Don't Go Halfway: Create a Thoroughly Professional Image
A marginal Top Home Business marketing image leaves the impression that your home-based venture is not a truly professional one. So in setting up your enterprise, pay attention to key image components other than your business name that do not necessitate a big budget, but rather attention to detail. Here are some suggestions:
* Communicate quality with a custom-designed logo; avoid choosing one from a standard catalog.
* Apply this logo in a consistent way to give your company a professional and identifiable image on business cards, stationery, invoices, faxes and any other visual communications elements.
* Choose paper that looks and feels top quality for letterhead and business cards.
* Select professional locations for meetings with clients. If clients come to your home, avoid having them walk through personal or family areas, or schedule meetings at outside sites such as restaurants or hotel lobbies.
Don't Be Passive: Utilize Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing refers to two highly effective practices: networking and referrals.
Networking, the most popular way to start and build a home-based business, refers to using face-to-face contact to establish relationships that can generate leads. It's based on talking with people about what you do and listening carefully to find out how you might serve them. Consider joining a networking organization, often called a "leads club," which is set up specifically to generate business leads for members.
Once a business is established, word-of-mouth marketing means getting referrals from satisfied customers. Let your customers know you genuinely appreciate their referrals; by so doing, you multiply the number of mouths talking positively about what you have done or provided.
Don't Jeopardize Business Opportunities: Make Sure People Can Reach You
Research shows that people working from home spend more time talking on the telephone than on any other single activity. As a result, you need to be sure clients can always reach you so as not to jeopardize any business opportunities. Fortunately, a variety of sophisticated telephone equipment and services is available to ensure ongoing communication, as the following useful options demonstrate:
* Use voice mail to take messages when you're out of the office or unable to answer the telephone. Voice mail can be obtained from your phone company and other providers, or you can purchase an answering machine or add a voice mail system to your computer. Professional answering services and forwarding calls to the home of someone you hire are more expensive solutions.
* Use call forwarding to receive calls when you're out of the office. Other alternatives include purchasing a cellular phone, a 700 number or a pager.
* To handle incoming calls while you're on the telephone, get call waiting or voice mail that picks them up so people never get a busy signal.
* To prevent unnecessary interruptions, subscribe to your local phone company's VIP alert so only desired calls come through during the time periods you designate.
* if you are running short of phone lines, get distinctive ringing that gives you two phone numbers on one line, or double up on one line by purchasing a combination fax/phone/answering machine that automatically recognizes when a fax is coming through.
Don't Create Problems: Find the Right Place for Your Office
Ideally, the space you select for your office will match your personal work style and budget, qualify you for tax benefits to which you're entitled, and fit in with your household environment. To work effectively at home, most people need these basic work areas:
* Space for a desk and chair, where you can work with a computer, phone and other frequently-used equipment.
* Conversation space with chairs or a couch where you can collect your thoughts or hold meetings.
* Storage space for filing cabinets, books and reference materials.
* Shelf space for supplies and infrequently-used equipment.
* Large work space for activities such as assembling materials and doing mailings or shipping.
If you don't have a separate room that can be designated for your office, choose a location where you will be disturbed the least. For example, partition off a section of your living, family or dining room. Alternatively, convert or remodel a space such as your garage, attic, basement or porch.
Don't Lose Control: Organize Your Work Space for Success
Keep those things you most frequently use near your desk, based on this simple formula. On a scale of one to seven, rate the item you're storing or filing in terms of how frequently you use it. Give items you use every day a one; those you use once a year, a seven. Place items in the following locations according to how you rate them:
* 1: Place all these items within arm's reach of your desk area.
* 2-3: Keep these items within your immediate range in files or cabinets, on counter-tops or on shelves.
* 4-5: Store these items in nearby cabinets or closets, or on shelves outside your office space.
* 6-7: Store these items in remote locations such as the attic, basement or garage.
Don't Be Reclusive: Make Your Business Official and Visible
Many home-based businesses fall by the wayside because they do not make their operations official and visible. Consider the following actions to avoid that pitfall:
* Clarify any zoning restrictions on your running a business from home. Make sure you can operate a business from your residence and, if there are problems in doing so, get a separate mailing address or apply for a use permit or variance to your zoning laws.
* Open a business bank account. Keep your personal and business affairs distinct from one another.
* Get a separate phone line installed in your home for business calls. A separate line helps you manage your personal and business lives more easily, and gives you a more professional image.
* Maintain regular business hours. Nothing annoys customers more than not knowing when and if you are open for business.
* Select a memorable name that fits your business image. A dull, confusing or inappropriate name for your business can result in clients overlooking you or not specifically understanding and appreciating what you have to offer them.
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