I just got a note from a 19 year-old business student who is determined to start her own business. "It's a trendy clothing shop. I have location, start-up money, a lawyer, and an accountant" she wrote enthusiastically. "My parents think I'm in over my head but I'm determined to make my dream come true."
That's a situation most of us can identify with. You've got a great idea for a new business and you've done every bit of preparation you can, but in back of your mind you know you could fail. What can you do to make a small store go?
By far most important factor is location. If at all possible, find a location you can afford that has built-in customer traffic. Mall locations are great but often too expensive. Look for a nook near a group of stores or on a major street that brings a steady flow of shoppers--the kind of shoppers who would be interested in your store.
Find an affordable way to promote that reaches your best prospective customers. Here are some other ways to save big on very effective ads:
* Desktop publishing makes catalogs and brochures easy to produce. Create your own booklet to include with orders.
* Get a toll free number. Even though long distance calls aren't nearly as expensive as they used to be, many customers will call you faster if you list an 800 number. Mine is 888-429-6203. Using phone to sell person-to-person is often fastest way to get a buy.
* Advertise in specialty and neighborhood newspapers. I get incredible response advertising in an entertainment paper placed in restaurants. A classified ad is just $10 per week.
* Buy TV ads on cable TV. Cable rates are cheaper and you can limit your commercials to specific parts of your city.
* Get a big cell phone package and give your cell number out to everyone. When customers can reach you just about any time, you get sale.
* Give away or sell your own video. Nine in ten people own a VCR. One friend has sold hundreds of his video telling how he earns a living selling antiques on eBay.
If you can't clearly see how you can effectively market your store, stop immediately and reevaluate your plan.
Also, remember that marketing works best when it isn't rushed. The best advertising media require you to place your order well in advance. Great designers, writers, and (especially!) TV production firms are usually booked weeks into future.