Many entrepreneurs struggle with accessing the market, and as a result end up taking almost anything that comes their way just to get the proverbial ‘foot in the door’. This is a highly recommended move, but many seem to end up stuck in just trying to get a foot in. The point of the whole networking, giving out freebies and discounts is for you as an entrepreneur to get more business in return. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs find themselves months or even a year into their business still doing odd ‘get your foot in the door’ jobs. What many don’t realize is some corporates and more established SMEs take advantage of this hunger that startups have and exploit for cheap labor and services. Be careful not to fall into this trap and keep your eyes open for when doing discounted work has moved from trying to connect to clients to the way you do business. Some tips:
KNOW YOUR WORTH AS AN ENTREPRENEUR. You might be starting up and you might be the one who needs your clients more than they think they need you. Don’t let this knock your self-esteem. Remember first impressions are always lasting and if you become known as a cheap service provider you might find yourself forever stuck in this position. You would rather announce opening discounts and be sure to make it clear to your customer base that these are discounts for a limited amount of time only. This will draw in clients which is probably the effect you want and at the same time not label you as the cheap supplier. Remember a lot of businesses fail because of underpricing. When you underprice you are not doing yourself any favors, you will just make loses and end up closing shop.
BE CAREFUL OF BEING INVITED TO ‘PARTNER’ WITH NO CLEAR OUTLINE OF WHAT YOU ARE GETTING OUT OF IT TOO. This is especially relevant to entrepreneurs in creative fields. Most are invited to cover events, take pictures or videos and even sometimes to develop social marketing campaigns and productions. Most creative entrepreneurs jump at such an opportunity as they see it as a great way to market themselves but forget to work out if the value they are giving is equal to the value they will get. Now I know exposure is very important for any start up but take a step back and quantify the value of the exposure you are getting. Is it worth the travel expenses, equipment hires and time you will use there? If exposure is what you are looking for I recommend being featured in your partners marketing campaigns as an official sponsor, that way people who are not in your circle also know that you are associated with said brand.
ALWAYS SIGN A CONTRACT BEFORE GIVING OUT SERVICES. This might sound like a no brainer, but you will be surprised how many entrepreneurs out there get excited about landing a big client and don’t sign any legally binding contracts or even get a deposit before they start working. You meet an executive for a company which you feel could benefit from a service you provide and then agree verbally that you should start on the job for a good amount of money. Being the enthusiastic entrepreneur that you are you get to work immediately and when you are done send it over to ‘Mr. Big Shot Client’ only to be told they don’t need it anymore or other decision makers don’t think your product or service is necessary. Imagine the time, money and effort you would have put just goes to waste. Not forgetting that being tight on cash you have already included that money into your monthly budget. Heartbreaking right?
DON’T BE TOO SHY TO MARKET YOURSELF. We know you have this amazing image of your business in your head. Your grilled chicken restaurant in going to rival Nandos and your software company will make Bill Gates look at you with envy but you’re not quite there yet. This shouldn’t mean that you can’t start marketing your business like you’re almost there. Our businesses are our children and we want them to be perfect before we take them out to meet the neighbors but don’t hide them either. Showcase what you’re doing, tell people about it, celebrate every milestone even if it’s just paying rent a week in advance. Enjoy it, embrace and be proud of it! The more confidently you stand behind your business the more people look at it too with confidence. If you pride and market yourself as the best and most reliable and passionate, say, logistics company you will be known for that. That is assuming you’re not lying about it. Don’t wait for a big moment or some sort of big win to start talking about what you do. Start now and start planting seeds into your customers brain think of it as subliminal suggestion.
Remember don’t settle. You’ve got this!