Starting a Home Business?
Some Home Business Marketing Essentials to Help You Succeed
-By Amy Biddle, Think-House-Cleaning.com
If you're starting a home business, always begin your planning by thinking about the customer. Know what they want, know what they'll pay, know what to sell them. Most importantly, know who and where they are.
Let's say you're planning to start a fabric and sewing shop and run it out of your home to keep expenses down. You know there are lots of crafters and quilters in your town -- you will offer good products, so you figure you'll be well supported. It will be easy to get the word out about your new store, since you know the area. You've raised kids here, you've worked here your whole life. You feel you know the market.
But do you?
How do you know exactly what they're looking for?
Is the market really big enough to support your store and all the inventory, overhead and other related expenses?
What's your long-term plan? How will you grow if you want to expand in the future? After all, starting a home business isn't easy, but you also need to plan for growth from the beginning.
You can answer some of these questions with marketing research of your local area. You could mail out (at $.42 per first class mailing or $.27 per post card) a customer service survey. Ask lots of questions about what local crafters and quilters want. Find out if they need more fabric choices, or if they'd prefer more classes, or (if you can afford it) both?
But who do you mail to?
Let's say you start with your friends who are also quilters or friends who're into sewing. Perhaps you've been a member of a club. That's a good start -- you might get 50 - 100 names to mail to that way.
Next, you find a mailing list broker who can sell you a list (at $.03 per name) of people who are crafters and quilters. Fantastic! You can do a test mailing of 5000 people, find out what they want and develop your expansion plan to sell to them.
But when you get the list you realize that of those 5000 people, only about 50 of them live within a one-hour's drive of your shop. The rest of them live at least 75 miles away.
And how do you know they'll read your survey and respond? Professional direct marketing experts get really excited with a 5% return on a survey. How can you reach these people if only 250 people actually respond to the survey (and none of them live nearby!)
You decide to tap the market that's outside of your town by building a Web site. Even if you bring them to your shop once or twice a year, you'll certainly increase your sales.
A quick (and undoubtedly optimistic) look at the numbers shows you an 8% increase in profits if you can sell to some of these 5000 people once a year by reaching them on the internet rather than in the mail.
After firing up your computer, you find way too many choices of Web hosts but finally land on one you saw in a Super Bowl ad. If they can afford heavy advertising costs like that, you figure, they must be doing something right.
You buy their starter package for $14.95 and feel like you're getting away with something. After all, this Web site is a whole lot cheaper than that mailing you were considering! Maybe starting a home business is easy, you think.
After about a month (or longer if you have to learn how to put up the page yourself) you have a one-page online catalog of your fabrics and wares. Your site is live and waiting for the world to find you.
I'm sorry to be the one to tell you... it's going to be a very long wait.
We've seen this scenario too many times. It's heartbreaking, in fact. Starting a home business Web site takes so much more than throwing a little code on a page. While it's nearly impossible to state with certainty how many Web sites now exist on the 'Net, Google reports that they are indexing over 4 billion Web pages. Four billion!
When doing home business marketing online, you have to know what you're doing. And if you don't, you must have help. The Internet is an enormous place, and it's easier to get lost than it is to be found.
Starting a home business is so much more than offering some products to friends. That's called a hobby. If you want your business to survive, and to thrive, you must market properly, with full knowledge of the people you'll market to.
That's why my colleagues and I share information about home business marketing online. You have to be informed. Don't get suckered into buying a cheap Web site package in hopes that you'll be "found" online. Rather than waiting to be discovered, take charge.
Starting a home business is empowering. Reed, who runs this site, offers great guidance and tools. I do the same on my site. We've been making a good living online for many years. We know small business. Let us show you the ropes so you can have that knowledge, too.
Amy Biddle is a small business consultant who teaches individuals and small business owners to run massively successful businesses. Amy has identified top home business opportunities and teaches how to run a successful house cleaning business at Think-House-Cleaning.com.
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