15 No-Brainer Ideas to Get Your Small Business Off the Ground

by Alli Polin on May 2, 2017

It’s incredibly exciting. You’ve decided to start a small business and be your own boss. You have a great idea but no clue how to get it off the ground. If only people knew what you had to offer, they’d be lining up, right?

Besides the administrative pieces, what do you need to do to actually make it viable? Well, here’s the big one… get customers. You know, people who will pay you for what you do. 

I’ve coached many people over the years who were ready to leave their corporate positions behind and start their own business. In addition, I’ve worked with stay-at-home moms who wanted to create a business that matched their lifestyle. Finding an idea wasn’t the biggest hurdle, nor was creating offerings. The biggest barrier to success was what came next – finding clients. 

I heard tons of fears masked as excuses. Maybe a few sound familiar?

“I’m not a salesperson.”

“This is my side hustle. When am I supposed to find the time?”

“I feel so strange taking money from people I know.”

“If it doesn’t work out, it’s not a big deal.”

“Maybe I’m not cut out to have my own business.”

Thing is, starting a business of your own isn’t the same as being paid a salary to do your job. You have to do things that make you uncomfortable and take on more roles than you did in the past. For example, I love coaching and don’t love the admin pieces of running a business, or, if I’m honest, the sales. My only choices are to outsource them or suck it up and do it. (I do it.)

Get Your Small Business Off the Ground! 

Here’s a small business playbook with 15 strategies to get you going. 

Network

You can’t sit behind your desk and hope that people discover your new fabulous website. Get out there and network! Ask people for recommendations on active networking groups in your area ranging from BNI to attending a local event sponsored by a business journal. Google your area (i.e. Washington DC) and the words “Networking Event” or “Business Networking” and check out your options. 

Join the Chamber

The Chamber is there to help you get off the ground and become a part of the fabric of the local business community. Aside from networking events, there are speakers on topics that may be relevant to you as you get your business off the ground. However, it’s not enough to pay your annual dues and watch the business roll in. Show up, get to know people, offer to speak and share your expertise – things will start to happen. 

Swap Services

Money can be tight when you’re just starting up your business, and one way to save money, increase your visibility, and get testimonials is to swap services with other local business professionals. It’s a great way to build a base of people who’ve experienced what you have to offer and get you what you need too.

Raffles / Fundraisers

Whether it’s your place of worship or your child’s school, chances are at some point during the year they’re going to do a raffle or auction fundraiser. Put together a package of your services or products to include in the event. You’ll get advertising for your business and, hopefully, a very satisfied customer who will tell everyone they know about what you do.

Social Media

Social media isn’t simply a marketing bullhorn for you to shout through about what you do… It’s a place to build relationships. Build relationships with other business owners, potential clients, and others. Your presence should tell the world about who you are and not only what you do. People want to do business with other people who they know, like, and trust.

Email Friends and Family

Make an announcement to people you already know. Don’t be shy about letting people know that you’ve started your business. You never know who may need your services or knows someone to refer to you. Don’t feel silly or salesy – be excited and genuine and it will come through. Consider this a birth announcement.

Reach Out to Old Companies, Colleagues, and Bosses

Especially if your new offering relates to an industry where you previously worked, let people know about you and your business. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with people you know. These are probably people who would be a job reference for you or perhaps have endorsed you on LinkedIn. They’re  a receptive, supportive audience. 

Facebook Ad

Facebook ads work to generate sales, and Facebook ads fail too (trust me, I know). Get specific with who your ideal client is and target that person. Take the time to create a client persona so you truly know who they are before investing in a Facebook ad that is too broad. Despite what you may think (or hope) your target customer is not “everyone.”

Talk About What You Do!

At dinner parties, conferences, high school reunion, or whenever someone asks the $92,000 question, “What do you do?” tell them. Let confidence, competence, and creativity be on your side. Practice what you want to say and make it meaningful to them, not only a pitch for you. “I help people have a full life, and professional success” is more of a conversation starter than, “oh, I’m a coach.” Don’t sell, share. You are your own best ad when you’re yourself, not a Ron Popeil wanna-be.

Ask Permission to Add Someone to Your List

When you meet someone at one of your many networking events and you exchange cards, do NOT add them to your mailing list without permission. It’s a great opportunity to ask to keep in touch and ask if you can add them to your list. Nobody likes brands that send them countless unsolicited emails, and they may otherwise mark it as spam which ultimately hurts your business. 

Blog

Share what you know in a blog for your business. People will subscribe to keep up with your updates, and they’ll add themselves to your list. Think of blogging as an opportunity to show what you know as opposed to a nasty-must-do to grow your list. You’re an expert, share it and show it. It’s also a great way to attract the right people to you instead of going out and knocking on doors. 

Outsource (Get help!)

It can be tough to do everything when you’re just getting things off the ground. Consider investing in some support either from a VA, web developer, business coach, etc. Pick and choose wisely so you don’t get too far under water before you even get started. Figure out what would be most helpful and ask for referrals. 

Create Alliances

If you have professional colleagues who are in your space, you don’t always have to compete with them. I have a network of coaches and speakers I often refer to work with clients when I’m not the best fit for the job or am unavailable. An alliance, based on a trusting relationship, can and will help you grow. 

Ask for referrals

When you have a client who’s thrilled with your work, ask for a referral. The moment they’re the most satisfied, and you’ve delivered what they needed is the time to ask; not two months later when you’re pipeline is looking weak. Most small businesses get the most new business from referrals. 

Mastermind

There’s something to be said to surrounding yourself with others on a similar journey. You don’t have to be in the exact same business to get big benefits. People who have been where you are and are willing to share what they’ve learned are essential to your success. Look around for a mastermind that’s a good fit for your business and personal leadership philosophy too. 

Bottom Line: If starting a small business is your dream, figure it out instead of talking yourself out of it. Be daring and test different ideas and approaches to see what works for you. 

If you want support as you get your small business off the ground, let’s talk. 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Gruber May 2, 2017 at 8:19 am

Alli,
Once again you have uncovered a mother lode! I know there are no guarantees and that most start-ups fail. That said, having lived through several small business start-ups and kissed a few good-bye, your list, if attended to consciously and intentionally augurs well for a positive and successful outcome. We know the “rules” of the game have changed and what’s even more important to understand is that the “game” itself has changed thus the need for rule changes. Hope that makes sense when applied to small business. From my long perspective it also applies to numerous other situations – relationships, raising kids, planning for the future, and so on. Thanks for your good insights. Keep up the good work!

Reply

Alli Polin May 2, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Always appreciate your insights, Gary. I definitely see how it applies to more than just launching a small biz!

This is a departure from my usual writing on personal leadership but it’s ultimately about taking the steps to create what we say we want. There are so many people who want to do their own thing, even on a micro scale, yet are intimidated before they even try. Yes, failure definitely happens but it’s only guaranteed if you do nothing.

Many thanks!

Alli

Reply

Terri Klass May 2, 2017 at 8:53 am

Fantastic list of strategies Alli! It can be daunting to self-promote but I have learned ways to not be overly “salesy”. Warm selling is what we all should strive for. That means that before we approach a potential client we should at least have had a few touch points with them before that. Maybe they met me through a post I wrote. Or maybe they heard me speak. Or my best contacts have been from people who recommended me.
Thanks Alli and will definitely share today!

Reply

Alli Polin May 2, 2017 at 7:44 pm

You have built a successful business and I value your willingness to share your experience! There are people who say cold calling is alive and well but like you, I’d rather go the relationship route.

Thanks!

Alli

Reply

Mohan Manohar May 11, 2017 at 10:07 am

Facebook, twitter, triberr are good mediums to enhance small businesses.

Reply

Alli Polin May 14, 2017 at 10:35 pm

I strongly agree, Mohan! Thanks for the additions! I’ve grown my network and reach exponentially thanks to Triberr and Twitter.

Alli

Reply

Leave a Comment