Are you worrying that…
…your business isn’t getting started quickly enough?
…the actions you are taking (marketing, networking, etc.) are not bringing results?
…you should be doing something differently?
Sales bring not only funding for your business, but also obvious positive feedback that you are doing the right things with your business. Without that you may feel that you are not doing the right things or maybe that you shouldn’t be in business at all.
But, before you scramble to make changes to your business plans, marketing activities, etc., keep in mind that all good things take time, so patience is needed!
When we first started our accountancy practice it took nearly a year before we started getting a steady stream of clients; and that seems to be normal for most businesses. Looking back at that, from the viewpoint of over a decade later, it was just a short period. The time it takes to take off depends on the type of business and a number of other factors, but you need to be careful about shifting goals and plans before you can tell if there is a real problem with what you are doing or if it will just take more time.
Why does it take so much time to get results from a new business?
It takes time for your prospective customers to…
- become aware of your business and what you are providing;
- realize that it’s something that they need or want;
- decide that you are providing the right solution for them;
- to click the button, pick up the phone, come into the shop, etc. to make the actual sale.
A couple months ago I got the idea for an article on my online marketing blog, Online Marketing: Patience is Your Greatest Virtue, because I found myself panicking a little about results coming from our websites after we had done a major redevelopment. Having been in this industry for over a decade, I KNEW that it takes time for changes to take effect, but my insecurity was causing me to doubt the actions I had taken. But instead of jumping to make more changes, I reviewed what we had done and studied data to confirm to myself that I was doing the right thing and just had to wait it out. Just a few weeks later, and the results are showing.
Some mistakes that may cause your business to start off more slowly than it should:
Starting up your business during a slow period. Most businesses have seasonal fluctuations. You should have knowledge of the seasonality of the business and so should not be surprised if you get poor results during a slow period, but sometimes it takes longer to get to market than planned and you don’t have the timing just right. You need to decide if you should just get started and get through the slow period, or hold off and launch when the timing is better.
Starting up your business when you don’t have enough time to give it. You may be working a full time job at the same time as starting up. It’s a critical time for your new business and if you can’t take time off work to get off to a proper start and have time to examine the financials, you won’t have time to see where things are going wrong and analyze what you can do better.
Not doing market research in advance. Targeting the wrong target market or too wide a market, choosing the wrong location, not seeing that there is a strong competitor in your area, not ‘talking’ to prospects to learn what their real needs and wants are; any of these will mean either a slow start up or complete failure of your business. Once you get started you will quickly see where you went wrong and can adjust, but if you had done your research in advance, you’d be seeing results rather than making maneuvers to save your business.
Not getting professional help when needed. I’m not just saying this because I have an accountancy firm, but there are times when it’s worth spending on getting professional advice regarding your business start-up; whether it’s from an accountant, a solicitor, a government or industry support organization, etc. You don’t want to make mistakes early on that will cost you so much money that the business will not recover. Are you charging sales tax correctly? Are there industry norms that you should be following? If you have no experience in business, see if there is an agency that can provide you with a mentor. Many people want to protect their ideas so closely that they don’t want to talk to any ‘outsiders’ about it, but it’s good to get a view from other angles to be sure you are on the right track.
Why sometimes you just need to “chillax” as a new business owner!
You won’t know if you are actually doing the right thing, if you don’t give it the proper time to work. Set a long enough period for your actions to work (i.e. a brand new website could take months to start getting enquiries via Google searches) before determining if you need to make changes. The timing will depend on a number of things: the type of business (retail, service, etc.), the type of activity (advertising, new website, new products, networking, etc.), your target market (how large, where you are located), how much competition you have and how many resources you have. If you have a large budget for advertising, additional advertising can help bring brand awareness more quickly; but most of us have a limit and have to wait for our other activities to take effect. If you have staff and a monthly payroll, you need results sooner.
You could lose a customer, if you come off too pushy because you stepped up contact with her or him too soon. If you have a retail shop or have ever worked in one, you’ll understand that you need to wait to see if a shopper needs assistance. If you go up to a person too soon, it may just put them off. The same goes for other types of business. It takes time for a ‘shopper’ to make up her mind. If someone has signed up for your newsletter, it doesn’t mean that she wants to get a strong sales pitch directly from you after a week or so.
You could lose your confidence altogether. What if you make changes and you still don’t get results straight away? You need to make smart decisions on what you do and why you do it and not just react to insecure feelings or what others may be telling you, especially of those people don’t know much about your business.
When you might actually need to act quickly to save your new business:
You are running out of budget or will lose a great deal of money. If you are paying for staff or a service or have bought in a lot of stock and the costs are outweighing the results, you must keep an eye on that balance and take action before you go bankrupt. Can you do more free or low cost marketing, prospecting to build business in the meantime?
You are going to lose out on a great opportunity that won’t come up again. If the ideal property becomes available or if there is a relevant marketing opportunity that you really feel will boost your business, it could be worth moving quickly; but you need to really be sure that these are REAL opportunities and not a start to jumping from one poorly planned action to another.
You have a lot of expenses to support. As mentioned above, if you have payroll, rent and other larger overheads; you need to get the sales in sooner to support that, but you still need to account for a certain amount of start up time. If you work from home, on your own, you should have more flexibility.
An activity is bringing in a lot of ‘time wasting’ enquiries. If you find that your marketing or brand profile is bringing in too much of the wrong type of customer (the wrong demographic, difficult to deal with, slow to pay, not appreciative of the quality of your product/service, etc.) We found that we were getting a lot of enquiries about Vehicle Registration Tax from people that just wanted some information and weren’t interested in actually hiring us for anything, so we changed the wording on the page to direct people to contact the tax office rather than us and boosted our pages about services that we want people to hire us for.
What to do while you are patiently waiting for results from your new business:
Do the market research you SHOULD have done before starting up. No, don’t beat yourself up for not doing your research properly before start up and get going with it now. With your business on the market it can be easier to get good information on how you can sell better.
Define a clear Sales Funnel for each of your services and products (or logical groups thereof). Not what actions a prospect takes and you need to take to move that prospect from someone with a little interest to a becoming a customer.
Look at statistics to see trends that you may have missed. Are a lot of people dropping out of the sales cycle at a certain point?
Add new marketing/selling activities rather than “chopping and changing”. If your ad campaign in a local paper hasn’t brought enquiries in a month, don’t stop the ad campaign but add additional efforts like networking or online marketing to work alongside this campaign. After a few months, a real trial of a traditional advertising campaign, then decide if you are getting results or night.
Add content to your website and develop more marketing materials. Use the time to add content to your website, particularly content that will work to move visitors to making a sale: more information about your products/services, yourself and your business; answers to questions that you’ve received about your products/services, testimonials, case studies, etc.
If you’ve followed my strategy for starting up a business that lets you follow your passion, you should be confident that you are doing all the right things for your business and that it is just a matter of time to get that steady flow of customers. Don’t let insecurities cause you to doubt that you are doing the best you can.
Your 7 Day Challenge for the Week
If you are getting ready to start up your business: Look at the recommendations above and outline actions to take to avoid getting a slow start.
If you have already started your business: Look at the recommendations above and note the areas where your startup is going slow.
When you start to feel anxious or panicky that your business is not growing fast enough, stop and look at these recommendations and determine if you need to just be patient and see how the results come out, what things you can do while you are waiting it out, or if you need to act quickly to avoid disaster.
What issues have you found with starting up a new business?
Have you come across any of these issues or tried any of these ideas?