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Starting over

Starting over

This article was written by Ed Hatton for the column the Start up Coach and published by the South African edition of Entrepreneur magazine in May 2011 and is posted here by their kind permission.

 Moving a business to a new location can be like starting all over again. By Ed Hatton

Challenge

An entrepreneur moved his event management and wedding planner business to a new province where no-one knows his business. He needs to attract clients but isn’t sure where to begin. He has been distributing pamphlets, but so far no-one has gotten back to him.

Solution

This entrepreneur had a thriving business doing wedding planning, parties and corporate event management and then he moved to a different province. When he started operations in his new location he realised just how much personal reputation and word of mouth had meant. In the new location he is unknown and potential clients are wary of entrusting important events to him.

The business must be started again in the new location. As before, he has to build a client base and a solid reputation to provide a platform for growth. He has the advantage of being experienced in running events and weddings, so he does not start quite as ‘cold’ as he did originally. Against this are a number of part-time wedding planners and event managers who are established and compete with him for business.

 Strengths and resources

For all such challenges a good starting point is to identify strengths and resources compared to competitors, and examine how these can be used to advantage. For example he runs a full time business in competition with part-timers, so he has the advantage of being able to visit prospects and potential allies during working hours to canvass for opportunities. His company can bid for business meetings and training events run on weekdays – a big advantage over the part-timers.

Another strength is his experience in event management; this could be turned to an advantage by deliberately seeking out the most demanding clients and weddings where the family wants much more than others offer. By running these difficult events with confidence, the company will develop a reputation for excellence, while his part time competitors are seen to be hesitant.

 Generating sales leads

This entrepreneur discovered that broad based advertising like pamphlets in mailboxes does little to generate sales leads. To be effective advertising must be focused where target customers are likely to see the adverts. Where could he find brides-to-be? Perhaps at colleges, sporting clubs, gyms or places of worship?  Posters or brochures at such venues could generate enquiries.

Forming alliances with interested parties is likely to be even more productive. For weddings these include photographers, wedding boutiques, florists, jewellers, wedding venues and similar service providers. For business events conference centres, training providers and public relations practitioners are the targets. Alliances only work if they are mutually beneficial, so the entrepreneur needs to devise methods by which the ally gains an advantage if they introduce him to prospective clients.

A great way to develop a reputation would be to run free events for worthy causes like schools or charities. Their only cost would be materials. If the events are successful his company’s reputation will spread, and while running the event the entrepreneur will meet many businesspeople and families, and gain their goodwill. Building a network is a requirement for all entrepreneurs developing new businesses, so he could add to his charity work by networking via community forums, sports clubs and associations. All offer good opportunities to meet potential clients.

His target market for weddings and parties is a young group, and very much a part of the wired generation. This means an internet presence is an absolute requirement – without this his company is invisible to large sections of this target market. An interesting web site optimised for search engines and directories should be complemented by an effective presence in community and business networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Being different

Like all entrepreneurs, our questioner should continually look for ways to add more value for his clients, to be different and make his services stand out. The difference does not have to be in gimmicks, it can be in the financial package, or little extras in the services offered. It could simply be absolute reliability and integrity, but to be a differentiator it needs to be more than the competitors offer. Entrepreneurship is too demanding and too much fun to allow the business to be just another ‘me too’ supplier.

© copyright Entrepreneur Media SA (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without prior permission of Entrepreneur Media (Pty) Ltd.  Permission is only deemed valid if approval is in writing.

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