Start Out Right -- With the Final Step in Place
by Kathy J. Kobliski, Author & Owner of Silent Partner Advertising
Get the business open and worry about advertising later. This is a fatal flaw in the thinking of many prospective and functioning small business owners, because it relegates the final step of connecting businesses and prospects to the back burner.
Liken it to a high school student who does homework but doesn’t turn it in. Or a baker who fills a cake pan with batter but doesn’t put it in the oven. Or a bookkeeper who prepares invoices but doesn’t mail them out. Or to any employee who works all week and fails to cash his or her paycheck. These final steps are what trigger the big payoffs - to skip them would be ludicrous.
During my twenty-three years in the field of advertising, I have constantly run across small business owners who resist advertising like the plague... even though it is the final, critical step in the success of a business. Without it there is no payoff - just like there is no credit for homework done but not turned it - no cake without putting the batter in the oven, no receivables for invoices not mailed, and no money to pay the rent for the worker who fails to cash her paycheck.
Yes, advertising is expensive. But so are the computers, scanners, desks, chairs, phones, copy machines, registers, and delivery vehicles you need to set up your business. You made financial provisions for those - you did not plan to scrounge at the local landfill to get those items for free. You allowed a dollar figure for payroll knowing that people would not come to work every day out of the goodness of their hearts. You included an amount for rent and utilities -- you did not plan to set up in an abandoned garage where you could use lanterns for light and maybe build a campfire for warmth. So why, when it comes to advertising, the very link between your business and your customers, would you look for ways to get around it?
I’ve been asked hundreds of times how to advertise for free. The answer is: YOU CAN’T! Not if you expect to see results that will build your business. Sure, an opportunity may come along now and then, but you should never, never count on that to do the serious work of brand-building, or the task of familiarizing the public with the name of your business and your products or services. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of the no-cost or low-cost ads when you can, but you have to consider those opportunities as additions to a continual paid advertising effort. Without promoting your location, the name of your business, your products and services to the very public you want to show up, what do you think will happen? I can tell you. You’ll go out of business and be stuck with a store full of equipment and inventory and lose your shirt.
I’ve said before that opening a business without advertising is like making elaborate plans for a huge party and then not sending out invitations. How the heck would the guests know where the party is? What day? What time? How would they even know that they had been invited to something in the first place? What would happen in that instance? The host would be standing in a room with lots of decorations, expensive food, and music...alone. Neglect to send out invitations to your business, in the form of advertising, and you’ll be alone in your store or office.
Advertising is a critical part of the success of any business, large or small. It cannot be avoided, overlooked, underestimated, undervalued, or dismissed. Do you have a sales force that needs to go out and sell? It’s certainly easier for them to do so when the potential customer is at least aware of the company and has a positive perception of it, than it is to sell something from a business no one has ever heard of. Advertising provides credibility that will turn into cash! So lose the mindset of, I’ll just get the business open now and worry about the advertising later. When "later" comes, and you realize that unlocking the door and turning on the lights aren’t enough to bring in customers, here’s what will happen:
- You’ll start advertising, even though you don’t have the cash to pay for it "in hand," and hope that it will bring in enough business to pay for itself. That never happens.
- You’ll have trouble paying for the ads you ran and earn yourself a "bad pay" reputation that will spread throughout the media in your market like a wildfire.
- You won’t be able to get a decent rate during your next stab at advertising because you will not be negotiating from a position of strength. No one is going to give you a price break because you took so long to pay off your last invoices - in fact you’ll probably be relegated to a "cash-in-advance" status.
- Author of You Can’t Grow a Business Without Advertising - so where do you start? Outdoor Advertising (PSI-Research/Oasis Press, editions 1 & 2, 1998, 2001).
- Monthly columnist for entrepreneur.com for two years (2000 & 2001).
- Written articles for Sales Masterminds, Canadian Women’s Business Network, HomeOfficeMag.com, and StartupJournal.com, and others.
- Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Independent Business, Golf World Business, Switchboard.com, BankRate.com, SkyRadioNet.com, General Motors, The Money Room and The Ron Thomas Business Forum, and others.
- Owner and President of Silent Partner Advertising in Syracuse, NY since 1984.
- Taught advertising and media-buying within the New York State Small Business Development Program for three years.
Kathy J. Kobliski