Sarah Orchard - Orchard Marketing
Yippee I’m 10!
Well 2017 was a major milestone for my business, I made it to the big 10! No that’s not 10 clients but 10 years running a small business. Given all the stats around small business failure, quoted as high as 80% in the first 3 years, I feel very proud to have survived against what seem like the harsh odds.
I started in 2007 just as the big recession hit and at times it might have seemed like a foolish decision to walk away from my lucrative Corporate job but my motivations weren’t money-driven. I had become disillusioned with the politics, back-stabbing and how slow and hard work the progress always felt. Time to make a difference and do something that had more immediate impact and was more rewarding.
So I set up my marketing consultancy and had no clients and no contacts in the small business world. Gulp!
It hasn’t been plain sailing by any means and I have learned the hard way with mistakes and getting things wrong. I have also learned some good stuff that I wanted to share to help other small business owners flourish and not flounder.
So here is my top 10 tips for small business success:
1 Why are you actually in business?
Be true to yourself and do what you are passionate about. It shows! It pours from your being and infects your prospects customers, associates and also importantly, your family and friends. Life is too short to do stuff you hate ever day – find your passion!
2 Really know your Ideal Customers
It can be tempting to throw your net wide to maximise your chances of success. But it makes the marketing job much harder and in fact, niche is best. The more focused and descriptive you can be the better. I went too wide initially and just said Small businesses and really it is small business owners who sell to end consumers and have an experience business – tourism, hospitality, leisure, or retail. Be really clear who your customers are!
3 Get your pricing/fees right
You need to be good at the commercial numbers. Don’t be tempted to start low – don’t undervalue your experience and skills - as it is hard and sometimes impossible to raise your prices later! I was told a good rule of thumb and choose to ignore it as the daily rate seemed a bit scary – it took me 3 years to get to the fees I charge now. It made I was somewhat of a busy fool for the first few years.
In the Corporate world I didn’t really know all this networking ‘underworld’ went on. Meetings in pubs and golf clubs in the early hours, sometimes before dawn! I spent the first 18 months networking, trying to go to 1-2 meetings per week. It can be hard work but it paid off. It takes time though. I didn’t really start to see results for about 9 months but it has repaid my investment ten fold and I met some great business buddies and suppliers along the way, as well as getting client work too. Don’t expect to walk away with it on day one though!!
5 Get a business buddy – a mentor or some peer to peer support…
Working for yourself can be lonely. I had always worked in big teams in large corporates. Suddenly I was on my own and ‘I’ and not a ‘we’ anymore! Nobody to bounce ideas or problems off of. If you are finding stuff tough – sometimes your life partner isn’t the best person to chat it through with, as they get scared about money and your happiness. Find some fellow self-employed business people – a supportive supplier, a networking friend, get a coach, join a Mastermind group, or get a mentor through a professional body or association. It can really help you develop your business and grow it quicker.
6 Outsource what you are not good at!
Do what you are good at, outsource what you don’t have the skills or patience for. Grow your business quicker. It can seem like a cost but these people are experts at what they are passionate about so let them help you – with IT, accounting, office admin, telemarketing, marketing and social media. I got my own Virtual Assistant (VA) about 5 years ago and in the first 12 months I doubled my turnover. Getting her to help with things meant I could focus on fee earning. It was a pivotal moment for my business.
7 Working on your business, not in your business
We all hear this expression all the time but it is easy to forget. Nigel Botterill in his Botty Rules book speaks about working on your business for 90 minutes every day – not on the urgent stuff – the important, business development or innovation stuff that moves you forward. I think most small business owners will struggle with 90 minutes every day, so I recommend setting aside 45 minutes, 3 times a week to do your own important stuff and that includes marketing your own business, not working on client work. I do this myself and it really does work. Make sure you set aside this time at the best time of day for you – when are you most focused and/or productive?
8 Don’t underestimate the power of your own website and Google
As people keep obsessing with social media (don’t get me wrong I love it as a marketer and what it does for us small businesses) but it often means I meet clients who spend all their time on it and don’t’ work on their own ‘shop window’ – their website. If you had a physical retail shop, you wouldn’t neglect your face to the world would you? Well if you did, you would soon close! I’m on my third iteration of my website now in 10 years and investing in it and doing my SEO and blogging has brought significant benefits to my business. I have grown my website traffic 10 fold and I get 50% of my business from organic search – Google etc.
9 Love and nuture your existing customers
Businesses are always looking for new customers but what about your existing ones? People who have bought from you are much more valuable! It costs ten times more to acquire a new customer and just doing some basics like email marketing, client gifts and thank yous for referrals, can all work wonders. No fancy digital marketing techniques but surprisingly still very effective in this modern digital age! I get 50% of my business as repeat and/or referral / recommendation. I always send a little gift to my top clients and a thank you chocolate to people who refer work. Little thank you gestures mean a lot.
10 Above all else - keep your Integrity!
I find this the most difficult thing about running a small business (alongside chasing late invoice payments!!). You have to know when to walk away from business or a client, if it isn’t working. It’s a hard conversation to have with yourself and the client or supplier involved. But you must keep you integrity and your gut feel is always right. It must never be ALL business at ALL costs. It isiou the best - luckew tore new ot business, I hope it helps you be even more successful. good and identify with some of something I feel is really fundamental.
Well that’s it, I hope if you have been in business for many years (probably much longer than me), you will smile wryly and identify with some of my struggles and woes! If you are new to business, I hope it helps you be even more successful. I wish you the best - Good Luck!
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