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Just talk to everybody you know about what you do, you never know who they know, a person who paints houses might be friends with rich people who he contracts out to etc. So basically just insert your business into every conversation possible, as long as you don't come across as only talking to them to mention your business yah know? Basically be friendly, be talkative, and never pass up an opportunity to pass out a business card, even if you didn't get a chance to mention your business, after all it has your phone number on it doesn't it lol. That's the first step, and it won't get you rich, but word of mouth eventually spreads. Don't think that that's all you have to do to get customers though, there are plenty of easier methods if you're willing to spend money.
I like that you asked about networking. Most networking events do allow non-members to participate for free as a trial(s) visit. To find the different ones in your area is to just attend one and ask everyone in that room to email you the events they attend. You will probably end up with about 15 different events. So your 1st job in getting noticed is to find the appropriate events that fit your business. Start at your local Chamber of Commerce.
Atlanta Sales and Consulting
As we are in the process of opening our cigar business, we have obviously been trying to get out our name and let people know who we are, what we offer and how we offer it. What the previous post said about people knowing other people is very true. We have spoken to people about our business, they have said they know so-and-so who smokes cigars and given us their business card. This is a trail that can lead on for quite some time, and what started as a simple mention of our business lead us to 5 or 6 prospective clients. Its also gotten us some free golf games, because one of the people managed a golf course! Word of mouth is key! Traditional advertising has its place and purpose, but if you are just starting like we are and have little or no advertising budget, there is no other way. Thanks to word of mouth we now have around 100 people who we know smoke cigars who are waiting for our business to open. That is what I call direct advertising, and totally free of charge. Also, never under estimate the power of social networking sites. Learn how to use them and they will help you and they are free, although they do take time to operate and keep up with. Good luck, never stop talking about your business!
I agree with everyone "word of mouth" is essential in the beginning, especially when your budget is low.
I agree with Maria. When I owned a fine dining restaurant, I switch a large portion of my marketing dollars from print ads to food preparation passing out sample of my food to "big mouths" in the community - and by "big mouths", I don't mean the people that could eat the most, but the people that knew people and loved to talk.
I would recommend that you look into charity events for donating pieces - especially if you can get them into the live auction portion of the event instead of silent auction.
Another option is to get with a pro to write a press release and submit it to the local news agencies.
Think of who your target customers are. Where do they get their news? Who do they listen to? You want to then find a way to get your business in front of the people that hold sway over these groups of people to convey your message for you. It may take giving away samples or using pieces in a fashion show. Instead of trying to grab customers one-by-one, get their attention by building relationships and impressing the people that they listen to.
For example, I partnered with La Comunidad Online to write press releases, articles and interviews targeted towards the US Hispanic community. If this is a potential target market for you, then I suggest that you take a look at the program. Our rates our extremely aggressive right now to help companies target this almost $1 trillion in buying power for the holiday season. Is this a shameless pitch from me - maybe. Shameful - not if it benefits you. Lacomunidadonline.com receives almost 800,000/mo from over 60,000 unique visitors.
Hope this helps.
The Solopreneur's Guide
That's a dilema many small business owners face during these challenging economic times...what a great question!
As some have mentioned in their replies to your post; "word-of-mouth" is important. Another thing that would help get you noticed in your community is to write short, simple articles about the jewelry you design.
See if your community paper will publish them or if not--print off copies of them using your logo as a header and visit local hair salons/beauty parlors/women's spas and see if the owner will let you leave copies with the reading material they may have for their customers.
In the article talk about a specific design you've come up with, what motivated you to create it, the materials you use and the care and craft you put it into your work. I took a quick look at your website and see that you guarantee your work and will repair broken items--perhaps you could write an article about simple "self-help" repair that someone could do themselves. I don't think that will necessarily "kill" a prospective repair customer for you ... but it is another thing that shows that you are a person/business that adds value to both your products ... but also to your community/clientle.
Don't worry if you are not a writer by experience or profession. If you are passionate about your products ... the words will come--tell people in writing just like you would tell them in a spoken conversation. Just be sure to use your word processing software to spell and grammar check before you distribute/submit copies to the public or for print.
Anyway, the above may give you some ideas to explore and test out. Good luck and best wishes to growing your business.
P.S. If you do begin to write articles--be sure to save them and add them to your website. Your web designer should be able to help you post them and hopefully, if set up properly for search engines, as you build more content on your site (from the articles) they can begin to help with people finding you online when they search online for your types of products/services.
Word of mouth is great - there are also other ways (with little to no costs) to market you business:
1) Contact your local media outlets (TV, Newspaper, Radio, etc). Let their editors know who you are and what you do. Tell them you are an expert in your field and provide them with materials or even samples about your business (if possible). Thus, when they have a story that could use an expert's opinion, they will think of you and add you in their story or if they have some additional space or time they could run a story on you to fill that space.
3) Contact local social groups (like Lion's club, Rotary, etc - your chamber should have good list of these groups) - contact these groups and tell them that you would be interested in guest speaking at their meetings. Prepare a good 15 to 20 minute speech about you, your business and industry - Not only will this allow you to get information out to a large group of people - but, you usually get a free lunch as well.
4) Join your chamber of commerce - get involved and attend, not only their meetings, but the events that they sponsor or participate in.
5) Volunteer your time - you would be surprised at the people who support, volunteer for, or attend charitable events and activities. Pick a great non-profit organization in your area and volunteer your time - you will be amazed at the people you will meet and to whom you can spread the work about your business.
6) As stated talk to everyone who will listen - know that anywhere (ANYWHERE) that more than one person gathers is a networking event.