Are you one of those magical people who can make computers sing and zing? Do you know how to recapture lost data, light a firecracker under a frozen screen, or teach a novice how to get the most out of a new software program? Do you make in-home and in-office repairs when such services are needed? How do we find you when we need you?
Perhaps you are like many IT wizards who were downsized and decided to break out on your own and start a home-based business as a computer consultant/repair person.
Many consultants do enough business to keep the wolves away from the door but still have hours in the day when they are not productive. Sitting and playing on your computer, won’t bring in new customers. It is time to ask yourself this one essential question: how are potential customers finding you?
As an IT professional you may have a tip-top website with up-to-the-minute bells and whistles. It should; this is your craft. However if potential clients do not see your website, you need word-of-mouth.
The most favorable thing in your corner is that you are good at computers. The not-so-good fact is that many IT experts are not marketing experts. This can be from lack of knowledge, lack of assertiveness, or lack of funding. If this is the case, perhaps you need to hire other contractors to help you grow your business!
Let’s look at your customer issue on the surface. You fix computers and you want someone with a broken computer to call you. The irony is that if someone’s computer is broken, they get on the Internet to find you. No computer = no calls. You must find a way to proactively find potential customers and keep your name and number in front of them.
Here is a sweet way one Income Tax Preparation Franchise doubled their traffic.
The candy fix
1. Go to a wholesale club or outlet and purchase 100 jars with lids.
2. Go to a quick print and have sticky labels made. Go with two-color because four color is more expensive and unnecessary. You want a nice design on this label but you want your name, company name, all available phone numbers and a small laundry list of what you do imprinted on the labels.
3. Go to a big box store or club and purchase bags of mixed hard candy. The more colorful the better. You want the kind that has peppermint, butterscotch, etc. Hard candy lasts longer. You also want to purchase a less amount of chocolate like Hersey kisses in varying colors to mix in with the hard candy.
4. Take the time to center the labels correctly on your empty jars.
5. Fill the jars with your candy mix and close the lids on the jars.
You may think that this is a lot of Mickey Mouse manual labor, but it really does beat playing on your computer waiting for the phone to ring.
You are ready to market your business. Target office parks that have loads of small businesses with just a few employees. These companies usually do not have the need or a budget for a full-time or permanent IT person.
All you are going to do is walk in the door and introduce yourself: Hi, I’m Jake and I’m an independent computer professional. Next time you have a computer issue that needs repaired, please give me a call. And you hand the receptionist the jar of candy with your name and number on it. It is going to sit on her desk every day where everyone can see it when they pass by and grab a piece of candy. Next time they have a computer problem, they will think of you. Or when the receptionist is talking to one of her friends that is having a problem, the friend will call you.
What happens when the candy’s gone? Invariably, someone in the office fills it again because it was a great idea to have something like this in the reception area.
As far as assertiveness goes, you are not selling anything. You are merely giving a gift. That doesn’t take a great deal of salesmanship. However, watch the way you dress when you make your deliveries. You may not want to wear a suit, but you also do not want to wear jeans and a T-shirt. For men, nice slacks and a polo shirt (no running shoes or flip flops) are fine. Women do not need to wear spiked heels, halter tops and revealing clothing. Again, dress slacks, flats and a casual blouse will do.
Let’s talk about funding the project. Make a plan and a budget. If you cannot swing the expense right now, but know you could in 60 or 90 days, look into a small business cash advance. Also, you should be set up to accept credit cards as payment for services. If you have been processing at least $1,000 a month for the past six months or so, you may qualify for an advance against your transactions. Biz2Credit can help you find merchant cash advance funders.
When you own your own company you become chief cook and bottle washer. You have to wear all the hats and learn to make them fit. When you have down time read some smaller books on marketing. You may be surprised at some of the inspiration you will receive.
This article was submitted by Mary Branca, she has a Bachelors of Journalism from the University of Georgia and spent 20 years in marketing management with national companies in the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest. She has combined her marketing experience with her passion for writing.