As is the case for any business owner, home-business owners need to reach out to let the public know they are seeking clients. But most home businesses do not have the same capabilities as larger companies to fulfill mass quantities of orders or accommodate drive-up traffic. In addition, most home businesses are run on a smaller budget, meaning you need to get maximum exposure at a lower cost and zero in on your target market.
Here are seven tips designed to help home-business owners advertise and market effectively:
1. Be Transparent
Consumers are more comfortable with a business that can be easily contacted and that they know something about. Use your Web site to provide information about your business. Give contact information and hours you are available by phone. Let potential customers or clients know your general location without posting a street address to avoid drive-up visitors. You don’t need to reveal that you are home-based. But you do need to present a professional, well-managed image.
2. Know Your Limitations
Before advertising or marketing, you need a game plan that defines how you will handle each aspect of your business. Unlike a larger company with an inventory on hand and a dozen people answering the phones, most home-business owners have limited space and few, if any, employees. Therefore you need to first set up your own system, mapping out how much time you can spend on each aspect of your business (e.g., returning calls, answering e-mail, fulfilling orders, meeting clients). Then you can start your advertising or marketing campaign based on the volume you can realistically handle.
3. Meet Your Customers
Since customers won’t likely be coming to your door, you’ll want to get out and meet them: at seminars, lectures, trade shows, street fairs, or any place your target audience can be found. If possible get on the list of speakers at an industry conference and do a presentation. Or mingle and network. Be armed with an eye-catching business card. If it comes up that your business is run from home, never be apologetic; talk up how great it is being able to run your business from a home base.
4. Be Homemade, Homegrown, and Natural
If you are marketing any type of homemade product, whether it’s crafts, clothing, or baked goods, use the homemade or fresh angle to set you apart from mass-produced alternatives. Being healthy and environmentally conscious are major selling points.
5. Find a Good Location for Meetings
Since you may not want reporters or new clients coming to your home, it’s a good idea to have a couple of neutral locations in mind for conducting interviews and following up on leads from your advertising and marketing efforts. If the music isn’t too loud, a local Starbucks may do the trick. Business hotels also typically have restaurants or lounges that can serve as meeting locales.
6. Be Mobile
Along with finding locations to conduct business outside of the home, you will be better able to market yourself effectively with a laptop and a PDA. These tools will enable you to change venues quickly and keep your office essentials with you when meeting with clients or the media.
7. Use Social Networking and Viral Marketing
From Facebook to MySpace to their business counterparts such as LinkedIn and Twitter, you can utilize the networking potential of the Internet as a means of marketing. Posting blogs about your business or industry, with a link to your Web site, can generate attention. These efforts can also start a discussion about customer tastes and opinions relating to your area of expertise. In some cases, you might even ask a survey question and post the results on your Web site. Many of these strategies can become viral, spreading the word about your business.