Maybe you’ve spent the past twenty years being told how amazing your house-fixing/pie-cooking/flower-planting/number-crunching skills are. (You can circle one, or just choose “other”.) And now after much deliberation, you’ve decided to start your own business.
Or maybe you’ve spent the past twenty minutes sticking pencils into your cubicle wall and after some frustration, you’ve decided to start your own business.
It doesn’t matter how you arrived at the decision to embark on this wooly adventure. You know it’s the right thing for you and you’re ready to ride. That being said, there are some marketing essentials you’ll want to seriously consider.
In a perfect world, you’d follow your passion and everyone would recognize your commitment to it and throw money at you to follow it. But in this world, that just isn’t the game.
Following some marketing essentials can make all the difference between the success or failure of your start-up.
The short list of essentials that follows is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s rather more of a heads-up as to what’s up to give your start-up the one-up. These aren’t guarantees, mind you. Merely (strong and nagging) suggestions.
#1. Elevator pitch
We are putting this at the top of marketing essentials because it’s absolutely crucial. And it won’t cost you a cent.
Right off the bat, you need to put together a short speech that could convince someone to invest in your business. And by short, we’re talking “elevator ride” short. Assuming you’re not heading to the top of the Empire State building, we mean less than 30-seconds short.
The thing is, when you’re deep in the trenches of your marketing efforts, it’s all too easy to forget exactly what it is you’re marketing. And you need to be able to verbalize this. Even if you’re not big on talking - or elevators - you should still have this elevator pitch written out somewhere or blended in with your mission statement so you have it available to give to anyone who asks what it is you do.
You’re obviously going to want to get this done before you open.
Sure, it’ll generate some buzz around you. But it’s also a marketing essential for a start-up because your website won’t reveal the size of your company. In other words, Lynette’s Crocheting Emporium (.com) feels far more vast and impressive than the actual crafts room where she and three friends make the goods they sell.
Adding a blog to your website is also something to strongly consider, as having more content will help to boost your SEO and give you a nice connection with your customers. A surprising number of folks will relish in your story about, say, rescuing tree frogs and feel a profoundly deep connection with you.
Your website is a worthy investment, so if you have enough capital, put its design in the hands of experts. If not though, there are plenty of site-building options to get you going. It may not have the sleek design of a professional, but you can create a site that’s well-designed and helpful if you know what you’re doing. Or at least know somebody else who does.
Much like your website, if you’ve got the funds, think about at least consulting with a designer for your logo.
The logo is the face of your business. It’s going to be how people remember you and relate with you. And this “face” is going to be plastered all over your other collateral so you want it to be interesting and have some sort of special hook. Like a hooked nose, for instance. But not a hooked nose.
You don’t need to rush to a designer from some high falutin’ agency or firm. Network with others in start-ups and you’ll probably find that by staying with smaller companies, you’re bound to find a designer who will charge a price you can afford.
#4. Business cards
They may seem old school, but business cards are proof that you don’t have to be big to talk loud. Since these bad boys are now two-sided, you can pack a lot of information on them. And while they should look good, it’s more important as a means for describing your company that fits neatly in one’s pocket or wallet. The big marketing gurus say it’s still one of the most effective marketing tools.
Joachim de Posada, who was a TED speaker and an internationally known expert on small business, noted that your business card “must be different, memorable, and prospects must want to keep it.” Just remember that certain types of “memorable” are not going to be something someone might want to keep.
We don't need to elaborate on that.
#4. E-mail signature
Ah, back to another marketing essential that’s FREE.
Do not allow a single e-mail to whoosh away from your outbox without taking advantage of it as a marketing opportunity. Specialize your e-mail signature in some eye-catching sort of way. Use different colors and fonts from the default ones in the body content of your email. Include your name, business name, website name and contact information, of course, and then pop in that awesome new logo.
From there you can throw in a catchy tag line or an announcement about a new product or service you’re offering. You could include a picture of that camel that spit on you when you visited Morocco, if it’s appropriate. It’s really up to you.
From henceforth we shall refer to this as The Mighty Brochure. (Not really.)
But the brochure can single-handedly tackle a variety of general needs like no other marketing document. Whether it’s the paper kind or the PDF variety, it’s the go-to for handing out at trade shows, pinning up on bulletin boards, sending out as snail mail or in an email, or left on someone’s front porch to give people information about your company.
It can be two-color, four-color, black-and-white, carved in stone - whatever speaks to you. Or more appropriately, whatever’s going to speak OF you.
#7. Packets for specialized needs
What’s the focus of your business?
If you’re going to be selling handcrafted tools and instruments for tree surgeons, then you’ll want to be sure to create a packet that has brochures and spec sheets to hand out to interested tree surgeons.
On the other hand, if you’re all about public relations, then get some press releases going and put together a media press kit.
Having these packets up and ready to go will make your life easier once things really get rolling.
#7 1/2. Company clothing
This one isn’t a marketing essential for every startup, but it could be tremendously valuable if you’re not a fashionista. So we felt it warranted at least 1/2 of its own number.
Consider being a human billboard for your company.
You’ve got your logo and your elevator pitch, so why not put it right out there? Get some T-shirts made with your logo and then get out there and strut your stuff.
“People will ask you what you do,” says Ruth King, small business expert and author of the book, The Ugly Truth About Small Business. “Then you can recite your pitch and ask for the order.”
And even if you don’t get the order, at least it’s an opportunity to hand over that killer business card. And maybe even a brochure.
Do you have anything you’d like to contribute? Let us know!