I had the privilege of meeting a potential client in one of those business gatherings. I asked him the usual questions and he started to explain his business operation. Well, he was basically a landlord to a gaming function. When I become fascinated by the enterprise, I reoriented my questions to some specifics. Sure enough he charges some high end prices for the facilities. Man, I needed to figure out how he was able to do this. With some prodding, he finally explained that his marketing approach pretty much gave him “A license to steal”. What was his marketing approach?
Well, I can’t explain in one or two sentences. It will come out over several articles. I will approach the newcomer aspect of marketing to the ongoing operations of marketing over several articles. I’ll cover marketing based on your industry to the types of transactions you incur. I’ll also explain the differences between advertising and marketing. Let’s begin on our journey to acquire a ‘License to Steal’.
How do you get started in marketing? I will tell you that the first step is to be realistic about this. It will take a lot of time commitment on your part to get the ball rolling. And just like a snowball, it begins to get bigger and bigger and less energy per unit is exerted as the ball gains mass.
I suggest that as your first step, I would join a business networking group. A what? Well there are several different ones out there, and some different types. Here are my suggestions:
- Business Networking International (BNI) – started by Dr. Ivan Misner
- Professional Business Associates in your local chamber of commerce
First off let me explain BNI to you. This is great organization to learn from others. They meet once a week and have a membership of 15 to upwards of 40 folks. There are generally no two similar businesses in the group. There is a national membership fee (about $100) and a local chapter fee (varies on the meeting format). All of it is paid through your local chapter.
In a typical meeting, you have one minute to market your business to the other members. They in turn provide referrals and you provide referrals to them. The chapter tracks the referrals and there are follow-ups conducted. You typically get a one-on-on meeting with another member each week. These are conducted during a meal or maybe onsite at the member’s place of business.
It works in that you learn from others, have an opportunity to inform folks of your business and you generate a business connection group. As time goes on, you develop contacts with their customers and the spider web of potential customers begins spinning.
The drawback is the time commitment. I learned that in order for this to work, you have to commit around 4 to 5 hours per week. At first that seems doable, but I can assure you that it is beyond difficult to maintain if you are trying to earn a living. This is a great way to get the ball rolling. After a year or so and your business is going, you can begin to cut back and then ultimately resign your spot. I found out that it worked well for me for about 2 years and then I had way too much work to do and still maintain an active participation rate.
The other option is join your local chamber of commerce and try to get on one of their professional development groups. They meet once a week or every other week for group participation. Similar to BNI, they each have a minute to market their business and then cover a group topic. The moderator keeps the group on task and you learn from others as they learn from you.
In addition to their professional groups, the local chamber sponsors meet and greets or some form of business gatherings. It is here that you will meet other business folks. It’s a wonderful learning environment but depending on your business, you’ll discover that others in your industry are there too. Don’t get discouraged, it is actually an opportunity to learn and develop relationships with the competition. Believe it or not, you need them too. I’ll explain in later articles.
I have explained to you where to begin this process. Your next step is to understand the difference between advertising and marketing. From there you can develop a plan of action for marketing for your business based on your industry, your small business, and you. Act on Knowledge.