home based

“As a small business in the current economy, how have you modified the advertising portion of your marketing budget this year? How has it been working for your company so far this year?” (Question on LinkedIn)

Melissa,

Hopefully, nobody says, “Business is down, money is tight, so let’s cut advertising.” But you SHOULD ask, “Where do we get the most bang for our scarce marketing buck?” Then examine advertising along with your other options.

Ads or promo? Direct mail or email? Internet outreach?  Networking or public speaking? Asking for referrals? Cross-selling current customers?

And not just about advertising in general, but for each type of ad placement.

To figure this out, I would create a grid: Down the left column, write every every type of advertising, and every other marketing activity that attracts business for you. Then across the top, head columns by the most important criteria for you, such as:
– How much you’ve spent on this, in both dollars and time (Put a dollar value on an hour of your time.)
– Size of customers or sales this brings you
– Number of customers per time period
– Desirability of the customers
– Lead time till you get the customers
– Its potential to bring you more in the long run
– (add your own)

Then rate each marketing activity by each criterion. Add up the totals and see what gets high and low scores. This is an eye-opening exercise.

This approach is over-simplified. It ignores interactions among types of marketing, and ignores strategic marketing with a long lead time. But it gives enlightening answers to the question, “What marketing gives me the shortest route to cash flow now?”

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Q: “When is it time to grow out of my home-based business?”

 A: When I ran my business out of the house, my wife would say, “Mike, every flat surface in the house is your desk.” Clients would come in and plop down on the sofa. Our part time office assistant worked in the room next to the kitchen. I was always on; things always had to be cleaned up, ready for business. There was a big temptation to blur the time between work and home life. Did I work at home, or just sleep at the office?

It’s true that some good-sized businesses are run from homes. These are usually virtual business, where numerouis people work for the business, but remotely. Support people: bookkeepers, web designers, marketing strategists, virtual assistants. But also line people: field reps or technicians, contractor’s crews, and others who are paid per result not per hour.

This depends on the kind of business. A business that you essentially run out of your head (or from your computer) can be run from your home for a long time.

Many people run businesses from their homes that do not fit zoning requirements. But aside from the legalities, just how many people can you fit in your house? So the real crunch comes when you need to have a team of people work together in an office.

You must balance your desire to minimize overhead and avoid paying extra rent with several factors:

– The number of people that need to work together regularly

– Greater productivity and efficiency due to better workspace. Houses are often poorly laid out for office space.

– Image. How you come across to your desired customers and even your employees

– Revenue potential. By moving into an office or commercial space, how much could you boost your revenue and profitability? Is it enough to cover the increased overhead and then some?

– Readiness to grow further. 

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