As many women struggle to find their roles in male-dominated boardrooms, a steadily growing number are finding an alternative: starting their own firms. In the UK, women-led businesses represent about £130 billion worth of the economy. In the US, about 550 women-owned enterprises start up each day. Yet of all these businesses — by no means will all of them will still be operating in a year’s time.
What makes the difference? In so many cases, it boils down to marketing. If you can create a steady flow of new deals, you will probably succeed. On the other hand, even the best-run business will fail without new customers. Here are a few tips to ensure you get access to this most vital “deal flow.”
Draw Up a Solid Business Plan
Unfortunately it is frequently the case in business that women must work harder to prove themselves than men. Still, a well-executed business plan which explains your mission, what sets your company apart from the rest, and provides a detailed financial forecast goes a long way to ensuring that people will take you seriously as an entrepreneur. Even better, having a business plan ready will prove vital as you look for financing and investment.
Start Using Content Marketing
Whether or not you are familiar with the term “content marketing,” you are constantly visiting websites that use it. Entertainment sites, news sites, or even business blogs all use useful information (“content”) to market themselves. This technique can be applied to any business, and the principle is simple: you create a website and fill it with free information that is genuinely valuable to prospective clients. At the same time, you offer them the chance to do business to you.
Some of the people that read this information will be “freebie seekers” of course, but since they were never prospective clients you have lost nothing. The largest group of people will try a bit themselves but will spend money if they do not get the desired result — many of these people will hire or buy from you. The last, smallest, but also most desirable group are those that value their own time so much they will instantly hire you if they see from your content that you a truly an expert.
Surround Yourself With Like-Minded Women Entrepreneurs
Being able to learn from others’ successes and failures is absolutely invaluable, so surround yourself with other women business owners. Women tend to help other women and are great communicators, so there’s no need to be afraid of asking for help if you need it. Let others’ success inspire you as you learn and of course never stop marketing your company.
Start Using Email Marketing Immediately
Unlike Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network, email marketing carries a huge benefit. Not only do you build your network, but you own it! Business owners have learnt this the hard way, spending huge amounts of time and money building up their Facebook pages only to have Facebook turn around and start charging them money for basic features. With email, you are in control and you can start building an ever-more-valuable asset.
You should not start by buying a list from a brokerage firm. Instead, ask your contacts and clients if you can have their email. (You should always get permission, otherwise they will think of your emails as spam.) Similarly add a sign-up box to your blog or website, prominently positioned so everyone sees it. It does not need to be a pop-up box, and you should not ask for more than their email address.
Then, contact your list from time to time with a newsletter, announcements, or special offers. Make a point of only providing useful information — this will encourage them to share your newsletter. Over time, you will build a very powerful tool for winning business.
Measure Your Success
Large companies take elaborate measures to quantify their marketing. From putting potential customers in brain scanning machines as part of ‘neuromarketing’ market research to tracking every click from their online ads, they understand the importance of measuring their results. Unfortunately small business owners, inundated with different tasks, often forget this. You should avoid falling into this trap. Take the time to analyse the results of your marketing efforts. Spend more time on the ones that worked, and eliminate the ones that did not.
Similarly you should keep track of what your customers think about you and your competition. You can take the simple expedient of running an ‘ask campaign’ — ask every customer or client what they like about your business and what you could improve.