- Q. I am starting an errand
service in my city. I am wondering what the best way to market
such a service would be? I have created a nice "flyer"
am considering distributing it to about 1000 homes in my area,
however I am wondering if this will give me the most bang for
my buck. Do you have any suggestions?
Q. I am a stay at home mom
and I am very interested in starting a home care business. I
would like to clean homes, shop, cook, and do laundry for
senior citizens or families dealing with Alzheimers. I do not
have a lot of experience in Management, however I am a self motivator
and want to begin today. Where do I start??????
- A. As people get busier and busier, the
need for an errand assistance business is a good one. But rather
than randomly give flyers to everyone you meet, I suggest narrowing
- Do you want
to help out busy mothers? Then offer to pick up children and
take them to piano lessons. Deliver meals to their house or even
clean their house. Where do you find these mothers? Deliver flyers
to child care centers and after school programs like the YMCA
so parents can see them when they pick up their children. Take
flyers to dentist offices, the
grocery store, etc...wherever you have women working.
- If your area
of interest is to work with seniors and their families, then
once again, distribute flyers to senior centers, bingo centers
and medical supply store. Maybe your local pharmacist will give
out your flyers to elderly patients. Contact visiting nurses
or even a hospice and explain what you have to offer.
- In other words,
instead of saying that you offer "An Errand Service,"
be specific. The headline of your flyer could be, "Need
help juggling your child's busy schedule? Let me help provide
reliable, safe transportation for afterschool activities."
Or how about, "Need a little assistance in your home?
Let me help you with laundry, shopping and other errands. I provide
warm friendly service and companionship to senior citizens."
Be sure to list the benefits that come with hiring you. People
want to know: What's In It For Me? Let them know they'll have
more free time, a cleaner home, etc.
|Q. I want to start a part-time pet sitting business.
How do I find my target market, and then how do I target my advertising
to them? I have used classfieds with very few results. Do you
think doorknob hangers, brochures or business cards are worthwhile?
- A. Deborah:
People love their pets, so you have a good idea. The first place
to start might be to have simple flyers made up, stressing the
benefits pets receive from your service. For example:
- Less stress
- Owners know
their pet is in comfortable surroundings.
- Your visits
provide the appearance that the home is not empty.
- You can give
special treats, medication, etc...specialized service.
Once you've listed the benefits, take the brochures to veternarians,
pet shops, animal groomers, etc. Ask your friends who they see
as a vet. Then you can call and say, "Dr. Johnson, I'm a
friend of Suzie Smith, who brings her two cats to you. She suggested
I contact you to let you know about my pet sitting service."
That is known as a "warm" lead. The vet or pet store
owner has some point of reference about why he/she should listen
Have you considered a short classified ad in the paper under
the "pet" section? After you get business ask your
customers for names of their friends who could use your service.
It won't be long before you're as busy as Dr. Dolittle!
- Q.. I started an in-home
daycare back in January so that I could stay home
and raise my 1 and 2 yr. old boys. I started with my two children
other little boys who are brothers. I just happened to acquire
them because I
told a friend about me quitting my job to start the daycare and
she told her daughter about it and that's how I got my first
- Now the mother
has given me two weeks notice and I'm having trouble finding
more kids for the daycare. I have registered through a place
called the Childcare Connection which is a referral service for
providers, but I have yet to hear from anyone.
I have extremely limited funds at the moment and am getting to
the point where I have to do something. I made some flyers and
posted them around the nearby Air Force Base, Army post and elsewhere,
but have had no luck. Any other suggestions?
- A. Every community needs high quality childcare,
so you should soon be able to find new clients. You said you
put up some flyers...Are they professional-looking? Do they offer
benefits to customers such as flexible hours or healthy snacks?
I recently saw a hand written flyer for child care with several
misspelled words. My first thought was, "If this person
is careless in spelling, will she be careless with a child's
- After you have
a flyer, contact the human resource department of local businesses.
Explain what you have to offer and ask if you can give them some
flyers to distribute to their employees. Contact local public
and private schools. Many of the children have younger siblings
that need child care. Parents will see your flyer when they visit
the school. Local libraries often sponsor pre-school story times.
Ask if you can give flyers to the parents
attending. You just might end up with more busness than you can
- Good Luck!
I am starting a home-based bookkeeping business and I need tips
on getting clients. I have everything else ready to go but have
not received any response to my ad in the local newspaper or
to flyers I mailed out. Please help me get this off the ground.
- A. Yes, getting clients is difficult, but
not impossible. The first step is to tell everyone you know that
you are a bookkeeper. Get some professional-looking business
cards and distribute them in your community. Put them up at all
the local print shops. Many office supply stores have bulletin
boards where business owners can place their cards. One woman
I know always leaves her business card with the tip at restaurants.
- Does your community
have craft shops? See if the craftspeople need a bookkeeper.
They are usually so involved in the creative aspect of crafts
that they overlook the practical need for accurate bookkeeping.
- Many community
groups have an organization called, "Leads Clubs."
These are groups of people who share leads amongst each other.
Someone will say they need a mechanic, and someone else announces
they need a bookkeeper. That's when you jump up and say, "That's
- Good Luck!
Q. Dear Silvana,
I recently started
a home-based business in Interior Design. My marketing has included
flyers and, most recently, postcards to new mortgage holders
listed in the business section of my local newspaper. My dilemma
is that the competition is so great where I live. I would love
to be able to discover a niche market to stand out from my competion.
I do have a targeted market for the postcards, but I'm not getting
the response that I expected.
What I would
love to be able to offer to my clients are some personal touches
to their homes. I've done the window treatments in my own home,
I love to paint and use the popular faux treatments. Please help!!!
Thanks in advance,
A. Since competition is
tight, you'll need to find a "niche" that makes you
stand out from others. What is your specific specialty? If you
can become known as the "Window Treatment Specialist"
or the "Baby nursery decorator," you'll be able to
get some business. Try going to a small, locally-owned fabric,
paint or home improvement store. Ask if you can give a free short
seminar on your specialty. If you offer your services for free,
the chances are the store will promote the seminar. You'll then
have people attending who might hire you.
Even on a tight
budget, could you create some new window treatments for your
child's classroom? The school newsletter would then mention your
work. The point is that people need to see a sample of your work
before they feel comfortable hiring you. Keep trying to maintain
a high visibilty.
| Q. Recently I have established my own home-based business
which has a full range of drafting and word processing capabilities
in combination with printing, plotting and e-mail. I would appreciate
it if you could suggest how to get reliable customers.
- A. Hello:
Sounds like you have a much needed idea for a business...now
to get the customers! It always helps to check out your competition
and see how you can be a bit different. Can you offer free pick-up
and delivery? Can you get the job done faster? Do you offer higher
quality at a higher price? Find out what distinguishes you from
other people in your line of work.
- It also always
helps to get positive referrals. Can you offer your services
to a local non-profit group in exchange for them giving you credit
in a newsletter or mailing? That way, when you approach a potential
client, you can say, "Here's an example of my work that
I did for the local woman's shelter last week...." It lends
- You mentioned
you do e-mail, drafting, etc. Sometimes when you offer a wide
range of services, people get confused as to what you really
do. (Plus sometimes it conveys the idea of, "I'll do anything
just to earn some money.") Perhaps narrow your focus and
emphasize 2-3 services you offer. That helps people understand
- Your local paper
probably won't feature a general story about your new business.
But they would be interested if you have some unique characteristic
to it. I heard about a woman in a similar line of work that always
took her three dogs with her when she picked up work from her
clients. The paper did a fun article on her with an emphasis
on the dogs...but her business was also mentioned.
- Hope that helps!
- Q. I have an idea for a home-based business...I
want to use my natural skills of organization and creativity
(along with a desire to enjoy my "job") into a children's
party coordinator/planner. My budget is extremely limited. I
have no commercial food preparation area, so cannot cater, though
I'd like to expand the business to include that one day. I'd
like to be the "legs" for the working parent who wants
to provide a fun, memorable birthday party for their
child, while working within a contracted budget outline. Lots
of parents just don't have the time/energy to put into putting
together a party for their child. I also plan to include a photography
- Where in the
world do I start to pull this off and be successful??? I have
the experience of being a mom to three kids and planning the
parties for them, plus attending countless other kid's parties.
I've begun journaling ideas for
themes, decorations, scouring books/magazines for ideas and building
a file to
house pictures of possible party ideas.
- I know I can't
start this business today, but how will I know
when the time is "right" to begin this business and
where do I start when I do? Besides that, how do I even know
if this service will be successful in my area?
- Any advice you
can provide will be gratefully accepted.
- Thank you,
- A. Lisa,
Sounds like a fun business idea! It's obvious you've already
done some research and gathered numerous ideas. Here's a couple
more for you:
- How about asking
a friend if you can plan their child's next birthday party at
no cost to them except for the supplies? That way you can "experiment"
with presenting 2-3 party plans and then actually putting them
in action. I know you've done parties for your own children,
but there is a big difference when working with someone else's
money and ideas. It also serves as a contact for future parties.
People will often ask, "Can I call someone as a reference
to see if they were satisfied with their party?" That way
you'll have a contact for them.
- With the holidays
coming up, contact a few community groups such as Rotary clubs,
homeless shelters or even the children's library and see if you
could plan their holiday children's party. Let them know you
are donating your services, and they just pay the actual costs.
This gives you a wonderful opportunity to pass out business cards
and let others know what you do. It really raises your professional
credibility if you can tell a potential client, "Last month
I planned the holiday party for the children of Rotary Club members."
Hope that helps. Good Luck!
- Q. I am trying to start a desktop publishing / word
processing business and can't figure out how to go about getting
customers. Any suggestions?
- A. Hi Beth,
- There are several
ways you can make your first sales with a desktop publishing
and/or word processing business. Here are a few ideas to start
- Many small business
owners and entrepreneurs need word processing and desktop publishing
assistance. Check your newspaper for groups such as "Leads"
clubs or groups dealing with home based businesses. Just attending
a few meetings and introducing yourself and your skills can result
in new business.
- How about offering
to do a newsletter for the PTA, Girl Scouts or your church? You'll
gain valuable publicity when you highlight your name and your
business in the newsletter.
- Is there a college
nearby? Design an attractive flyer and post it where both students
and instructors see it.
- Visit printers
in your area and show them samples of your work. Ask if they
would refer you to customers or let you display a flyer or business
- Try a few of
those ideas and let me know what happens.
- Good luck!
- Q. Hi,
Well, after being in business for 6 months and only having 6
paying customers I've decided to ask for some help!
I opened Joyous Gifts, a gift shopping service and custom gift
basket service. I have done the following: Direct Mail (postcard
with names off a Chamber of Commerce mailing list), Yellow Pages
(due out end of this month), T-shirts (to wear to my exercise
class), had pens made w/ name & phone #, and did a few craft/trade
I am a former retail manager so when I do get a customer I know
how to keep them (I've gotten 3 out of 6 by word of mouth).
Someone suggested that I give a "special gift" to the
secretaries of some local businesses, but I'm a mother of an
18-month old and have no real childcare option.
Any other suggestions? Will the yellow pages make a huge difference?
- A. Hi Joy:
What a clever name for your business that ties in with your own
name! How about capitalizing on "Delivering Joy"
as your trademark?
- Contact a local
nursing home or center for battered women. Ask them to randomly
select someone that could use a little "joy" in their
life. Then ask if you can bring them a gift basket. Contact your
lifestyle editor of your local paper and let them know what you
are doing. Add to the "joy" by dressing your toddler
in a cute outfit and have them help deliver the gift basket to
the lucky recipient. Yes, it is a publicity angle, but you are
also making someone happy. Maybe set a policy that twice a year
you will select a person in your community to get a free gift
- Contact a local
restaurant and ask to display one of your baskets, along with
your business cards. They can ask customers to drop their business
cards into a jar and after a few weeks, pick a winner of the
basket. You take all the business cards and send them a note,
thanking them for entering the contest and describing your services.
Because they actually saw one of your baskets, they feel a "connection"
with you. The idea is to let people know what service you provide.
- Pens and T-shirts
are nice, but people need to be able to actually see a basket.
With the holidays approaching, people are looking for gifts.
- Contact the
senior assisted living centers in your area and ask if you can
set up a display in their lobby for a few hours so people can
do their shopping in one location. Mention that you can customize
baskets to suit the interests of the recipients. Ask the instructor
of your exercise class if you can distribute flyers to people
in your class. Better yet, ask if you can bring one or two sample
baskets to class so people can see them. You might want to get
a copy of Entrepreneur magazine or look up their
web site. They have an entire "kit" you can buy that
is geared specifically towards starting a gift basket service.
I just looked at excerpts from it on their web pages and it was
full of great ideas.
- Q. Hi, my name is
Bridget. Right now I am attempting to type this with an overactive
2 yr old climbing on me. I have tried about everything. I have
even put together a book -- but have not had a single sale, even
though I was featured in October Women's News Magazine.
I have now even put some flyers in supermarkets offering errand
service, shopping, typing (at least my 2 yr old is strapped in
and not climbing!).
- I feel I need
to do something that will get me out of the house. I was hoping
to make enough money on the information book to get us ahead
on bills, and also to be able to start offering tours for the
disabled to Ireland. Course with no money -- that dream is out
- Now is there
any very very cheap way to promote the business, and my book.
I am typing this extremely fast -- have to -- at the speed of
a two year old!
- Bye for now!
- A. Hi Bridget:
Yes, it is difficult to type with a 2 year old "helping."
When my daughter was 2, we would go to the mall at 8 in the morning
and join the Mall Walkers. All the stores are closed, so she
couldn't touch anything. Then I spent an hour or so letting her
walk the mall and wave to the senior citizens walking also.
- You didn't mention
what type of book you wrote. Was
it an actual book with an ISBN number that could be ordered through
bookstores? Or was it more like a booklet? There's a book called
Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer. Full of great
and inexpensive ideas. Most libraries have a copy if you don't
want to buy it.
- There is a woman
named Paulette Ensign who has a web page filled with information
on how to put short informational booklets together. She tells
how to write and market them. Several of my friends followed
her advice with good results. You can reach her at [email protected]
- You also mentioned
running an errand service. Since you have some flyers, try distributing
them at places where seniors or "busy" people congregate.
How about at assisted living centers, retirement homes or at
a hospice? Contact the Red Cross or Visiting
Nurses Association. Perhaps lawyers or doctors could use your services.
If you distribute flyers at your grocery store, that isn't reaching
the market you want.
- Leading a tour
through Ireland would be fun and rewarding. Do you have a background
in leading tours? People signing up want to know you have a proven
track record. What would you do with your toddler while you led
the tour? People who pay you to lead them on a tour will not
be patient if the toddler is along and you need to change diapers.
How about leading some parent/child programs in your community
- We rented a
large gym at a reasonable cost and opened it for two hours to
anyone wanting to bring their toddler to play and ride Big Wheels.
We limited it to children under the age of 3 so young ones wouldn't
get pushed around. I bet other mothers would be glad to pay $2-3
to let their child have a big space to run and play.
- From there,
lead a parent-toddler hiking class where you meet at a different
park each week and hike with your children. This gives you some
experience in planning and organizing activities for when you
get ready to head to Ireland.
- Good Luck!
- Q. I am a working
parent and my husband and I are trying to market a stay at home
business for medical billing service. We are having difficulty
getting a client because the expense of mailouts are high and
coordinating them is difficult because we are low on capital.
We also tried mailouts and most of them got sent back because
our mail lists were not that accurate.
- Is there any
other way to market this type of business without the expense
of mailouts involved? The people who marketed the software told
us that this was the way to market the business and we have not
been successful in getting a prospect or even an interview?
- Any suggestions
- A. Sounds like you
have a good idea, but need help getting clients. Medical Billing
is a popular work at home business, so I think you are on
the right track. It's important to remember that everyone likes
to do business with someone they know rather than from an offer
in the mail. Can you call the receptionist at your own doctor's
office and ask who does their billing? Ask if they are satisfied
with the service.
- Then call a
few local people doing billing from their homes and ask if they
ever sub-contract out work. You might find they are swamped with
work and could use your help. Are any of your friends doctors?
Instead of asking for their business, just gather information
about what they like and don't like about their present billing
service. Their answers might give you insight in how to provide
a quality billing service.
- There is a national
association of people who do medical
billing. Contact them and ask for any catalogs or resources they
- Hope that gives
you a few ideas.
- Q. Dear Silvana,
My husband and I bought a franchise home inspection company four
months ago, after going thru the expense of the franchise, training
out of state and following their "no fail" marketing
plan -- we are about to fail completely!
- We have sent
out thousands of free and discount coupons, visited countless
real estate offices, offered contests, but we don't seem to be
having any effect in the southern California market. The buyers
that we have had return glowing comment cards -- but that doesn't
pay the bills!
Thanks for your help.
- A. Mandy:
It must be frustrating to have high hopes for starting a business,
complete the training, and work hard but receive no results.
You mentioned you had glowing comments from the customers you
do have. They could be your best resource. Have you asked any
of them for letters of recommendation? Have you used their comments
as testimonials on your flyers?
- Statistics show
that when people look at a brochure, they read the captions under
a photo first, then they read testimonials. I find it hard to
ask for referrals, yet when I do, people are glad to oblige.
It might take a phone call to a past customer and tell them you
are working on growing your business. Ask who they know that
would benefit from your expertise. Then when you call that new
person you can say, "Pat Smith suggested I contact you...."
It helps break down any resistance barriers.
I find that any sort of newspaper exposure helps business. The
local newspaper probably won't do an article on "Husband
and Wife Start Home Inspection Business." They need something
new or unique. Husbands and wives starting a business together
is a new trend. Try and find 2-3 other husband-wife teams in
different businesses and contact the newspaper about running
story on the pros and cons of working together as a married couple.
That could easily get you and your business featured in the paper.
Then, when you contact potential customers, include a copy of
the article. That gives you instant credibility as a "famous"
person in the community.
- Many business
papers run columns on business people who are new to the area.
Again, contact those people and say,"I read in the Business
Journal that you recently moved here from Timbuktu. Since you're
new to the area, I thought I'd introduce
myself. If you're looking to buy a house, you'll want to have
it inspected before you buy it. I'd like to tell you about my
home inspection service."
- Hope that gives
you a few ideas. Good luck!
- Silvana Clark