By Jeff Quigley
The home-based business craze has officially taken over! With data from the 2010 US Census, the Small Business Association reported that 52% of small businesses were based in homes. Further information revealed that by March 2011, 900,000 new businesses were started by people who were previously unemployed. While unemployment continues to be a problem for many in our day, the popularity of home-based businesses has certainly opened a new door of opportunity.
Are you one of the many new entrepreneurs who is changing the world through a home-based venture? If so, hopefully you’re having success and building a clientele while also building your business. As you probably know, you determine your own success! If you have the ambition, the ingenuity, and the determination to stick to it, your home-based business could be a bright spot, not just for your family, but also for your entire community.
If you’re in the movement, you are likely encountering some hurdles that could hinder or even kill your business altogether. While all types of businesses will see a variety of struggles and challenges, there is one aspect of home-based business that we will all be forced to deal with. This tricky caveat to your success includes issues such as advertising, branding, publicity, and a host of other factors. The key to your success (or failure) could depend on your approach to marketing.
A quick online search will render thousands of quotes and quips on the virtues of marketing. Billionaire software developer and founder of QuickBooks™, Scott Cook, has said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is … it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Author, marketing guru, and public speaker, Seth Godin, says, “Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.” Marketer extraordinaire and startup advisor, Joe Chernov, has quipped, “Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.” Of all the quotes and words of wisdom, a statement made by author, poet, and civil rights icon, Maya Angelou, sums it all up, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Regardless of the product or service you’re selling, your approach to marketing and customer service will make or break your business.
I hope to outline the basic tenets of a successful approach to marketing. Bear in mind, our nation’s colleges and universities have devoted entire departments to marketing. There is a wealth of information from a vast field of marketing bloggers and consultants online. Our focus here is going to be marketing for home-based businesses, where ease-of-use, low cost, and process compatibility are determining factors. Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you tackle the marketing hurdle and propel your new business to greater success.
I will approach our task in four easy sections: product, packaging, promotion and performance. Within these four areas, you’ll be able to examine your process from start to finish and fix what isn’t working. If your business is something you’re serious about, you’ll want to consider these thoughts on marketing for the home-based business.
You may wonder why a look at your product or service is necessary, especially if you’ve already settled on what you’re offering to the customer. While you may have already established your product, it is always good to review and be reminded of what you’re doing. It has well been said and remains to be true that the best products often sell themselves. Maybe these thoughts will help you revise or refine your product offering.
You should play off your strengths.
This means that you pursue what God has already built in you. God has given you some strengths and abilities that stand out above the rest. We call these talents. Four questions can help determine which strengths to focus on:
- Question 1: What are you interested in? We all have certain things that pique our interest. Some people are interested in a craft, while others may find great interest in poetry. Whatever you may be interested in can serve as a major clue in deciphering the product or service for your business.
- Question 2: What things do you enjoy? These things could include food, sports, music, nature … just about anything you enjoy can be developed in some capacity into a home-based business. Why is this important, you ask? Nobody likes hiring a carpenter who hates his job. If you focus on something that you already enjoy, you’re miles ahead of the competition.
- Question 3: What things do you want to try? Maybe you’ve heard from other home-based entrepreneurs that the item they are selling is particularly rewarding. Maybe there is an item that you’ve purchased and you want to share it with others. A careful examination of items you want to try may serve as a springboard to a profitable home-based business.
- Question 4: What about your family’s interests? Your family can play a huge part in the development, the production, and even the execution of the product or service you offer. How wonderful would it be to not only create income, but to also build harmony and give your kids a sense of responsibility and accomplishment?
You should consider your history.
We can learn a lot from our own history. Have you ever heard the phrase, “hindsight is 20/20”? Again, answering a few elementary questions can help to shed some light on this truth.
- Question 1. Are you trained with a particular product or service? Consider the training you received as a youth or from working a job during your formative years. While that training pertained specifically to a job or situation with which you are no longer involved, you still have that training! There is no reason you cannot continue to use that training and education in your new home-based business.
- Question 2. Are you experienced with a particular product or service? While our training is one way of gaining experience, sometimes God allows us to go through things without asking our permission. Maybe you’ve endured an extended period of medical struggles, dealt with legal battles, or been faced with other unforeseen circumstances. All of these experiences help to shape us and make us into the person God wants us to be. Often, we can draw from these experiences and turn the pain of a hard situation into ideas that we can use in a home-based business.
- Question 3. Are you interested in a particular product or service? Maybe you’ve had no training or experience with a product or service. It is also possible that all of your training and experience deals with things that don’t interest you at all. Do you have special interest in a product or service? That might be just the thing you can make into a profitable home-based business.
No matter what part of your history you play from—an area of training, experience, or simply interest—the lessons of your history are great starting blocks to set your course to a home-based business.
You should pick the right product.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at making your product, or how quickly you can deliver it, if nobody wants to buy it. You can base your business on a new and unique product—something new to the market that will solve a problem or meet a common need. You can base your business on improving an existing product—an addition or improvement to an item already available. Or you can base your business on reintroducing a forgotten product—reviving a product or service that has been lost in the noise of progress. When picking the right product or service to sell, you need to consider a few simple standards:
- You must learn about the market demand for your product or service. How many people will want to purchase your product? Does it have a seasonal appeal, or will people want to purchase it all through the year? You need to define your target market, determine where else they are buying your product or service, and then distinguish your business from those competitors. This may mean a lower selling price, free delivery, or added value.
- You must be confident that what you are offering is something of value. Many different factors can affect the value of a given item, and it’s imperative that you study and know the factors affecting you. You also need to maintain a sense of reality when considering the income you hope to generate.
- You must make a real determination of the costs associated with your product. By “costs,” we mean the resources, time, and money it takes to get a product ready to sell. Regardless of what your product or service is, it will typically require supplies that you must gather before offering it for sale. You should take every measure to find the best possible deal on your components. This may mean stocking up when those items or ingredients go on sale. It could mean driving across town to get the right components at the right price. However you have to gather supplies, do it to get them at the lowest possible price without sacrificing quality.
- You must be able to deliver your product or service in a timely, reliable manner. No matter what you choose to sell, it will undoubtedly take a certain amount of time to produce. You need to refine your process so that you know beforehand how long it will take to make each item. If you’re selling custom products that are different every time, you’ve got to be very comfortable with how long each piece will take to produce.
You should know the four “beatitudes” of home-based business:
- Be smart. We all sometimes make decisions that are not right. Sometimes we aren’t prepared. Maybe we haven’t done our research. Maybe we’ve failed to ask for advice on the matter. Because of our haste, the decisions we made during those times ended up as failures, mistakes, and bad choices. Success is an option, but only to those who will be smart about getting it. You’ve got to be smart when approaching your home-based business.
- Be flexible. As with anything in life, flexibility is a key ingredient to success. You may find that things don’t go according to plan when you first start selling. Don’t fall under the pressure of change and give up. If you can approach your home-based business with some level of flexibility, you’ll be able to endure all types of storms.
- Be consistent. The best way to grow a home-based business is to consistently offer a product or service of acceptable quality for an affordable price. Wild fluctuations in quality make for disloyal customers. No matter if you’re selling home-baked pies, custom website design, or pet photography, the complaint of one dissatisfied customer can nullify the adoration of five previous clients who think you hung the moon.
- Be patient. Some business ideas will take off right from the start, while others may sit idle until buyers realize their need for a product or service. However the demand develops for your product, you must be patient.
Picking the right product or service for your business is a huge step. If you pick correctly, it’s a step on the ladder of success. (It’s not guaranteed, but you’re moving in the right direction.) If you pick incorrectly, you jump off the ladder and into the swamp of failure (which is guaranteed … you cannot succeed if you pick the wrong product from the start!)