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Copyright (c) 2008 Audrey Burton
When you first start your business, you get very excited – that’s understandable! Just don’t let your enthusiasm bankrupt you before you even get going.
For many new business owners, they want to feel ‘legitimate’ so they go get business cards first thing. Sometimes they spend huge amounts of money to do so, then spend a lot more getting stationary, envelopes, brochures and post cards. It’s all so exciting!
Don’t forget the wardrobe – if you are going to meet clients and rub elbows with other successful business owners, you must look the part.
Of course you need a website, so you spend $1,000s more for a top-quality website. You want to look professional, right?
Naturally you want a classy office and nice furniture to make a good impression and complete the look you started with the business cards.
After 3 months of this you have now spent around $15,000 – probably more – but you don’t have much cash flowing in to pay for any of it.
What could you have done differently? You have to look successful, right?
Yes, you need to look professional – you are absolutely right about that. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Buy a couple of new, well-fitting, dark suits that you can wear over and over with different blouses or ties. Be sure to get them fitted so they look more expensive than they are.
2. Go to vistaprint.com for your first business cards. Pay the extra $5 to get their message removed from the back side and put your own marketing message there. You will pay around $20. This is an important tip because it is very likely you will change your mind about something and you don’t want to be too invested in your cards until you are sure of the look. You may want to change your title, your marketing message, or your location! You can get fancier ones later if you need them and only pay the big bucks once for the design.
3. Don’t get brochures – at all. Wait at least a few months to assess your needs. Maybe you will need a menu of services instead of a brochure. Maybe you would rather make post cards you can use as Thank You notes or for other marketing purposes. Also, don’t get stationary and envelopes unless it is already in your business plan to use them. Just wait a few months – you can always make them later if you need them.
4. Don’t pay for a logo until you are at least 75% sure of your target market. You may need to change your mind if your first choice for a target turns out not to be viable. Don’t have a target market? Don’t do anything more than get business cards until you know.
5. If you can, work out of your home as long as possible. If that is not possible, see if you can sublet a small space from someone else. This is not as fun or glamorous, but you will be very thankful in the long run.
6. Purchase used office furniture and equipment. Why do you think there is so much great used furniture and equipment available? Hmmm.
7. For your website, it is best if you have done your marketing homework before spending any money on a website. Your business name and everything that follows should appeal to your target market. Do you know your benefit statements? Take a look at your competition’s websites. If you substitute your name or another competitor’s name on this site, would everything on the website still be true? That’s not stellar marketing, and certainly not worth $1,000s.
The bottom line is: unless you start your business with a crystal clear plan and lots of start-up cash, you need to be very frugal.
You may not see it this way in the beginning, but you will change as a person during the first year of start-up. Also, you will likely discover that some of your assumptions about the marketplace will turn out not to be true and you may need to change your target market, your products and/or your vision.
Any of these changes will cause a change to your marketing plan, likely requiring a change to your ‘look’ and your message. If you have spent over $15,000 on your marketing and need to change it all six months later, you will be very unhappy. Take it slow and think strategically!

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