Is your plan to reach your market realistic?

At some point, depending on the business you’re in, you’re going to have to spend money on promotions, advertising mailshots and other types of marketing. Take the fliers out to people in the street and try to discuss it with them. Ask little groups walking past your premises to come in and look at what you’re thinking of doing. Their feedback will help to answer this question convincingly. You can put together focus groups as well – they give good information.

At this planning stage, look at what your competition do in terms of advertising and assess what it would cost to match them. Then decide whether that’s a good idea in your first year before adding it to your estimated profit-and-loss account.

In my experience, getting in to see someone gives the best chance of making a sale. It is a good idea to be wary of the company catch-all brochure. Selling is about understanding what your potential customers want and need, and there’s a limit to how well you can do that with a brochure that you’re going to send out to a lot of people. Too much information is a turn-off. Stick to a clear, obvious message that shouts from the page. If it’s relevant to your business and you use mailshots, always follow up by telephone to as many of these as you can. Ask to go and see people for ten minutes to get their feedback to the mailshot itself. This approach is a good sieve. If the person agrees to see you, you’re making progress; if they don’t, then their ‘I’ll think about it,’ or ‘Just send me the company brochure’ is simply a polite way of ending the telephone call. It is, of course, a faith position; but I don’t really believe in company brochures that cover everything you do – they are no substitute for material that sells a particular item to a particular customer.

A woman setting up a service for looking after and entertaining children had to speak to a lot of mothers to get her first sessions filled up. To begin with, she started the conversation by explaining what the service was going to be and how it was going to grow. She got a much better hit-rate when she started all the conversations by asking detailed questions about the mother’s situation and requirements. We keep coming back to it – don’t bang on about your products, listen to what your customers want.

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