hours a day,
seven days a week ó even while you sleep ó for nearly pennies a day.
A web site and effective use of e-mail can make your small-time,
home-based operation into a major international force ó truly
putting you on a level playing field with the big companies. And now
with web page design software available, getting a web site up and
running by yourself has never been easier.

How can you best use cyber-technology to boost your business image
and profits? See Jeffrey Spen cer’s article, “Cyber Malls: 7
Criteria for Sel ect ing a Successful Provider,” on page 68, and
“E-mail: The Most Important Online Communication Tool in Your
Marketing Toolbox” by Terry Wil liams on page 28.

Direct-Mail Marketing

For the price of a stamp, you can home in on almost any target
market, be as detailed or brief as you wish, and expect relatively
high re sponse. “All other forms of marketing can help you
immensely,” comments Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the best-selling
Guerilla Marketing titles, “but direct marketing can help you more.”
What can direct-mail marketing empower you to do?

ï Generate inquiries with potential clients. Mailing lists targeted
to high probability contacts, home-based business owners can
generate interest in their product or service. Following up the
direct mail-letter with a telephone call or personal meeting will
increase your chances of closing the sale.

ï Maintain communication with current clients. So many businesses,
particularly larger ones, neglect ongoing client communication.
Contact gets to be centered only on conducting business. Home-based
businesses can bridge this gap with a letter in the mail.

Making Direct Mail Work

Here are the time-honored tips for effective direct mail (See also
Hilton Johnson’s article, “Ace Components of Good Direct Marketing,”
on page 34):

ï Mail to a person. Avoid mailing blindly to a company. If you
cannot get an actual contact, address the letter to the appropriate
department or title (i.e. Marketing Director).

ï Grab the reader’s attention. You have about five seconds to
generate interest before the letter joins today’s junk mail in the
trash. Use headlines and highlight benefits.

ï Write the way you speak; maintain a conversational tone to your
letter.

ï Start the sales process. In most cases, direct mail is used to
start the sales pro cess with a new or present client. Make it easy
to continue with the sale, such as explaining what to do to learn
more about the product (i.e. phone number to call).

ï Future Action. As the direct letter starts the sales process, show
the recipient how he or she can take further action.

ï Study your audience. Learn as much as you can about your prospect
before sending the letter. You will come across as having the
reader’s best interest in mind.

ï Follow-up. Follow up. Follow up! Often four or five letters are
needed to clinch the sale or generate a telephone response.

Techniques for Designing a Direct Mailer

ï Use the estimated date that the recipient will receive the mail

ï Use first names for the “Dear” block.

ï Within the first few sentences of the letter describe key
benefits, mention any businesses or points of contact who you can
reference, and explain your purpose for writing

ï Deliver credibility by including customer testimonials. You want
to show the recipient why he or she should continue to read your
letter.

ï Provide a strong incentive for the recipient to act.

ï Ask for action.

ï Include a guarantee (if soliciting for a direct sale)

ï Reference any enclosures you have in the envelope, such a brochure
or flyer.

ï Postscripts (P.S.): Use postscripts to maximum effect. Postscripts
al most always get read, and provide an excellent place to make a
written offer.

Tele-Power!

The telephone is an often overlooked tool for home-based marketing
success. You can qualify prospects, generate interest in your
business and even close sales ó all with the touch of a few buttons.
Imagine how much time and money you can save when you use the
telephone to your advantage.

Generating Incoming Telephone Calls

If a prospect calls you first, the chances of you closing the sale
greatly increase. So how do you get the phone ringing?

ï Create an incentive, such as offering a benefit for making a call.

ï Have a toll-free number. This can increase your response rate by
30-700%. However, if you’re dealing exclusively with local clients,
a toll-free number is not necessary.

ï Use telephone numbers that are easy to remember.

ï Find ways to get people to hold-on to your telephone number
(magnetic stick-ons, memo pads, business cards, pens, etc.).

Maximizing Telephone Calls

Making calls takes time ó and as you know ó time is money. How do
maximize you profit potential with your phone time?

ï Call only prospects who are pre-qualified, either through being a
referral, a response to a direct mailer or other marketing
promotion, having a “gatekeeper” to whom you can refer, etc.

ï Know who you are trying to reach. If you have to ask for a
department head, such as the Director of Sales, you are not targeted
enough for home-based telephone sales.

ï Ask the caller if it is a good time to call. Besides making sure
that you do not irritate the prospect, you will appear considerate.

ï Be specific and get to the point. When you reach the client, state
the reason why you are calling within the first 30 seconds.

ï Establish a relationship with the prospect before making the sales
pitch.

ï Keep the sales process moving.

Telephone Tact

You have one chance to make a good first impression, increasing your
chances of a sale down the road. Here’s how to do it on the
telephone:

ï Answer the phone. Your telephone advantage as a home-based
entrepreneur is that the client can reach you, the decision maker,
without having to cut through secretaries and other buffers found in
larger companies. You can’t do that if your phone is busy or rolls
into voice mail. Put callers on hold ó no more than 15 seconds ó to
take call-back messages from other incoming calls. If a call goes to
voice mail, call that person back immediately. Keep phone
conversations brief. If using a Personal Information Manager (PIM)
on your computer, time the sales call.

ï Be goal oriented. Know what you want to accomplish and what
information you need before you pick up the phone.

ï Speak slowly, concisely and clearly. Avoid rambling.

ï Be enthusiastic. The biggest hurdle to staying enthusiastic is
making numerous phone calls at one time. Pace your phone calls out,
a little bit each day.

ï Speak in terms of benefits, not features.

ï Solicit feedback but avoid direct questions. Keep inquiries
open-ended so that the caller has the option to make answers if he
or she feels comfortable doing so.

ï Thank the person for their time.

ï Follow-up with a letter. Compu terized form letters can be easily
personalized and even started while you are talking with the person
on the telephone.

Tantalizing Testimonials

Satisfied customers can be one of your best sales forces. Request
that they write a testimonial on their letterhead. Include these in
advertisements to lend more credibility to your offer and in a
professional portfolio to show prospective clients during a sales
presentation.

You may also want to request permission from a client to have
prospects call that person about your products and services. This
shows that you build relationships with your clients and you are
confident in the quality of what you offer. (see “Add a Personal
Touch to Dealing With Custo mers”, page 45)

Network To Boost Your Net Worth

Use networking to leverage existing business contacts into new
customers. Networking is particularly critical in local service
businesses. For certain types of specialized professional consulting
fields, such as engineering or accounting, networking makes the
difference between success and failure.

Start with your family and friends and expand into business, civic
and even political groups. If your company has a local focus, build
relationships within the Chamber of Commerce.

Free Marketing! Public Relations And Publicity

Favorable publicity in mass media is an excellent way to build
credibility in the marketplace. But how do you get media people to
notice you? Think of how you can make your business newsworthy. What
kind of “hook” will generate interest with journalists? Then
consider the perspective of the audience. What kind of story will
interest them?

To achieve results, public relations often requires long-term
persistence. Spend time to evaluate and compile a list of the best
candidates likely to print or report on your business. For example,
if your local newspaper tends to focus on regional and national
business activities, then to send them a news releases on your
business will probably be a waste. A smaller community newsletter is
a better publicity option.

Press Release Power

Unless your business is new and unique, the most common way to
generate publicity is to weave a human interest story around your
business. For example, write a press release that tells the trials
and tribulations of starting up the business.

You often have to submit several versions of your press release to
the same media representatives, such as a local business editor. Try
to develop at least some telephone familiarity with the individual
with whom you are trying to gain publicity.

The best tactic to capitalize on press releases is to start small
with your local newspapers and newsletters. Talk personally with the
editors. Upon getting a local press release printed, use it to put
together a new press release to submit to larger publications,
perhaps even a national one.

The objective of a press release is to get a news editor to report
on your business activity. Keep in mind that the editor’s goal is to
appeal to the widest cross section of their readership. Therefore:

ï Get to the Point. The press release must be able to be read and
comprehended in less than a minute

ï Watch the current events. What are the hot topics? What are people
talking about? Try to weave your press release around a current
event.

ï Be an Expert. The way people usually become experts in any field
is that they have received publicity that recognizes them as an
expert. (For example, a professional consultant gets written up in
his or her respective professional journal.) Determine on what you
can be an expert and then sell yourself as that authority. It works.

ï Provide Facts and Data. News editors build credibility for their
stories by weaving in facts and figures. If you can provide credible
information, your chances increase dramatically of being included in
a news story.

ï Form a Group. The news media love to report on the activities of
new organizations, because new groups are of natural source of
interest to readers.

Get the most mileage out of any favorable publicity that comes your
way. Publicity is a game that builds upon itself. Small press
releases bag the bigger ones.

Broadcast Your Business ó For Free

Although not common for home-based entrepreneurs, radio and TV can
offer a way for a home-based business to gain exposure. See Gregory
J.P. Godek’s article, “14 Tips for Pro moting Your Book on TV and
Radio” on page 44.

Penetrate the Market with a Service Edge

Any seasoned business person knows that it costs five times more to
sell to a new prospect than to an existing client. Studies show that
each satisfied customer will spread the good word about your
business to at least one other person. On the flip-side: a
dissatisfied customer will complain to between five and ten
potential customers. Your mission in getting customer referrals is
to turn passive satisfied customers into actively enthusiastic
supporters who will promote your business. The best way to do this
is through superior performance, and it goes beyond just providing a
product or service:

ï Deliver your product in a timely manner, always beating the
deadline.

ï Solve your customer’s problems. This means going beyond what they
tell you to discover new problems that they need to conquer.

ï Seek out questions and provide intelligent answers.

ï Maintain regular contact with the customer. Don’t let more than
six months slip by without dropping a customer a quick note or phone
call.

ï Follow up. After you have delivered a product and service and have
been paid, follow-up with a call to ensure everything is still OK.
Often a disgruntled customer will fester like a cancer, without
having the nerve to talk with you about their dissatisfaction.
Follow-up calls facilitate constructive dialog to smooth over any
problems.

ï Long-term perspective. Work to establish a long-term relationship
with customers.

ï Act immediately on complaints. Jump on any sign of dissatisfaction
by your clients. This requires “active listening” and the ability to
read behind the lines, because most people have difficulties
confronting someone when they are dissatisfied. But they have no
problem gossiping with your other customers about their complaints.

ï Personalize your service. Treat the customer as if they are
family.

ï Walk away from business if it is in the customer’s best interest.
Forgoing a sale that is not right for your potential client is one
of the most powerful ways to generate favorable word-of-mouth
publicity.

The Close

Whether you’re just launching your home business or have been
building one for years, don’t allow lack of information keep you
from achieving your financial dreams. Study your marketing options
and decide which ones will best position you for long-term success.
HBM

Originally Published at http://www.homebusinessmag.com/

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SMB Reviews
SMB Reviews 473 posts

SMBReviews is committed to providing small and mid-sized business owners with the information and resources they need to select the best service or product for their company.

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