I Can’t Afford to Remain in Business!
“A Small Business Marketing Story for Bootstrappers”
Well, yeah, I’m good and will be around a long time. This isn’t about me. This is FOR any small business owner questioning his/her sanity who are scared, stuck, broke and wondering why the hell they decided to work for themselves.
But there are thousands of small business owners who are not “good” as described above.
I should define small businesses as businesses that are probably family-owned with 1–100 employees. I had one business with 20 employees, another 2 with 8-10 employees, and the rest were run by myself alone. I learned to think outside the box.
Today, I make my living writing content as a copywriter/Lee Rowley trained CopyBrander. I also have experience starting and managing a multitude of small businesses dating back to the late 1970s and as such, I also have coached and consulted for small business owners. That remains a passion of mine.
For my purposes here I’m using two of my businesses as examples. I’m going to show how you, as a small business owner, how truly you can inexpensively market your business. It’s easy… and you can implement them right now.
Background: I came up with these things on the fly, literally. Because there was no digital marketing back then, that left radio, tv, and newspaper. $$$
These ideas still work today my friend and will save you loads of Andrew Jackson’s and other well-known Presidents. We are talking about bills and not old coins.
Ready? Cool. Let’s do this.
I started my first business in 1977, Mesa Waterworks. This was a service business, no store-front… an irrigation maintenance and repair business. I also designed and installed entire irrigation systems, mainly commercial.
I learned the trade by working in irrigation for a series of 3 other companies for over 2 years. With each company, I was doing more and learning more over 2+ years. Then I decided to work for myself.
Got bit by a most infectious “entrepreneurial bug”. Scared the hell out of me. I spent the weekend sweating bullets and wondering how the hell I would find business.
I had no money. I had no clients. I had no contacts. I spent $10 on cheap business cards and went through those like crazy. I had a 1972 Chevy Pickup with a work bed with cabinets.
It smoked a bit. It leaked a bit. It loved every gas station we drove by.
I wondered if there might have been some sexual attraction between the truck and … well… the pump.
I relay all this to you because you need to know that I, and millions of others, have been there… financially broke, newly married and a baby, an old truck and a kick-ass business idea.
Didn’t sleep Sunday night and got up Monday morning thinking … now, what the hell am I going to do?
Then an idea worked it’s way into my little pea-brain, forcing itself past the fear that had my mind and body paralyzed. I needed supplies and parts.
So off I headed to my local irrigation wholesale supply house, introduced myself, sat at their parts counter and made friends. I was honest with them… I had experience and made sure they knew who I worked for… but also made sure they knew I was starting on my own and needed work.
Sat there every day of the week. I did the same the following week. Only at the end of the week, I brought them a case of beer. They were happy. And their location and business were fairly new also.
The following week, when their phone rang and I was sitting there, they started referring call-ins to me for work. And they got another case of beer that Friday. I was also now in business.
Next, I knew the last company I had worked for was cheap. They hired inexperienced people to work for them. When I worked for them So my job following their other people around to fix their mistakes. So, I was everywhere they went (yes, I followed their trucks) I would visit after they were gone and give them my card.
The last thing I did at the start of this business was this… when I drove ANYWHERE I also looked for issues such as broken lines (flooding on a property), broken sprinkler heads (water squirting into the air). I would stop and give them my card with a quote to fix it.
So to re-state:
- Visit your supplier. With this type of business, you need parts and supplies. They are your friends and you want them to be your best friends. I ended up playing golf with these guys and going to company functions.
- You know the competition. Go after their customers. Don’t liable or slander or talk crap about them at any time. Take the high road always going after their clients.
- Common sense. Keep your eyes and ears open always.
The ideas I throw out to you here are for specific types of businesses. In this case, these are simple things to do for a service type business. My next post will deal with retail, an entirely different animal.
I mention this because one of the points I wish to make here for ALL new small business owners is this: there are always ways to market yourself for next to nothing.
You do NOT have to pay large sums of money for “digital marketing” to begin with. Especially if, like me, you had none to spend or (more like me) are just plain too cheap and want to do things yourself.
I have started and managed 6 businesses of all types. I never went under, never lost money and always made a very good living. You can also.
I never got rich, but that too will be another story.
Tuesday: Part 2.