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From her kitchen, ‘Dianne’ imagined and then developed a fitness training business that eventually grew into one of the most-popular offerings at Park and Rec departments throughout Southern California. The company grew so fast that within six months, Dianne was holding regional interviews for local area managers. At the beginning of year two she opened a boutique gym in a downtown area. But the excitement was short-lived. Soon after opening her doors, popularity of the gym faded, clients disappeared, and managers moved on. By the end of her third year, Dianne had permanently closed the doors on her initially successful business.
So what happened?
Well, according to Investopedia, one of the top four reasons small businesses fail is that business owners under-estimate the importance of marketing. Failing to reach prospects and convert them into paying customers can be the death of what seems to be a popular (and potentially successful) small business.
In fact, having an ineffective web presence is in the top five most common challenges faced by small business owners.
50% of Small Businesses Close in the First 5 Years
But web presence isn’t the only issue. Most small business owners also struggle with a lack of funds, lack of time, shortage of good employees, and difficulties balancing growth and quality. That’s a LOT of challenge for a sole proprietor!
It’s no wonder 20% of small businesses fail in the first year and 50% are dead before year five. According to the SBA only 33% of small businesses will make it to ten years.
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The fact is, there are a lot of people, like you, working hard at building an enterprise only to see it gone in a few years (or even months!)
If we take another look at the challenges of small business we can start to see why the failure rate is so high.
Lack of Funds - Many small companies are started on a shoestring. There are no investors, just one person putting a lot of time and effort into their vision. When the budget is tight, there simply isn't enough cash to hire a content manager or marketing service.
Lack of Time - Of course, you can always do it yourself — like many sole-proprietors — but this will take a big chunk of your time. That means other priorities are bound to suffer. And, the fact is, most DIY efforts are easy-to-spot and this could reflects poorly on an otherwise great company.
Shortage of Good Employees - It's true -- good help is hard to find. And if you have staff members, you might be tempted to have THEM handle your social media posting. But be careful as this could cause more trouble than it's worth. There's no lack of viral videos posted by misguided employees that placed their organization at risk. You can probably think of a few stories, but if you can't take a look at this article.
Balancing Growth & Quality - A great start doesn’t necessarily mean a great finish. Just ask any marathon runner (or Dianne from the story above). Building your business while maintaining your brand is one of the key elements of successful entrepreneurs. But it doesn’t happen by accident. Ask any successful business owner (of ten years or more) and they’ll tell you it requires careful planning, intentional steps, laser focus, and always reaching toward higher goals.
Ineffective Web Presence - It all comes down to an effective web presence. As I mentioned above, failing to reach and convert prospects into paying customers can be the ruin of your company. So it's important to make sure your marketing effort is at (or at least near) the top of your priority list.
So how do you create and maintain a professional marketing presence when there’s no money, time, or help?
Well first it’s important to take a good look at your business and ask yourself how others perceive your company image. Is it good? Bad? Or is there no presence at all to perceive?
If it’s good, GREAT! But that doesn’t mean your work is done. Your effort should focus on maintaining that reputation and building upon your existing customer base. The simplest way to do this is to set up an automated posting plan that places images of your product or service on social media at regular intervals.
If your web presence is bad it’s gonna take a little more work. First you need to take steps to repair your company’s reputation. Reaching out to dissatisfied customers and working on a resolution can take time but it's a lot easier to keep customers than it is to replace them. When all your olive branches have been distributed, you can then take steps to implement an automated posting plan with a collection of images and clips to reach and convert new clients.
Lastly, if you have no web presence at all then marketing will have to be at the top of your priority list if you're going to attract new prospects.
No Web Presence = No Customers = No Company
To reach and convert customers, you need to build your brand from scratch, develop a marketing plan, and implement an automated posting schedule to get and keep attention on your service or product.
So why am I, a photographer, bringing all this marketing stuff up?
Well, it’s because I do more than just shoot photos. Yes, I also shoot video, aerials, and 3D tours. But I actually do even more than THAT.
You see, I know how difficult it can be to start a business. In fact, I’ve started a couple over the years and I know what it’s like to spend 16 hour days, seven days a week at the shop. I know what it’s like to re-invest every penny you make only to see your business fail. In fact, here’s a little secret…I’m actually ‘Dianne’ from the story above.
So, when I started Beach Street Virtual Tours, I decided to spend a full year researching everything I could find about building and growing a successful company. What I discovered was that -- like many entrepreneurs -- I made a few mistakes. Which is fine and normal, but a few of these mistakes were serious, foundational errors that eventually led to the closure of my company.
First of all, I put my marketing effort at the bottom of my priority list. I didn’t have the budget to pay for advertising, so I did it myself when I had extra time. I told myself that I would invest in a pro when business revenue increased. But there was always something more important. At least that’s what I thought and that’s a big factor for why I failed. The fact is, marketing should always be placed in the top three priorities for any small business. Remember, failure to reach and convert prospective clients is one of the main reasons companies close in the first five years.
Another mistake I made was thinking that I’d be more successful if I just spent more time at work. But the more overtime I put into my company, the less I actually wanted to be there. It was such a time and energy suck! In truth, when you focus your efforts on the right tasks, like planning and automation, you’ll naturally have more time to work on building and growing…and even taking a break now and then.
My research revealed that these basic mistakes were absolutely the downfall of my otherwise successful business.
And I know I'm not the only sole-proprietor making these mistakes.
That’s why Beach Street Virtual Tours is more than just photography services. Your project will be designed to help build your brand and grow your business. Think of me as your team-mate in the marketing game. When you succeed, I do too!
Simplest and Most Affordable Way to
Maintain Your Web Presence
So, how does a sole-proprietor with little time or money maintain a marketing presence to reach new prospects and convert them into paying customers?
Well, I touched on it earlier but I'll expand a bit now.
It all starts with a plan. And you can get started in three steps...
#1 - Identify Your Brand Tone
Think of it as your company's voice. Is it fun? Serious? Irreverent? Decide how you want your tone to sound and then stick to it across all your marketing efforts.
#2 - Choose Your Social Media Platforms
Ideally, you should post in an arena where your prospective customers hang out, but that takes a bit of research. So, for now, just start on those you're already familiar with like Facebook or Instagram.
#3 - Interact
Believe it or not, interacting is one of the best ways to build interest in your business. No one pays much attention to the never ending ads we see on socials and other platforms. But imagine hearing directly from the CEO of a company on your feed. It works for Elon Musk and it'll work for you too (just maybe on a smaller scale).
Remember, having a successful business requires careful planning, intentional steps, laser focus, and always reaching toward higher goals. And marketing should always be a high priority. Maintaining an effective web presence can be as simple as posting weekly to social platforms in a way that creates a buzz about your product or service and builds your brand identity.
That should get you started. Once the ball is rolling, just stick with it to establish your web presence, build your customer base, and grow your business!
Oh, one more thing, for now you can just shoot photos with your phone. But when you're ready to take it to the next level, let me know and I'll show you how professional photos can increase your bookings and improve your reviews.
Gold Standard Virtual Tour
This all-inclusive package includes everything to get you listed on Matterport for a full year plus stills and videos to build your social media web presence!
Silver Virtual Tour Package
Showcase your property to prospective guests or clients with a 3D tour, stills and video, and a 30-day listing on Matterport, and add more time as needed.
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