Ready to build your business with more online leads and sales, but not sure where to start? We’ve put together an introductory article about the basics of business: those things you can’t ignore when growing your business.
This is the first article in our new series for business owners and marketers, titled, “Build Your Business.” Today, we’ll focus on Business Basics: the basics of growing a successful business online, part one. (For an overview of this series, please see, “Build Your Business Online in 5 Weeks.”)
This entire series is about being successful online. To be a success as a business owner or marketer, you have to have your bases covered. That means starting at the beginning: what do you do?
That’s right! The first business basics tip is to identify your services. Your goal here is to fully understand the services you sell, along with the amount you charge per service call or per hour.
If you provide a service, most or all the time, you sell your time. Your time is your livelihood.
Artonic is a service provider, too. We provide marketing, advertising, design, and development services. That means we make money by charging for our time.
“For a service provider, time is literally money: If an hour passes unbilled, it’s lost income, never to be recouped.”1
To be successful as a service provider online, you must fully understand (1) the full definition of the service you provide, and (2) the price you charge for that service. It may be helpful to also make a list of tasks that are not included in the service, so you can be clear when speaking with your customers.
After you’ve established your business, and you’re ready to grow, take time to seriously consider your brand. (You may enjoy reading: How Important is Branding?)
Don’t fool yourself; you have a brand whether you like it or not. Your brand is your business; it’s how customers identify you. And if you haven’t spent time creating and building your brand, your customers will create one for you.
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook, Co-founder of Intuit Inc.2
Your brand is the reason people call you and not your competitor. Your brand creates an image in the mind of your customers, based on how they perceive you.
Customers can perceive you in any number of ways, based on virtually anything. It’s their first impression of you, along with any experiences they’ve had with you, or have heard about you.
These perceptions may be wildly inaccurate; the business owner whose desk is a mess may be seen as lazy but is, in reality, a very hard worker.
Branding is a process, but here are a couple easy steps you can take to begin:
First, ask yourself the following questions (it’s helpful to take notes and save them for later reference):
- What do you offer? Be specific. Know your services and prices.
- What is unique about your business or services?
- What do you excel at? What do you do best? How can you impress your customers?
- How are you different than your competitors? What will customers get when they choose you over someone else?
Second, think about the perception you want people to have of your business.
- How do you want customers to describe you? Think of specific words, like “honest” or “on time” and connect an action with them – for example, if you want to be considered friendly, list ways that you can appear friendly to your customers, like smiling, making eye contact, and always remembering first names.
- What type of experience do you want your customers to have? Define your customer’s journey – from the moment they learn about you to a sale and beyond. Be descriptive and specific; you want to be able to create this experience for your customers every time you interact with them.
Third, how can you represent your brand to your customers, so that the feeling they get is the one you want them to get?
- What colors, shapes, textures, etc. evoke the same feeling that you want to evoke in your customers? Colors (and visual graphics of any kind) influence emotions, and people make decisions based on emotions. Think of your logo and the colors you use – what emotions do they raise? Be sure to take into consideration the local culture of your target audience, as color can be heavily influenced by culture.3
- Think of a tagline; even if you don’t use it, it’s helpful to have a concrete idea to concentrate on.
- Make a short list of descriptive words that you’d like your customers to connect to your brand; use these words when communicating with your customers.
Now, you must consider why the customer decides to buy a service.
- What are your customer’s priorities? What do they care most about? What do they care least about? For example, if timeliness is a high priority among your customers, make sure to invest in being on time, and don’t invest in the things your customers don’t care so much about.4
- What are your competitors doing? Compare your service offerings and prices against all your local competitors. You need to be aware of what your competitors are doing, so that you can meet or exceed their offerings.
This is only the beginning of your brand journey. But it’s important to take that first step and seriously consider how people perceive you and your business.
Your Target Audience
If you take away one thing from this article, let it be the importance of knowing who your target audience is.
What is a target audience? It’s the people who need, want, and buy your services. The people who benefit from what you offer. Are you a local service provider? You might target homeowners, over the age of 35, in your local area, who can’t do what you do. You’ll want to focus on women, because women make or influence the majority of purchasing decisions.5
However, if you own a construction business, your target audience will be different. You’ll focus on families that want to build a new home and make a certain amount of money.
One mistake many new business owners make is assuming that “everyone” is their target audience. That’s not the case. If you take time to think about who needs your services and can afford them, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not “everyone.”
But instead of being limiting, defining your target audience can actually be liberating – and profitable.
“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets” – Nido Qubein, Author and Motivational Speaker 6
Figuring out a way to make a profit is your first goal of business. To make a profit, you’ll need to calculate your operating expenses and track your sales.
Equation to Make a Profit
“The formula for profitability has been established for ages” as Sales – Expenses – Profits. But you can take another approach, namely, profit first. The equation goes like this: Sales – Profit = Expenses. Determine what you need to make as profit, let’s say 15%, and automatically pay yourself first. The remainder is the amount you have left for expenses.8
Of course, making a profit in any business is more than a simple mathematical equation; your success really depends on how well you serve your audience. (Read: The Secret Formula to Making Profitable Website Decisions in Design, Development, and Marketing)
How to Price Your Services
Your profit depends heavily on the prices your charge for your services. How do you determine pricing? You’ll need to conduct some research into your target audience and your competitors. How much do your customers feel they will have to pay for a service? How much do others with your skills and experience charge per service or per hour? Without research, this is virtually impossible to determine.
“Customers will pay whatever they think the service is worth; thus pricing in many service businesses is based on whatever the market will bear.”7
Your Work Equipment, Tools, & Team
What do you depend upon to get your jobs done, quickly and professionally? Your work equipment (like your computer), tools (software), and team play a huge role in the success or failure of your business, not to mention your overall health.
“Invest in yourself. Your career is the engine of your wealth.” – Paul Clitheroe, Australian television presenter, radio presenter, financial analyst, financial advisor, and publisher 9
It’s worth it to invest in yourself, your team, and your business.
Your Online Presence
Today, it’s vital to be online. Your customers go online to search for service businesses like yours every day and, if you’re not there, how will they find you?
Go to Google and type your business name. Do you appear in the search results? Search for your type of business (i.e. web design and development). Are you there?
To establish your online presence, follow these easy steps:
- Define your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number. Type it out the exact way you want it to appear; your goal is to make sure your business is consistent across all web channels.
- Claim any accounts you can, from Google My Business to Yelp!. Fill in your business information the exact same way for all listings.
- Publish a website, so customers have more ways to find you. Include important information such as your location, service area, and business hours.
- Search for reviews of your business. If you have negative reviews, take a moment to compose a professional, thoughtful response. If you have no reviews, copy the links to your accounts, then ask satisfied customers to leave you a five-star review.
- Check out this helpful guide: How to Take Control of Online Directory Listings for Your Business.
Selling a Service
Do you know how to sell your services to the people who need them?
It all comes down to this: How can you get your brand and services in front of your target audience? And, once you have their attention, how do you persuade them to purchase your services?
There are many options for selling your services, from cold calls to online advertising and everything in between.
What really matters is the personal connection you make with your customer. (Check out this video message from Angela for more info.)
“When your business provides a service, you need to build a personal relationship. Your only job is to please your main contact.”1
Please your customers – deliver excellent service, on-time, and with professionalism. Be friendly, and take time to connect with the people who request your services. These connections will fuel your success, if you make a great impression.
Want More Online Traffic?
Even if you’re just getting started online, you can still increase the amount of people who visit your website. Read our e-book: How to Get More Website Traffic for easy, quick tips to get more people to your website!
Give Artonic a call or email us if you’re interested in website design, development, or marketing.
- “The Basics of Selling Services.” Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur, 09 Nov. 2005. Web. 11 June 2017. <https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/80954>.
- Scott quote
- Edwards, Danielle D. “Best Colors for Branding | Michigan Web Design | Artonic.” Artonic Blog. N.p., 05 July 2016. Web. 11 June 2017. <https://www.artonicweb.com/learn/best-colors-for-branding/>.
- Frei, Frances X. “The Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 31 July 2014. Web. 11 June 2017. <https://hbr.org/2008/04/the-four-things-a-service-business-must-get-right>.
- Brennan, Bridget. “Top 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Women Consumers.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 June 2017. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/bridgetbrennan/2015/01/21/top-10-things-everyone-should-know-about-women-consumers/#8f0f7486a8b4>.
- Nido Qubein quote
- Thomas, Dan R. E. “Strategy Is Different in Service Businesses.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 01 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 June 2017. <https://hbr.org/1978/07/strategy-is-different-in-service-businesses>.
- Aguanno, Brooke. “The Simple Method To Make Any Business More Profitable, Permanently.” Free Accounting, Invoicing, Payments, Payroll and More – The Wave Blog. Free Accounting, Invoicing, Payments, Payroll and More – The Wave Blog, 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 June 2017. <https://blog.waveapps.com/the-simple-method-to-make-any-business-more-profitable-permanently/>.
- Bakke, David. “The Top 17 Investing Quotes of All Time.” Investopedia. Investopedia, 30 Nov. 2016. Web. 11 June 2017. <http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0511/the-top-17-investing-quotes-of-all-time.aspx>.