Most people who start a home-based business have the ability to “do the job” well, but typically they have never had to market their product or service and frequently end up marketing too little or marketing ineffectively.
Home-based businesses are often not visible enough to potential customers. Those who are aware of your business may have doubts about a home-based business’s credibility.
Some may believe you are less accessible to them because your business is home based.
Here are some ways to combat these problems:
• Do not abandon face-to-face marketing.
Do not become so busy doing the work that you neglect marketing your business face-to-face. It is especially easy for this to happen if you do most of the actual work in your home office, such as a virtual assistant service.
People do business with people they know and trust. The technology that allows you to deal with customers without meeting face to face may make them feel they do not really know you.
So get out there and interact with potential customers in person.
• Do explore and use technology.
The same technology that can hinder face-to-face marketing also has the potential to greatly expand your reach and increase your interaction with customers. Explore how you can effectively use the right technology to market your home-based business.
Many home-based businesses, such as pressure washing, are actually vehicle-based businesses. The owner spends more time in their vehicle and at the job site than at home.
Technology such as smart phones, tablet computers and portable printers allow a mobile office. Technology that lets you use Internet marketing, including social media wherever you are, can be extremely valuable.
• Become well known.
You can earn trust and respect from potential customers by speaking at events, conducting your own seminars, writing articles and participating in community related activities.
Explore ways you can become better known in your community. If most of your customers are not in the local community, you can still help them get to know you better through online articles, webinars, videos, blogs and other social media.
• Develop a professional image.
Home-based businesses can be perceived as less professional or legitimate by potential customers. So put special effort into developing a professional image.
Realize that customer perception can be affected by how your business card and other materials look, how well you communicate, the signage on your vehicle, your knowledge of business etiquette, how you dress, etc.
• Relentlessly seek referrals.
Often home-based business owners are timid about seeking testimonials and referrals. But happy customers are usually quite willing to tell others how great you are.
So request and use their quotes in your brochures, print ads, online marketing, etc. Ask your customers and other business owners for referrals and be sure you follow up on any leads.
• Carefully consider pricing.
Most new home-based business owners have never been responsible for setting prices. Research your market and your competition to help you determine pricing. Be sure to consider the cost of providing your product or service.
I often see home-based business owners who charge less than their services are really worth. Find out what others who do similar work charge for their time. Charging less can hurt both your bottom line and your customers’ perception of your value.
• Do not rely on one major customer.
Home-based business owners sometimes end up relying on one major customer for most of their revenue. This is particularly true if they are selling services business to businesses.
If you see this happening, start developing a more diverse customer base. Work to always have a list of current prospects so you have somewhere to start if you lose a major customer.
• Market even when you are busy.
If you do become very busy, do not neglect your marketing. You should market continually to keep your business in the minds of potential customers.
When the slower times come, it will be better to have some good receptive prospects out there than to find yourself unable to pay your bills.
To be sure you market relentlessly even during busy times, develop a marketing calendar and set aside time daily for some type of marketing activity.
In summary, to be more successful, be aware of the potential obstacles to effectively marketing a home based business and take steps to overcome them.
Connie Edwards is a business consultant with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.