I was at a get together of small business owners recently. It was exciting to see so many people taking the plunge and striking out on their own. But it made me kind of nervous too. I thought about all the redundancy payouts and business loans staked on making a go of it. Self-employment can be great. It can also go horribly wrong…

What you need in those early days is good advice, because any mistakes are going to hit you hard in your pocket. Looking back at my own cack-handed efforts to get my modest gig off the ground made me wince. I’d give anything to turn back time and do a few things differently. I’d certainly have more cash in the bank today.

So, when the eager young host with the towering haircut started with the social media guff, my heart sank. Most people there were just starting out – fledgling outfits looking for those vital first few customers to keep them afloat and kick-start growth. Exactly the kind of people who shouldn’t be arsing about on Twitter all day increasing ‘reach’ in lieu of actually putting some sales on the board. But, everyone dutifully noted down ‘social media stuff’ as absolutely the most important thing they need to do when they get back to their desks, making me sadder still.

Marketing fads come and go, but some things are timeless – tell people what you do, why you do it well and what makes you better/different from the competition. And capture prospect data for follow up.

Yes social media has a place for a small business, but get your fundamentals in place first, the stuff that really matters- like a great website. And if you look at a lot of them, they tell you precisely nothing. Just empty platitudes, hollow boasting, or waffle. With nothing for visitors to sign up to. No newsletter, no free report, no giveaway. Those hooks that help you build a list of prospects to market to – educating them, gaining their trust and ultimately converting them to customers.

Do that, and you won’t make a mess of things like I did in my first year. So, if you’re looking for a steer, beware the yabbering haicut and seek out a grizzled business veteran instead.



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