I’ll save you the bother. I don’t want to particularly, but I will. We could wait to have this discussion until you’ve experienced it too and then have a good laugh about it when it’s all over and we’ve gotten past it. But why not tell you now so you can develop ways to deal with it. So, I will.
When you start a business, believe this – it is harder to get sales than you would begin to guess. And there are some significant reasons for this.
First, your family isn’t going to buy whatever it is because, well, they’re your family. They should get whatever you may be offering at the cut rate family discount of nothing because well – yeah, they’re family. So they aren’t going to buy from you. You can choose not to give it to them for free and they’ll simply resent it and you and your stupid business that is taking up all your time and still won’t buy from you or your business.
Second, your friends are nearly the same category as your family and for about the same reasons, they won’t buy from you either. You damn sure aren’t going to sell anything to them and if they like or need what you are selling, they still aren’t going to buy from you because, well, they’re your friends. And, they want the same deal your family thinks they should get – free services or products that your business is providing to everyone else for some price.
Third, your neighbors aren’t going to buy from you because they have better things to do than to be bothered with whatever it is you are selling and really don’t want to know about it either. They could not possibly care less and besides, they are getting whatever they need from retailers that they know or the online stores for those retailers – whom they don’t know and have never met, but trust more than they ever will trust you.
Fourth, don’t think that it stops there, because the people from your church, school and if you have one, workplace don’t want to be bothered with whatever you are selling either. They don’t even want to know about it because that takes up their time and they don’t want to be share with, told about, know about, see any of it, learn anything about it or basically, have anything to do with any of it. You’re only friends by virtue of going to the same place some of the time and otherwise, have no real relationship of any measure with you. And, in a way – you’d think that would favor selling something to them because at the very least, maybe they wouldn’t want it for free since they aren’t really your friends. But, no.
Fifth, that leaves everybody else – and those people don’t know you, don’t know about you, don’t want to know about you and essentially are already buying from somebody somewhere offering something that works good enough, thank you very much. And, they are too busy and don’t want to bothered finding about any of what you are about, what your business is about or what you are offering either – no matter how damn good it might be. And that is a fact.
Sixth, among the rest of the world who may have some individuals who either need or want what you are offering and my really like to have it and be willing to spend money to get it, there is absolutely little if no access to them or for them to find you and what your business offers. These include people on twitter and pinterest and other social media which I’ll tell you about next.
Seventh, the people on twitter, pinterest and other social media sights are there, for the most part, because they want to sell you something. They are not there to retweet your marvels because they believe in them or like them, nor to repin your wonders because they think that is the best thing they’ve ever seen. They are there because your business might be a candidate for buying their marketing services, SEO services, online marketing services, and other business skills services like training you in how to be in business. All these are great and much needed but you are likely to need them when you don’t have any money from your business and by the time you do have business sales with the money to get their services, you probably have passed the point of giving a damn about whether you are getting that part right or not. And, likely don’t need them, either.
Eighth, you’d think that stores, manufacturers and other commercial businesses could use whatever your business is offering and it is probably true. They could fall into the category with family for the extent to which they act like whatever you are offering is useless or of a value that you should give it to them for free and be grateful they were willing to take it from you at all. But, they are in a category by themselves because all these businesses are overwhelmed with their own competitive streak in the marketplace and to them, no matter what you are offering – you are a competitor or worse, trying to waste their time selling them something. They are more likely to steal it when you’ve walked out the door after saying they aren’t interested and that is true regardless of how you approach them, unless you bring an army of agents and attorneys with you that you can’t afford.
Ninth, not to be outdone, local businesses want to believe their time is even more valuable than big companies and since each owner has 100,000 times more things to do in any given moment than anyone working in a large corporation, they may be accurate in believing that. They nearly all share the idea that whatever you offer, it has to be overpriced, untrustworthy, untried, unreliable, unbelievable, unlikely and unsatisfactory or you wouldn’t be coming to them to try and sell it. That is especially true if you aren’t already the place they are used to buying from – no matter what it is or how much they need it. And, obviously if you are starting your business, they couldn’t be buying anything from you yet, so there you go.
Tenth, just in case you thought that actually leaves anybody that you could sell your products or services to, you would be right. There are three people in the world besides you that would love your product or service, would believe it is wonderful and be willing to spend their money to get it and be grateful to have it. Those three people do not include you and I’m not being a smartass about it. This is simple statistics – out of 7 billion people more or less, there must be three that would like it and want to buy it and be willing to pay for it. That is good to know, but you can’t build a business or profits from three people, let alone find them among that many people. Even narrowing it down by country, market, strata of buyers for certain things, season or proximity, is still beyond daunting and you would need to get your products and services in front of them at the point when they want to buy for it to matter.
Now, I know that whether it is home parties that sell certain products, or life insurance and car sales people, or any other type of business, the first thing they want to do is list all the people they know or that the person they are selling to also knows to use as referrals. And, if you make that list and have someone else approach those people you know or that are your family members – AND – if they didn’t know it was actually your company, they would probably buy some of the products or services your business is offering. Possible.
Getting written up in a nice newspaper or magazine article might help get your products, services and business in front of the three people in the world that are sure to want and need what you are offering and let them know it is available to them. It could. And a few other people might see the article and accidentally tell somebody about what they read, who will possibly buy from your business – eventually. Don’t hold your breath.
And, not to be despondent about it nor malevolent either, none of the facts above mean anything about the value of your business or you or your product or your service or your credibility or your value or your business’ value or your products’ value or damn well anything. But it is really hard not to take it that way. The fact is, all of those truths above say more about the people and groups of people doing things that way than it does about you or your business or anything your business is offering. There is a reason that advertising costs so much – it not only provides access to a certain demographic and number of audience members but it also provides the opportunity to get in front of them in a way for you to choose what to say, how to show your product fitting into their lifestyle and identity, how to provide your products’ benefits and solutions to their problems.
Unless you have taken out a business loan or taken on investors where some real advertising budget is available, that option is probably not accessible for your startup. Some startups use a guerrilla marketing style plan with enough ingenuity to get their products in front of people who want to buy it, but their plans fail with as much regularity as they succeed – so keep that in mind. And, with enough efforts being made to run around doing guerrilla marketing as time consuming as that and social media are, you won’t have to worry about doing your primary business or providing your product or service to the public because you won’t have the time or energy to do so.
Lastly, no matter where you put your product, your service, your business, your story about it in front of people online or in the real world, it won’t be what they are looking for when they find it which amounts to no more than a bother as far as they are concerned. By the time they decide that they want or need it or both and want to buy it, they won’t even remember where to find it, what your name is, what your business is called, where they saw it or where they might find it now that they want to buy from you. And, every time you hear that a small business or a startup can take anywhere from three to seven years to break even and be in the black, remember – that really means you taking money from your own pocket or from potential future sales by taking out loans to pay for working overtime every day of the week to have a business that isn’t earning any money until it does. And since nearly every business relies on sales to earn money and make a profit, refer back to the list above.