A small business owner or sole proprietor is always on the clock. Sure, she may take a break from official work business but she is in a constant state of representing herself and her company. As a freelance writer, opportunities for self-promotion have presented themselves unexpectedly on trips to the gym, the library and the neighborhood park. In some instances, I was caught off-guard and unprepared to market myself optimally. I walked away from those missed opportunities shaking my head, wishing I had captured the moment more effectively.
I've tried to learn something from each situation and better prepare for future unexpected occasions to build up myself and my brand. Here are a few tips to help you do the same:
Hand out business cards. This is one old school networking tool that has not gone out of style. A successful entrepreneur will tell you that if you use business cards effectively, you can grow your business . This means that you do not have to walk into the coffee shop and start handing out business cards like candy, but means to never leave your home or office without at least a few in hand. If there is a business that you often frequent, ask if you can leave a few cards behind. You never know when what you do for a living may come up in a casual conversation. Do not get stuck scribbling your email address or website onto the back of a grocery store receipt. Have a professional, accurate and informative business card ready to pass along every m oment of the day and in every setting.
Add an email signature. Do not assume that current or prospective clients have your information saved to their digital address book. Include your signature with contact information after every electronic communication and save your customers and clients the extra time it takes to track down your web address or phone number. Set up your email to automatically add your signature to every note that goes out and make it really easy for people to contact you in regards to future and ongoing work.
Give free advice. When you see an opportunity to taut your expertise, take it. Obviously do not work for free, but when a question arises that you can answer, take advantage of the chance to flex your knowledge. Offer enough information to be helpful and still leave listeners intrigued. Remember that there is a difference between unsolicited advice and information that is relevant to the situation at hand. In other words, find subtle ways to demonstrate your knowledge base but do not act like a know-it-all.
Look professional – all the time. It can be really easy to go out in public in super-casual mode, especially if you work from home. Keep in mind that you are never really "on break". You do not have to wear a designer suit and heels just to go to the bank, but decide what looks are acceptable for your line of work and personality. If you ran into a client by coincidence, what image would you want to portray? How about a potential client? Your answer could be as simple as a clean outfit and brushed hair. The main thing is to avoid the impression that you are in any way a slob; a person who is organized, clean and purposeful in appearance will exude those traits in her business pursuits.
While marketing plans that are grand in scheme certainly drive business if executed properly, your everyday actions can also impact your bottom line. Align your individual self with the ideals of your company anytime that you plan to be in public. Arm yourself with information for anyone, anywhere, anytime that has questions about your business. Market yourself by acting the part of a successful, put-together leader in every circumstance; you never know that accidental bump-in may turn out to be the most important network connection you make. Smart marketing starts small – so take advantage of the basic opportunities along the way.