Should running a small business be this hard?
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
The challenges of sales funnels, marketing plans, getting clients, naming your fee, and making your business profitable
From Corporate to Life Coach
When I left my corporate publishing job in the summer of 2018 to become a full-time life coach and set up my own small business, I was hugely excited about what the future would bring. I was confident that I would be a competent coach as I was passionate about this role, and had a proven track record of success with my clients. Similarly, I felt that I was resourceful enough to be a good small business woman and entrepreneur. After all, how hard could it be to run a business?! The answer is, very hard when you have no background in marketing, sales, or finance. I was prepared for some ups and downs but wasn't prepared for a feeling of being down and out due to complete naivete around what it takes to make a small business work. #LifeCoach #SmallBusiness
How hard could it be to run a business?! The answer is, very hard….
Create a Business Plan
I spoke to some other small business owners and asked them what I should do to kick start my business. Their suggestion was to write a business plan, which I promptly did. (Tip: Try this free template aimed at small business owners: https://www.score.org/resource/business-plan-template-startup-business) I didn't look at my business plan again for 6 months. This was probably one of my first mistakes. Oh, I see: I was supposed to implement it too…! Another mistake was thinking that creating my own limited company, Lifescape Coaching, and getting an accountant, would be sufficient to launch my business. I hadn't thought through the fact that my accountant would expect me to make some money before he agreed to spend any quality time with me. #LifescapeCoaching #BusinessPlan
After dusting off my business plan and making each task SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound), I started to think about a marketing plan. In doing so, I learned about the concept of a sales funnel. I had never heard of such a thing and certainly had no idea how to formulate one and put it into practice.
To summarize the concept of the sales funnel for those like me who are not in the know, it is the journey travelled by your prospective client from the point they undertake to solve a challenge, to your business capturing their attention and sucking them into your funnel as they invest in your products and services, to them becoming your loyal clients, and you becoming their trusted service provider.
They will start by searching for a solution to a challenge they are facing. They may not be aware of how to solve it, and are unlikely to be aware of your business and the products and services you offer. At this stage, they might put some keywords into Google, such as 'low self-esteem' and 'building confidence'.
The widest part of the funnel at the top represents this prospective client in a research mode as they search for a solution. Your business and the products and services you provide might capture their interest by appealing to their needs at the right time, often via excellent website content, including insightful messaging which resonates with your target audience, clever branding, compelling videos, and a lot of social proof, such as testimonials and rave reviews about you, your products and services.
Their next step is to make contact with you, thereby becoming a lead whose name you now know and whose challenge you are now aware of. They are now in the middle of your funnel seeking a solution with the potential to do business with you so long as you are right for each other.
After having done their research and reviewed your website content to determine whether your products and services are the right fit, they make their decision based on your provision of what they seeking. They are now at the bottom of your funnel, and you have captured them as a client. Having lured them in, and converted them to a paying client, you now need to retain them by upselling your other products and services to them so that they become loyal to your business. Ta dah! That's how your sales funnel works. #SMART #salesfunnel
Working on a marketing plan for my small business has taught me that, in order to attract clients, I need to put a lot of thought into who my target audience is. I have also learned that, as a life coach, it is sensible to carve your niche to appeal to a specific group in your marketing effort.
My target audience are people who are at a personal or professional crossroads in midlife, who require guidance to change direction and find a new path. (Of course, I also welcome those at a crossroads at any point in their lives.)
Even if carving your niche does mean narrowing your sales funnel, appealing to a targeted group will make your marketing message clearer and more meaningful. Start promoting to a targeted audience and see what happens. You can always expand to reach a wider group at a later date if there is limited take-up from your target market. #MarketingPlan
It has been a steep learning curve but I am now getting the measure of it. Hopefully, you are too. Good luck!