There is a problem I keep encountering with a lot of businesses that come to me for advice: they have very little money to spend on marketing so they want to focus on marketing techniques that are free and they want instant results.
Now, I know very well how difficult it is to start a business from scratch, and how little money you might have available during those initial moments. However, this is not the problem in 8 out of 10 cases. The problem is that they opened shop a while ago, enjoyed some mild success, and then things petered out leaving them wondering where the heck their customers went and what do about it. This is when they frantically try to find any free channel they can use to try and get back to where they were. What they don’t realise is that they might be fighting a losing battle.
If left unattended, the life of a business resembles a bell curve: starts low, grows quickly, and then reaches its peak and starts sliding down again. This is when sales decrease, money becomes short and everyone panics big time because they need to pay the mortgage and they don’t have a plan.
Not only that, but trying to pick things up from there turns into a battle against a sticky, gooey current that’s determined to keep the landslide going. Why? Because in most cases, trying to promote a business with no money requires time, and lots of it. And time is what these businesses don’t have.
So what do we do? Charles Handy came up with a great way to stop the curve from reaching that inflexion point and going downwards. The idea is simple:
When your business reaches its peak, start another curve bell.
Write that down and put it somewhere visible, because it’ll come in handy. When your business starts growing, you start creating relationships with clients, money starts coming in, your name starts to get known, but it also starts approaching its peak. If you become complacent, if you don’t do anything new or introduce processes and strategies to keep it growing, it will inevitably slow down and halt (be it because a new product has appeared in the market, your competition has outgrown you or your training is obsolete), and then it’ll be incredibly difficult to turn things around.
So you start a new bell curve. This can take many forms, from creating a different related service to opening up to a different market, creating a loyalty program, starting a blog, building up an email list, investing some money on PR or PPC, getting into social media or whatever you think suits your business type and model. Anything but becoming complacent with the paycheck you’re currently getting. And when the second bell curve starts reaching its peak, you create a third one, so you end up with a kind of infinite bell curve that never declines.
Only you can sense when your business is reaching its peak with its current strategy, and that should be the time to start thinking of new systems you can implement to jump onto the next curve, or hire someone to do it for you if you don’t have the knowledge or the time. This is the point when you’ve got customers, you’re making enough money to put some aside and reinvest in your business and you’ve got the energy that comes from knowing that things are going well. Definitely a better position than trying to do something when you have no sales, no money and are panicking about it all.