When starting up a business, the pressure is on. You may have left your job or are looking to quickly build up customers so that you can leave. Maybe you have funding that you need to make a success. Everyone wants their business to start with a boom, and yet so many people seem to hover in that first year. While you may be working at full throttle, I’ve found that a lot of start ups, especially first businesses, simply go down the wrong direction due to lack of confidence. BE YOUR OWN FAVOURITE RAPPER 👏
Mistake #1 – Not going for the big boys
When people start out in business, it’s very rare that they will approach large clients. For clarity, let’s say a large client is whoever you think is just out of your league. You assume that they’d want someone who is more established, or someone who has been in business for many years and has their own office. You assume they already have someone to do whatever it is that you do.
So when people tell me their target audience is small, one man band businesses, or small charities, I think….. why? Why are you intentionally going for the businesses who are not going to have budget? I have had zero success rates with businesses who have no, or little budget to hire me.
When your target audience is small budget businesses, that leads you to your next mistake:
Mistake #2 – Undercharging
Instead of making yourself affordable go for people who can afford you. This is a mistake I made with my first business, I had an expensive product and did not provide my product with an audience who could afford it. Instead I was continuously berated that my product was too expensive, which affected me, because I felt like my product was not good enough for the price. This was under confidence. Now if someone tells me my service is too expensive I hear that as “I don’t have budget for marketing” and move on. I definitely do not hear “you are too expensive you are not good enough to be charging this much” because I know there are people out there who have budget who will happily pay, and even find me very cheap. If you aren’t charging above and beyond what your competitors charge, then trust me, you aren’t too expensive. Don’t lower your prices until your business is no longer able to provide you with an income, and definitely don’t think you’ll start cheap and put your prices up when you’re more established.
Mistake #3 – Sticking to what you know
This might be a sensitive issue. I see a lot of businesses marketing to people who are just like them, stay at home Mums, or just other women in general. There is no reason, no reason, why you can’t market and sell to established, male run businesses. Globally, only 20% of businesses are owned by women. Why are you cutting out 80% of potential customers? Both male and female owned businesses want to increase their profits, we all have that in common and women don’t need pale pink branding with a cursive font to be attracted to you. Yes you will encounter some sexism, but you don’t need to be your own sexist glass ceiling. Business is still a predominantly male affair, and that’s not going to change without your input.
Thinking of sticking to one industry just because all your clients so far have been in that industry? If you can work with other industries then do so. There is no reason why you need to target to a niche audience unless your service is niche. Is there a particular reason why you can only photograph food and not products? Can you photograph all objects? If so, market yourself accordingly.
Mistake #4 – Planning for failure
Businesses that have a strong brand are perceived as having a higher value. If you have a nice website, photography and professional brand this is going to get you more customers. Yet people tell me that they can’t afford all that stuff. Make the investment, borrow money if you have to, if you don’t you’ll have a smaller chance of ever being able to afford it. Not investing a sensible amount that you’d be able to pay back easily if you got one more client, is quietly telling yourself that you might not get that client even if you have a great brand. If you had the confidence you deserve, you’d know that your business will be profitable when you make the right steps.
Mistake #5 – Not marketing, networking, promoting or doing sales.
You know what, putting yourself out there is scary. Every time I write a post on LinkedIn I wince a little, because I know one of my competitors will have something contrary to say about it, but then I found out, he does exactly the same thing to my agent who is raking in much, much more business than I am. There is always going to be someone who points out your flaws to raise themselves up, and that’s something that’s only going to increase with your own success.
You cannot run a business to business business (tongue twister) without doing sales and marketing. And I’ve seen even the best businesses sink because they failed to market.
Quit thinking, if you’re good enough people will come to you. This might work if you’re a sexy girl in a night club, but in most other contexts if you want something you have to go after it. Repeatedly liking a businesses instgram posts and hoping they notice you is the same as eyeing someone up in a bar and hoping they make the first move. Maybe your business is that sexy, but it probably isn’t.
You need to be doing face to face sales, have a website that sells yourself at max potency and you need to network and shout about what you do. Don’t be a shrinking violent because you lack confidence. You are good enough, your business is good enough, expect criticism and let it wash over you.
Mistake #6 – Relying on friends and family
If you lack the confidence to market yourself both on and offline, you might fall into the trap of hoping that your friends and family will support your business. This is why I see a lot of people who run small businesses promote themselves on their personal Facebook page and no where else. Yes when you first start your business, if you’re lucky (a lot of us don’t have any friends and family support whatsoever) your family will buy your product or service, or recommend it to people they know. But realistically, how many people do you actually know? A business with 6,000 web visitors per month may struggle to get five clients from that, depending on their service. You need to be reaching thousands of qualified (potential good leads) people. Your personal Facebook isn’t full of potential customers. Your nanna, aunty and old school friends aren’t going to help you substantially increase your income.
MLM (multi-level marketing businesses) usually rely totally on social media and their own friends and family to keep their business afloat. Which is probably contributes to why 99.7% of MLM businesses lose money.
Don’t trust anyone to care about your business as much as you do, they won’t. Not your husband, not your mother, and definitely not your friends. This is not because they don’t care about you and you may get recommendations from time to time, they just likely wont understand what’s involved, what you charge and how good you actually are. And don’t forget, they’re not professional sales people, so why expect them to sell your service well? In the many years I’ve been in business, I’ve had TWO enquiries which can be attributed to friends and family. TWO, and my mother is my biggest fan, she’s generated me zero leads. My husband’s also on zero.
And as an additional point, you don’t want to mix business and friendship/family. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Get yourself out there, assert yourself as the authority and get in front of the people who will actually buy from you.