By Howard Feinstein, EWI Board Member
A weekly blog for E.W.I. students and graduates, passing along news, events, articles of interest, and tips on growing your business. We are all on this journey together, and no one – certainly not yours truly – has all the answers. Accordingly, I hope you will periodically contribute your ideas and news to this forum, c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mon. April 22: Once you have put in place the basic marketing materials we’ve discussed previously (business cards; website; monthly (approximately) newsletter, etc.), it’s time to branch out beyond your family and friends. You need not feel overwhelmed at this point – this is just the beginning stage. Start out with groups with which you’re already affiliated — at a minimum, these are people who know you, so they are unlikely to delete your e-mail. Let them know about your new venture; direct them to your website; and ask them to refer their own friends and colleagues to you. This will get the ball rolling, quickly and inexpensively. You will eventually need to network more creatively and probably develop additional marketing tools, but at this point, you want to build up your confidence and solicit some constructive feedback from allies.
Remember: as we’ve stressed, entrepreneurial networking is all about making prospective customers feel comfortable about dealing with you as an individual. Once you have established this bond, you have opened the door to eventual success, because these repeat, long-term customers will provide you with the vast majority of your business over time. You have plenty of time to tweak your product and/or service once you get feedback – at this point, you want to begin cementing the business relationships which are the key to your entrepreneurial future. Best to begin with people who you are already comfortable with.
So, what types of customer bases are we talking about here? The potential target population is broad, and will depend upon each of your individual lifestyles. Your church, synagogues, or mosque; your place of employment [note – do your marketing outside the workplace if at all possible]; clubs, sororities, alumni associations; neighborhood associations you already belong to; book clubs, sports leagues, and other group activities in which you are involved — use your imagination. Again, at this point, you are not seeking immediate sales, but rather, as we’ve emphasized, getting your name out there. Ask people to help you pass the word; ask for specific feedback or suggestions; and be sure to thank people for their time.
Here’s an example of a pre-existing network available to all of us: EWI itself! We are all entrepreneurs here — not just your fellow students, but the staff, board, and alumnae. People in this network already have a basic idea of what you are up to, because they have been there themselves; this is a perfect audience for referrals, constructive critique, and confidence-building. Remember: entrepreneurial marketing involves walking a fine line – don’t be repetitious or obnoxious, but don’t be shy, either. Your product reflects your passion, so let people know that they can expect something special. You will already have the benefit of the doubt, because members of the growing EWI family know there you are coming from, and that you are going into this effort with access to top-notch preparation. Do you think that when my civil rights memoir is published later this year, I will be letting you know that it is available for purchase? Of course I will! We all owe it to ourselves and EWI to do the same — this is a win-win situation.
Until next week, best wishes to all, and keep in touch – none of this did this alone, and you don’t have to either. Helping each other is not a job or a favor – it is our mission.