Build it, and they will come. Although actually a misquote from the movie Field of Dreams, this line perfectly describes how so many of us feel when we’ve completed the groundwork and are ready to open for business. We subconsciously think that just because we’re finally ready to do our thing, and have even taken the brave step of alerting the public, that our customers will just find us. And since we built a beautiful website, ordered business cards printed on extra special paper, or picked the perfect wall color, they’ll come in droves. Right..?
It’s disappointing to agonize over choices and spend sleepless nights getting things just right for our new customers, and they don’t shown up as quickly or plentifully as we thought. But don’t worry – whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for a while, a dry spell can be a great opportunity to to slow down, strategize, and make business decisions ahead of time.
Write Some Newsletters
Most digital marketing gurus will tell you that your list is the most valuable resource you can cultivate for growing your business. And for good reason: Regular email communication helps you establish a rapport with your audience, and is a great platform to build the trust that can help convert readers to paying customers. Plus, if you’re a little shy and not ready to put your face and/or opinions all over social media just yet, email is a great medium to start sharing your thoughts.
Think of your newsletters as an extension of your website content that further communicates your personality, knowledge, and the philosophy behind your business. You can use them to share content relevant to your industry, promote causes you care about, or share the recipe for the lasagna you made last weekend. As long as you’re providing value to your readers, the rest is up to you.
Evaluate Your Web Traffic Strategy
If your website’s not getting as many hits as you anticipated, it might be time to refine (or develop) your plan to increase site traffic.
First and foremost, make sure you have your website hooked up to Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These will tell you how many people are checking out your website and how they arrived there, and what words and phrases people are searching for that eventually leads them to you, respectively. Hot tip: you can and should link these accounts (through Analytics), but make sure you use the URL prefix method to verify your domain in Search Console.
Then ask yourself: what is the primary way you intend to drive traffic to your website?
If you kind of thought that people would search for something related to your product or service and get to you from a link in search results, that’s organic traffic. Organic traffic is awesome because it means that the content on your site (specifically the text) matches what people are searching for. If you’ve heard the term “SEO” before, organic search is what it’s all about.
Advertising online can be another means of bringing traffic directly to your site. Google Ads can help customers find your site by putting a link to your website in the top four search results. Or, if you’ve determined that your ideal audience spends most of their time on a certain social media platform, running ads on Facebook, Instagram, etc. might be the way to go.
There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, so it pays to do your research ahead of time if you plan to take a crack at running ads yourself.
You can also attract visitors to your site using social media. How quickly or much this can increase traffic can depend a lot on the platform. Since social media users are there to interact on that platform (and scrolling through tons of content so fast), it can be hard to get them to leave the platform to click through to your website.
Pinterest is a great option for content-focused websites; users are on the platform looking for information and inspiration. When a pin is pinned by a Pinterest user, it’s also instantaneously shared to their community of users. You can make multiple pins for each piece of content you produce, and see a rush of traffic to your site each time a user interacts with one.
If you want to strengthen your website’s referral traffic, do a little research to see which of the popular platforms will be the best traffic driver depending on your brand, service, or products.
*Referral traffic also refers to traffic that comes from links to your website found on other websites, blogs, etc. For the purposes of this article, I stuck with referral traffic from social media, since we have the most control to link and promote a website from our own accounts.
Put Together a Brand Style Sheet
You’ve had a logo created that you love, and it looks awesome on your website. But when you your business cards arrive, the color isn’t quite right and the size in relation to the text is just… off. When it comes to the look and feel of your brand, your vision is crystal clear. So how do you communicate this vibe to other people?
That’s where a brand style guide comes in. It includes everything that gives your brand personality and makes it unique (called a brand identity), and guides others in how to handle these details to ensure that your brand comes across exactly as you want it to. Some things you’ll find in a brand style guide are:
• Logo(s), secondary mark, and wordmark
• Brand colors, with their specific RGB and #Hex codes to ensure proper display on print or the web
• Typography – which fonts you wish to use for headline and body text, along with specifications about minimum and maximum size, and which fonts can appear together or next to the logo and how (as in the lockup version of your logo)
• Additional elements and icons, like social media icons
• Photos, images, words, and phrases that convey the tone and style of your brand
A style guide can be a pretty hefty document, often containing as many page as a book. A brand style sheet pares all of that information down for people who may have hand in your brand but aren’t intimately involved, such as a printer. You can easily create one in a free graphics program like Canva and create a PDF that’s easy to share.
Take Some Pictures
Extended downtime is perfect for building a backlog of pictures for your website, future blog posts, and social media. Get out your phone and snap some B roll shots around your office or workspace; showcasing the equipment you use or the space where you take clients is a fun way to give people a behind-the-scenes peek into your business and makes great filler pics for social media.
Consider working with a photographer for a day to build your collection of photos of yourself. A, but sometimes part of selling your products or services is selling yourself. Having a photo of an actual human (you), amongst the products photos and quotes on your company’s social feed helps followers relate and connect to the person and the purpose behind the brand.
As creative entrepreneurs, many of us feel much more comfortable behind the scenes. Setting up a photo shoot in your downtime can help you get comfortable having the focus be on you. Plus, making the time to get these images before you need them will make it easier to get flattering photos of yourself that you love, without having the shoot under the pressure of deadline.
If you don’t have the budget for hiring a photographer right now, consider offering your service in trade. Or asking your friend with the best Instagram feed to give you a hand.
Register Your Trademark
If this was one of the first things you did when you got serious about your business, this one may seem really obvious. But it sucks when you invest so much time in building your dream brand, only to find that somebody else is already operating your company’s name. And it happens to the best of us.
If you haven’t already, you can start the process of trademarking your business name by searching the US Patents & Trademarks database.
Get to Know Your Ideal Customer
If you’ve dipped so much as a toe into the research waters of “how to start a business” or “creative entrepreneurship,” you’ve likely come across the concept of the Ideal Customer Avatar. It’s the idea of inventing a character of your dream customer and developing a profile of everything about them – down to their favorite ice cream flavor and childhood fears. The Ideal Customer Avatar’s importance is preached so much it sounds cliche. But for good reason.
Is it possible that you’re missing out on some customers because you’re not exactly sure who you’re selling to? Taking the time to really think about the type of person you’d most like to work with and identifying their pain points and frustrations is key to pinpointing how you and your service can help them.
The most fun method I’ve found for getting to know your ideal customer is from Jennifer Lee’s book The Right-Brain Business Plan. Her idea is to create index card collages of your Perfect Customers, using images and words clipped from magazines that you think your ideal customer would read. Lee calls these “Perfect Customer Portraits”. I love this because it’s basically making trading cards of your customer dream team – and who among us doesn’t benefit from breaking out the scissors and glue once in a while?
Take a Class
Take advantage of a slowdown by doing something for you! Learning a new skill or immersing yourself even further in your area of expertise is beneficial to your business and yourself.
There’s nothing like completing a class or earning a certificate to boost your business confidence. If you’ve been holding back from fully putting yourself out there because you’re not “an expert”, enrolling in a course could help. But don’t let fear keep you in perpetual learning mode rather than taking action to move forward. Don’t sell yourself short on the knowledge and experience you already have!
Whatever stage your business is at, we’re all bound to experience a slowdown at some point. If you’re feeling like you have no customers right now, don’t worry. Take this time to reflect on how you want to feel about being in business, then pick whichever one of these ideas is most aligned with your thoughts and give it a try.