Thursday, January 29, 2009

So many startups

I think we’re in the midst of a startup boom.

Lately I’ve been receiving an increasing number of inquiries from people who are starting a business and think I can help them with specific questions.

The sad truth is, I’m pretty much a small business management and marketing generalist: I have a pretty broad knowledge of a lot of industries, opportunities and business strategies, but my roots go deep in only a few sectors (marketing, media, sales, spelling...). When people ask me for industry-specific help, I usually have to put up my hand and opt out.

This week, for instance, I have been asked for advice from a new type of insurance company, a renovations-related company and a transportation firm – three of the many industries I know almost nothing about. I usually fall back on suggesting they seek advice from people they know who are already in the industry – people can be very patient and generous with their times and expertise when they think you are capable, sincere and genuine.

I also advise people to make the most of their local chamber of commerce, enterprise centre, economic development office, or Community Futures outpost. All these organizations have business experts who should be able to help you with marketing ideas, industry contacts, and specific problems.

Yesterday one person asked for some basic introductory marketing tips. Since I didn't know his industry, I tried to help by throwing him this bone, which applies to just about any startup in any industry:

“One thing I would advise any startup to do is to put up a quick and cheap website announcing what you are intending to do, and then promote it through Google AdWords or a similar pay-per-click ad services from Yahoo or Microsoft. What you do is identify the keywords that any prospective customer of yours may be using to look up information on the Web, and then "buy" those search terms through Google. That way you can present a short, three-line ad to anyone who searches for those search terms.

You can choose how much you will pay for that exposure, and decide where in the world you want your ads to appear (all of Canada? Ontario? Ohio? Michigan and Indiana and Chicago?). You pay only when someone clicks on your ad to visit your website or follow up on your offer. It's a very cheap and manageable way to collect market intelligence and begin building a prospect list.”

It’s great to see so many people launching businesses and reaching out for help and advice. (The worst entrepreneurs are the ones who try to do everything all by themselves.) The key is to keep on asking until you reach the people who can help you the most.


Anonymous said...

Or, use other social media to promote. If you liike to create videos, then use YouTube. If you like to write, start a blog or micro-blog. Get as many touchpoints -- and in the process of thinking about how to approach customers in different media you'll force yourself to constantly fine tune your marketing message. Here's an example -

Anonymous said...

One other advantage of using Google adwords, especially for extremely long-tail keyphrases (e.g. Window Repair Saskatoon) is that you can quickly see how many others are bidding on the same word and how many "visitors" you are likely to see based on the allocated budget.

Within a few days, even a few hours, you can tell if this is a viable method of communicating.

I would HIGHLY recommend, however, that anyone using this concept stay away from single word or even most double word bids (e.g. window repair) as these can drive clicks and costs quite high quite fast.