When Eyeflow CEO Phil Laboon founded his Internet marketing firm, he made some early decisions–including spending money on physical marketing collateral–that helped ensure his company would outlast others.
I launched Eyeflow when I was 20 years old and stuck selling high-priced Internet service I couldn’t guarantee. At the time, everyone thought a great-looking Flash website was the key to garnering better rankings on search engines, yet I always believed that links and quality content were far more important. Over time, Eyeflow became an Internet marketing company that didn’t just focus on building search engine rankings, but which ultimately helped companies become authorities in their industries.
Early on, I decided not to take on investors. Instead, I worked every side job I could just to earn enough money to keep my dream alive. Too stubborn to ever admit defeat, I counted every penny and made the most of the little I had. My budget was shoestring-thin, but I was persistent. Here’s my advice to keep you going.
1. Give free advice.
Many people are under the impression that giving away advice is a waste of time and a good way to lose a potential client. They fail to realize that when you offer advice to someone, you’re building a relationship. Clients often make buying decisions based on their opinions of you–not on the product or service you provide. So give them some free advice, because it’s is a great way to get someone’s attention and, over time, to establish yourself as the local expert in your industry. Then, when a question or problem arises in your area of expertise, your name will be the first that comes to mind.
One caveat: Find a good balance. Give just enough advice to get someone interested and demonstrate your knowledge, and avoid shop talk in social settings whenever possible.
2. Go niche.
One problem many entrepreneurs make when they’re starting out issomething too big, too soon. They fail simply because they bite off more than they can chew. Instead, go after a small sector or industry, build success there, and then work your way up to an expansion. Starting small allows you to flesh out your ideas and work out the kinks when the stakes aren’t as high.
Find your niche by searching for an industry that needs the expertise or innovation you have to offer. The key is to make sure your company or idea is scalable so you can replicate it as you expand. A great example of a scalable niche company is Amazon, which started out as just an online bookstore with a great business model. After finding success, they branched out into other industries and soon dominated online shopping. They now produce their own electronics and offer cloud computing and video streaming services.
3. Don’t skimp on marketing materials.
Sales pitching, handshaking, and business-lunching are the behind-the-scenes reality of a growing start-up. Many start-ups neglect to recognize the importance of a strong analog presence for small business growth. But business cards, brochures, and other promo items are the face of your company when you’re not present, so spending top dollar to make these marketing tools professional and memorable is money well spent. These materials are what get people to return phone calls and schedule meetings.
When customers sees a nice marketing piece, they have confidence in your business and remember you later on. Budgeting for analog advertising materials should be a priority rather than an afterthought.