Sometimes I worry that in blogs and such there’s so much attention to new market, social media and new trends that we forget the basics. It’s a matter of learning to crawl first, then walk and only then run. Before you worry too much about your Twitter profile and website, cover the basics:

  1. Signage, Appearance, Ambience. OK, I admit, if you’re solopreneur doing an expert business only on the web, then yes, worry about your website and your Twitter profile. But that’s all we ever hear on blogs and Twitter, when there are so many businesses worried about that while not doing the basics in the real world. My favorite coffee place in Bend, Ore., had been closed on Sunday. Last weekend it had a sign outside on the lawn, facing the traffic on the street: “Now Open Sundays.” Simple is good, right? I’d been going somewhere else on Sundays automatically; now I won’t. Think about how much you judge a business by its outside appearance. Does the signage fit the promise? Sometimes quirky and rustic is cool (some restaurants, an antique store, jams and jellies maybe) but how is it for German-Japanese auto repair? For years I’ve walked by an old office in a beaten-up office complex with dark windows and old curtains and a very old wooden sign, looking like it was done in a high-school shop class, saying “Business Planning Concepts.” No, I don’t think so. And if your face on the world, your appearance and your ambiance are your website, then, yes, work on your website.
  2. Directories and such: being found where people look. What used to be the Yellow Pages is now Google Maps, Yahoo! directories, Bing, MSN, AOL, not to mention the local Chamber of Commerce, directories in local newspapers, specific trade and industry directories, related website directories. Think about where and how people look when they want to find a business like yours. Be there.
  3. Be an expert. Don’t ever underestimate the power of being quoted by others in your area of expertise. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for working with related blogs, making comments and so on. But you can start with local events, trade shows, local media. Can you write for the local Chamber of Commerce magazine? Do you know the editor of the local newspaper? Can you be a speaker at the industry show?

Serendipity: you can’t do any of the above without figuring out whom you think your customers are, what they want, where they look for solutions, and so on. You’re already on your way to a marketing plan.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.