I recently taught a workshop for CIIS-California Institute of Integral Studies on ways to start a business and stay in business. Below are some of my thoughts from that workshop.
Starting a business-Five things you need to know before you begin
1. Are you passionate about your business venture?
2. Do you have a plan B in case things get going slowly or not at all?
3. Do you have at least 3-6 months cash reserves to survive on in case of a slow period?
4. Business will never come to you. You have to go after it
5. Thinking outside of the box will always provide you with more revenue than playing it safe
Business success-Who are you? What do you want? How will you get there?
1. Be clear who you want to market to. Who’s most likely to buy from you? In 2 sentences state who you are, what your business is and what your specialty is.
2. Have a game plan for reaching your endgame? How will you get there?
3. Diversify your talents til you get where you want to go. Write, teach, partner with others. And get paid to do it. Freelance your talents when things get slow
Why some businesses thrive, while others fail.
The main reason most businesses fail is because…..
1. The business owner forgets that the main objective of running a business is to sell.
2. Administrative work is not the same thing as running a business. It’s only a small aspect of it
3. Cold calling, target marketing, promotion ,sales and administrative work must be managed equally
4. Lack of focus and discipline will kill a great business faster than anything.
Setting appointments/cold calling/Target marketing
There are at least 5 types of telemarketing
Every firm in the country performs at least 1 form of telemarketing. Depending on what you want the outcome of the call to be ;its highly recommended that you get into the habit of picking up the phone
Sales tips 101- Getting your foot in the door-Closing the deal now
1. Not everyone you speak with is someone you want to do business with
2. The key is to speak with people that have a need, a budget, open to a meeting and buying your product and/or service is a priority
3. Ask probing questions to determine their need. (i.e. what are you currently doing? How often do you make a purchase? Will you be open to a proposal within 1-3 months?)
4. If the prospect is resistant, ask is there any particular reason? Trust me they will tell you.
5. Are there any current problem areas with your current provider?
6. What will it take to get your business?
7. Be prepared to move on if they are still resistant.
Pro Bono work. Pros and cons
Pro Bono work is a great way to get your name out there to a targeted audience without spending any money. However there are some pros and cons for pro bono work
No out of pocket cost
A targeted audience is assured
Generally workshops/seminars are well attended
Built in credibility
Can lead to paid engagements and referrals
At the mercy of the organizer who may take advantage of your generosity
No guarantee that you’ll get any business out of it
A lot of time ,energy and resources may be used to host the event
Bottom line? Accepting a pro bono assignment can be good for your career if it’s managed correctly.
What to do while waiting for that first paying account
Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for business
Send out e-mails, DM pieces, and make cold calls to a targeted audience
Host a seminar to generate revenue
Look for paid writing assignments
Register with freelance websites like Elance.com
Large, mid-sized and small accounts-Why they’re all important but for very different reasons.
Everyone wants that 1 big account that’s going to put them on the map professionally, however as I learned my first year in business, it can devastate your practice if you’re relying on the one account to pay the bills. It’s like losing a full time job and then scrambling to make up the difference. Large accounts often have the budget and cash flow to afford high end services/products but are very slow in paying. It can take accounts payable between 30-90 days to pay an invoice. And for a small business (even one that’s been around for years) it can be devastating.
These accounts generally have the cash but be forewarned, they may decide to stop service at any time. They generally pay their accounts sooner because there are fewer people to sign off on an invoice (controller, owner, accounts, payable, office manager).
Truth be told I sometimes prefer these accounts out of the three because while they may not always be able to afford my services, they do pay faster (assuming the cash is there). The down side is like mid accounts they may decide not to re-new a contract due to lack of funds and it may be years before they contact you again. You may also deal with bounced checks, missed appointments and unrealistic expectations
Diversify and hedge your bets by closing large ,mid-size and smaller accounts to maximize your success. More money means more options, flexibility and opportunities.
Ten low cost/no cost ways to promote yourself
1. Reporter Connection- A great way to generate free p.r. is to send a press release announcing updates and changes in your business. Typically these press release services are free. I would stay away from those that charge a fee. The site also sends daily e-mail blasts (once you register) to tell you about promotional opportunities in the media. It’s up to you to respond to these listings by the deadline noted. To date I’ve been interviewed or promoted myself (on various sites or media outlets) at least 3 times a month via this and other services. When I launched my radio show I sent out 1 press release and received an overwhelming 250+ responses in 1 day. I now have a top rated show, my pick of guests, a six month waiting list and a built in audience. Go to www.reporterconnection.com .
2. Haro.com(Help A Reporter Out) -Similar to Reporterconnection.com except the daily listings are from reporters looking for specific content or interviewees. I’ve landed several interviews thanks to these two outlets without spending a dime.
Note: It’s important to note that not every response you answer is going to be to give your expert advice on MSNBC. Many of these are for smaller publications. That’s okay, because the more you put your name out there the more you’ll with the smaller publications, the easier it will be for the larger ones to find you in time.
3. Local radio and tv shows- Start by sending great press releases to the smaller local stations before moving on to the larger national stations. First it’s easier to get on these shows and second its great training ground for the larger networks. Be prepared to pitch a story/topic. They won’t generally do the work for you so you should be inventive.
4. Teach what you know. This should be a no brainer but for most the idea of teaching a class or workshop doesn’t come naturally. But think about it. Every time you meet with a potential client you’re teaching or educating them on your industry. Prospects buy from you because they feel comfortable enough in your abilities because you’ve demonstrated your expertise by showing them what you know. Therefore every salesperson becomes a teacher in a sense. Share your knowledge and establish yourself as an expert because prospects don’t buy from people that don’t know their stuff.
5. Write/publish- This is more in the vein of teaching what you know. Again, most people wouldn’t want to take on the herculean task of writing a book (which can take months or years to complete in the hopes of getting an agent, publisher and publicist to sign off on it (which again can take months or years).My solution is to start by blogging or writing a series of articles on a subject you’re passionate about. Once you get a collection together then think about turning the collection into a book; which by the way can be as small as 50-100 pages. Once you have edited the manuscript down to a manageable size then you have two options; self-publication which is becoming more the norm or going the traditional route.
Self-publishing vs Traditional publishing
1. Self-publishing gives you almost full control over content ,book cover, pricing, marketing, distribution
2. Amazon.com has self-publishing options without upfront costs
3. Traditional publishing allows you to ask for a decent advance on book sales before the book is even published which gives you some financial cushion
4. Editing is up to you
5. If marketed properly you can make a very steady revenue stream
1. It’s a lot of work to do it all particularly if you’re not sure how to get going.
2. You still have to promote it which means it may take a while before you make any money.
3. Traditional publishing is much harder to break into because the market has become more competitive than ever. It’s no longer good enough to have a great well written book. It must also be marketable and a clear money maker. Traditional publishers aren’t taking the risks they once did with unknown authors-therefore getting a great book published can take years…if ever.
4. Edits and re-writes are at the discretion of the publisher and can take months.
5. Traditional publication handle the marketing, distribution for you which can net you a great deal of money but it may mean that your book will look entirely different from your original concept and manuscript.
So the choice is yours. Whichever direction you choose- one fact remains clear. Hard work persistence and a lot of luck are the keys to your success.
6. Host a networking event/launch party. If you have a business to introduce to a targeted audience, what better way to do it than a party? Partner with a local bar or restaurant to see what kind of deals they can offer on food and drinks if you can guarantee a certain number of attendees. I’m currently partnered with a number of small business owners to host a series of events and so far it hasn’t cost me a dime (caterers are donating 1 dish in exchange for publicity. Pearl Vodka is donating 2 cases of vodka per event).
7. Host your own show. Can’t find anyone to hire you to host a show? Hire yourself. My show Small Business Forum on www.blogtalkradio.com/tonywilkins was created quite by accident when I was blown off by another show on the same site. It occurred to me that I had quite a lot to say and an enormous amount of info to get out to the masses. So why not host my own show? Nearly six months later as of this writing, I have a waiting list for guests to call in to my show.
8. Guest blog on someone else’s site or create your own.
9. Small Business Week. Check with your local SBA to see when your city’s Small Business Week occurs. SBW is one of the largest networking events of the year. However the event dates (which include a week of seminars and networking events) can vary from city to city. There are two approaches to really promoting yourself at these events. You can teach and/or attend events. I tend to do both. Last year I was asked to fill in at the last minute as an instructor and my seminar hosted nearly 100 people. I’ve since been asked to teach the same seminar again this year.
10.Partner with a corporate sponsor. I admit this is new territory for me since I’m used to working with smaller organizations but so far it’s been a very positive experience. Corporate sponsors not only give you credibility but also puts your name out there in front of a targeted audience. Since launching my show I’ve partnered with larger firms like Philz Coffee, Pearl Vodka as well as smaller sponsors like Design Plus Consignment.
Be sure to tune in to my show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/tonywilkins. For more tips be sure to check out my workshops
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2971988297 Market your business-30 ways to generate sales in 30 days
http://www.eventbrite.com/event/3042487161 Starting a business/Staying in business * This is a much different workshop than the one listed.