Minority business owners - in fact most business owners -- are good at doing the 'business' that they run. Owners have a passion for the product or service they provide. They love what they do and they are good at it. But if you're spending all your time toiling on the front lines with your employees or sitting at a desk trying to work your way through a mound of paperwork, it's time to get up and get out.
Marketing, public relations and business development or sales are not necessarily strengths of most owners. However, if you believe in the product or service you are providing, you owe it to yourself and your business to deliver that message personally. One of the most valuable roles a business owner can play is to get out of the office and promote the business to customers, prospects, and other stakeholders. It's time to become the "face" of your business.
Remember Dave from the Wendy's commercials? Dave Thomas successfully put a human face on his business. Even after his death last year, folks remember the successful advertising campaign that made him the face of Wendy's restaurants. What about Suzanne Sommers, Jaclyn Smith, Ron Perillo, and my all time favorite Frank Purdue? Remember them? They all became and still are the faces of their businesses - jewelry & food products, budget clothing, travel and chickens. The sons of Perillo and Purdue have continued the legacy of their fathers and have become the new faces of their companies.
No Secret Recipe Needed
There is no secret formula and you don't have to be a 'talk to everybody' extrovert to be your company's best marketing tool. You don't need to be or become a celebrity. Many owners get started by simply increasing the time they spend with customers.
If you own a retail business, get out on the sales floor or go along when a customer takes delivery. Some of the most popular restaurants are those in which the chef interacts with patrons instead of staying behind those swinging doors. Learning what customers like and dislike is time well spent. Plus they'll remember the personal attention they received.
Personal involvement is also important in business-to-business services. For example, Mike is the owner of a small commercial construction firm. Even though he has excellent foremen and project managers, Mike periodically attends weekly progress meetings with the customer's project manager. They all know Mike and have developed a personal relationship with him, the owner, which creates goodwill for the business. He knows their concerns. It is no wonder that Mike's company keeps getting repeat business even when he isn't the lowest bidder.
Another strategy is to join a business owners' networking group. These groups are great places for meeting prospects and trading leads. Participating in community organizations can reap similar benefits. All things being equal, people just like doing business with people they know.
Capitalize On Your Expertise
Becoming prominent in one's industry is also an effective way to bring in new business. Look for opportunities to take on a leadership role in a trade association or other industry group. Make yourself available as a speaker on topics related to your business. Contribute articles to publications targeted toward your customer base. You might even follow in the footsteps of Dave from Wendy's or Frank Purdue. Under the right circumstances, you may, personally, become an effective part of your company's advertising.
If this all just seems like common sense, it is. Unfortunately, many owners don't take the time or make the effort. Get to know your customers, prospects, and community and let them get to know you. They'll know you care about their needs and the success of your business. You'll have your finger on the pulse of the marketplace and be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that come along.
NB: The information, recommendations and views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and not LongIsland.com. This material is published with the understanding that the author, publisher and distributor are not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice or commenting on specific facts or matters, and therefore, assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use.