This past summer I began my first business, Insta-Computers, it has been a great success. Something I am very proud of! While many lessons were learned, one stands out as the most important.
To begin, I received the Ontario Summer Company grant, which assists students in beginning a business. They provide $1500 to cover startup costs, and you can decide where you want to allocate those funds (you do have to get it approved, but essentially it is up to the student).
With $1500 grant funds and a new company, I put some widely held beliefs about advertising to the test. Firstly I allocated funds towards paid-for advertising. Being known in the community was a priority. My first advertisement was in the local newspaper The Orangeville Banner at a cost of $450, a third of my entire grant budget. I received an ad in the Professional Directory for 10 weeks and an advertisement in a local magazine. Next my strategy was to turn to social media, with Google Adwords, and Facebook Ads. Unsure this form of communication would reach my market of primarily seniors, I limited funds spent on these channels to $50 each.
Advertising and inventory had now depleted the grant funds and to ensure success I needed another, better marketing option. I turned my attention to basic, good old word-of-mouth. I needed to reach seniors groups in the community in a more personal way than the newspaper medium had done. My audience needed a more personal connection before they contacted me. I needed to prove my integrity with this market. Through a series of connections that once again proved to me the value of face-to-face time and long-standing relationships, I reached out to a large seniors organisation called Probus. One of the larger senior clubs in the area. Probus will not advertise or endorse any organisation, so I was an exception when the President endorsed Insta-Computers at their next meeting.
Now, bear with me, I know there is a lot of backstory, but it leads up to this….
Thus far since the inception of my business I’ve had one call from the local paper, one call from Facebook/Google Ad. Yet my business has continued to grow and necessitated employing a staff member. This success is owed to word-of-mouth from that one mention at that one seniors meeting…
“While it may be true that the best advertising is word-of-mouth, never lose sight of the fact it also can be the worst advertising.” ~Jef I. Richards
Communication at this seniors meeting networked into continued support from club members who use Insta-Computers services and continue to keep growing my business and proceed to hold it as a hot topic of conversation for every meeting since.
To end, my advice to anyone starting a business is that although it can be easy to spend lots on paid-for advertising, never forget how important that “free” advertising is that pure word-of-mouth generates.
You can easily build a successful business based solely on word-of-mouth without ever spending a dime on paid-for advertising.
Insta-Computers – http://www.insta-computers.ca/
Insta-Computers Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/instacomputersontario
Ontario Summer Company Grant – http://www.ontario.ca/page/start-summer-company-students
Orangeville Probus – http://www.probus.org/14orange.htm
The Orangeville Banner – http://www.orangeville.com/orangeville-on/