Yes, you read that headline right. The most important person in your business is you.
When you’re building your new business you’re focused on the mechanics, the operation, the product and the service, and most of the time you’re boot-strapping your way to success. And in the beginning, there is just you – your idea, your passion, your determination, your energy.
To us, that’s what building a business from the inside out is all about: leveraging the power of YOU. You’re at the core of your business, and your work and energy push out to the rest of the world as you gather your team and launch your company.
We call building the business with you at its centre the Ripple Effect, because over time you’ll create circles around you. At first, they’re small, but as you push and expand, each circle gets wider and wider and wider over time and includes more and more people and business and sales and success.
The centrifugal force in your Ripple Effect is YOU. You must create the right environment in your business to attract great staff and great customers. Your core values, your brand positioning, your attitude is what ultimately determines how well your business will do. Be open, flexible, positive, interested and, most importantly client-driven. Walk physically or virtually through your store/office/service experience and pretend you’re your customer. What do you see? What do you like? Most importantly, what do you need to get you to the point where you’ll purchase? How easy can you make it for your customers to buy from you? (This is where hiring User Experience experts can come in handy).
The second circle is your STAFF. We can’t emphasise enough how important it is for you to hire the right staff. They’re at the forefront of it all. They represent you, your brand, your product, your attitude. They need to be enthusiastic, engaged, and positive. They need to know their work is valued, and they need you to educate them, so they’re as informed about the product or service they’re selling as you are. They are your brand ambassadors, so choose them wisely and nurture them well.
With you and your staff fully committed, the third circle is … the CUSTOMER. Every business owner we’ve spoken to has told us what’s helped them grow in the early years is their customers and the word of mouth they generate. Your customers are gems. Treat them well, give them a product or service that will truly help them along with top-notch service and they’ll tell all their friends, who will tell their friends and on and on. If you understand how important your customer is, they will do your marketing for you.
The fourth circle is your STORY and finding a way to introduce yourself and your business to the public in a ‘feel good’ kind of way. As a startup you’ll want to pitch media outlets for editorial coverage.
You’ll need a ‘hook’ though for PR, usually something that’s visually interesting and stimulating and readers/listeners/viewers will find useful or entertaining. For instance, you’re a seismic upgrading company, and you’re the first of your kind in your city, and there was an earthquake in your area last week. Perfect timing for a news story!
Positioning yourself as an expert in your field helps with that too, so you’re the go-to guy or gal when the press needs someone to interview about a particular subject in a hurry.
That leads us to the fifth circle, beefing up your ONLINE presence. You’ll no doubt have set up a website for your business from day one. Use that site not only as a landing point, but to entice, engage and convert, with optimized content search engines will love. Social media is invaluable in creating a community of engaged consumers hooked on your story and your product or service. The key is to use these ‘free’ tools to create positive impressions about you in your customers’ eyes.
The seismic upgrading company could tweet useful tips to people in the wake of the recent earthquake, for instance; the carpet-cleaning company would give advice on recovering carpets after a flood. Give people invaluable advice and information and they will reward you for it. But be genuine. Be yourself and be generous.
The sixth circle is all about COMMUNITY. Donate product/service to local charities for fundraising events. Consider hosting one yourself for your favourite charity and including your customers in the process, like the furniture store who asked local designers to create pink chairs and then auctioned them off for cancer research. Your customers and the community will appreciate it. Everyone loves a community partner.
Network like crazy too. Go to business chamber of commerce events and meet your peers – they’re also your potential customers. Keep your eyes open for events whose attendees could be your customers or good people to know. Be seen and heard as much as you can and get to know as many people as you can.
The seventh circle will be where you begin to invest more money in your MARKETING strategy. By then you’ll hopefully already have a loyal following, both online and through happy customers. You’ll have refined your products or service to align more with what your customers want. You’ll have generated great sales and you’ll be ready to start making some real money from a much broader customer base.
We know crafting marketing and advertising strategies can be intimidating to business owners who have no expertise in either field. How do you know what’s right to do when the time comes? We recommend that you educate yourself. Even if you’re not ready to buy right now, do your research.
As soon as you possibly can, bring in marketing experts to help. Concentrate on what you do best – building your business – and, along with your operations, finance and HR experts, let your marketing expert tell your story. Their focus and energy merges with your focus and energy for unstoppable growth and success.
From there, the opportunities and challenges of continued growth will form more and more circles, but at the core, always, is you.