Have you ever noticed how visible large corporations are? Take Coca-Cola?, Nike?
and McDonalds?. They are everywhere. Just ask anyone what comes to mind when
he/she hears the words soft drink, running shoes or quick burgers. More often than
not, you'll hear these brand names immediately.
We've been exposed to these companies so much that it's natural to think of them
immediately. We recognize them as experts in their specific industries.
What's the lesson here? Visibility.
As a small business owner, you MUST be visible. If your business isn't visible to
potential clients and customers, then you might as well close the doors.
Visibility is proactively marketing your business in order to effectively attract new
customers. Sure, you may have a somewhat consistent client base, but resting on
your laurels or just relying on your current client base as your only source of
revenue carries an incredibly high risk, one that has been the detriment to countless
Visibility is one of the MOST crucial determining factors in the success of your small
business. People can't do business with you if they don't know you exist.
How can you proactively be visible?
First, remember you are the number one asset of your small business. More than
just getting your name out there, you have to get your face out there in the
marketplace. Prospects can turn up in some of the unlikeliest places and when they
do, it's your face they need to see in order to consider doing business with you.
For example, take Donald Trump. Whether you admire him or despise him, he's
everywhere. A few years ago, who would have thought that he would be hosting one
of the most acclaimed network series on television? Who would have thought that he
would have a brand new bestselling book? Even while experiencing financial
uncertainty in his primary business enterprise, Trump is still going strong. Why?
I hear you say, "But, I'm just a small business...I don't have the same endless
budgets to be as visible as all those corporate types." As a small business owner,
you don't have to have a big budget to be visible.
The secret to small business visibility lies in tapping into the solid gold value of
networking. Networking is the high performance vehicle by which small business
owners can drive their exposure towards a successful finish.
But the caveat is...it's up to you to take advantage of the opportunities that you do
have for networking and to also create your own new opportunities.
Networking is all about people. It gives you the chance to meet new people, make
new contacts, exchange ideas and interact with others. This can seem particularly
challenging for small business owners who run their businesses from home. It can
also seem challenging for those who don't live in larger cities, but rather in smaller
But, there are several ways of navigating these challenges. Consider the valuable
networking opportunities with each of these ideas.
One last thing about networking...its not net-sit, net-eat, net-drink or net-hide-in-
the-corner-and-don't-talk-to-anyone. It is netWORK.
Chambers of Commerce:
Even the smallest of towns has a local chamber group. Membership fees are
typically based upon the annual revenue or number of employees of a business.
If you are a brand new business with limited funds, consider opting for an individual
membership at a minimal fee. This will still give you the opportunity to participate
in chamber events and meet other people in the business community. It will also
give you the opportunity to determine whether your area chamber offers the
networking opportunities for which you are looking.
Do you belong to a group or organization relevant to your area of expertise? If so,
when was the last time you attended one of its meetings or functions? Do you even
know what it's doing these days?
Sure, you may be a member of such a group, but are you an active member? Simply
paying your annual dues and not participating is not only a waste of money, but
also a waste of a valuable networking and visibility opportunity.
I hear you say, "I don't have time. That's like consorting with the enemy. They're my
competition." Rest assured that the time you don't take to make the most of this
opportunity to network is time that your competition is taking to maximize its
Look at it this way. What potential value can you offer one of your competitors that
might result in a mutually beneficial situation? How can you benefit from working
together? One of your competitors may be able to provide you with a solution to a
problem while you can offer a solution to one of his/her problems.
Unless you network, you'll never know. It would be a shame to miss such a valuable
opportunity simply because you decide that you don't have time or don't want to
face the competition.
Whether you run your business from a small town or even from home in an isolated
rural area, the Internet has made networking a worldwide possibility. If you don't
have a business web site, then you are missing your absolute best potential for
Maximize your marketing potential by investing in a business web site. The
exposure it generates for you will produce a valuable return of your investment.
However, it is vital that your web site presents your business in a professional light.
If you design your web site yourself, but are not a professional designer...if you
scrimp and try to develop a site on the cheap...and if your expertise is not in
knowing what content to include in a web site to attract clients...you are presenting
yourself to potential clients and customers as an amateur or fly-by-night operation.
This is the LAST thing that you want. Sure, you'd be visible-in a VERY bad way.
In addition to having your own web site, the Internet offers other opportunities for
increasing your visibility through networking. Search for professional and/or
industry-related web sites in your area of expertise. Post comments or suggestions
on industry-related discussion groups or blogs.
Dig a little and you will find valuable resources such as industry-specific forums
that offer countless networking opportunities.
Remember, if people don't know you exist, they can't consider doing business with
you. Although this sounds like simple common sense, I regularly see small business
owners who have no concept of the visibility factor.
You MUST be visible.
When it comes to being visible, they mistakenly think that they "don't have time",
"can't make time", "can't afford the investment", "can just hide in their offices and
expect the phone to ring" or any other flimsy excuses that gets them nowhere.
The time to drop that rock is now and increase your visibility.
Jeanna Pool is President of CATALYST creative, inc., an award-winning graphic design, web design and marketing firm located in Denver, Colorado. She helps small business owners who are really good at what they do, but struggle to market their services effectively to attract more clients on a consistent basis. She can be contacted at http://www.catalystcreativeinc.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303.380.9100.