T he word FREE is a powerful word! It has been known to change politics and ideology; it pulls in sales every time and it will make those hiding come out of the woodwork. Let’s face it, especially in this economy, whenever you can save a buck, it’s a good thing! However, when it comes to your brand, what is free worth?
If you’re looking at tools to run your business, you have Google Docs and Libre Office, great alternatives. There are QuickBooks™ alternatives that work perfectly for small companies and proprietorships. There’s free cloud storage with SkyDrive, Google Drive, DropBox and others; all great solutions for operating on a budget. You can even find free, effective antivirus and firewall programs.
However, when it comes to how your brand is presented to the public, the old adage applies: you get what you pay for. So the question is, was free worth the price?
I come across many start-ups: authors, consultants, services, etc. You name it, it’s come across my desk. Often, the thinking is, “Just get a presence; put info on the Internet and all will be good.” So they either:
a) Get a nephew whose been playing with websites, desktop publishing or Photoshop, and social media in high school or college to build a website, brochure and social-media foundation for them.
b) Go find a free, cookie-cutter service like WIX, Quicken websites or free WordPress, and build one themselves. Then download a Microsoft-Word brochure template and design a brochure. Finally, open a social media network and just ATTACK – or not.
Now don’t get me wrong; those services are great for clubs, hobbies and personal one-time events for small churches and schools. However, would you really trust the success of your business to an unprofessional medium?
Did you know that these companies trying to get you to use their FREE services hire professional designers and marketers to design the template sites that WOW you? Why? They know it represents THEIR service and company, and FREE will not look too good if it doesn’t look professional. If it would not look good to you, then how would it look to your prospective clients?
So here are two (2) things to consider when deciding to start your own business.
Imagine you were at a gathering and met a new entrepreneur. He or she is telling you what they do and offer, and you need his or her service. You ask, “Do you have a brochure?” “Absolutely!” They proceed to hand you a bland brochure, written from an informational point of view (rather than with professional sales copy), printed on their inkjet printer on Office Depot or Office Maxx brochure paper. What would you think? Would you think, “WOW! This is great! I found the person I need to [fill in the blank].” Or, would you think, “This looks unprofessional, as if this company has no money to print decent brochures. So if I have a problem, will this company with no money be around to fix it? I better not risk my business on this.”
Most people think the latter, smile and say thank you, then file your brochure in the cylindrical filing cabinet (the garbage can). The same applies to your website. If they visit it and the experience is not professional, friendly and tasteful, and it’s not written to pull them in and capture their identity for future marketing – they will leave and never return.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Most people will not give you a second chance! So what is your marketing material saying about you?
In business school, we are told that there’s this thing known as “opportunity cost.” This is the money lost to an opportunity lost.
For instance, if you had an opportunity to be hired by Wannabe Productions Incorporated and the contract would’ve earned you $5,000, but you lost that business to a competitor because your marketing material did not position you properly, the opportunity cost was $5,000. Why? You could have earned $5,000 but didn’t, because of a decision you made.
Let’s take this one step further. You lost this business because you thought FREE was good and it would help you make money, so you can upgrade later. However, you LOST money, which will prohibit you from upgrading, putting you in a never-ending cycle of losing business, because you chose FREE. So in this example, that FREE brochure and website cost you $5,000.
The sad part is most people will never know how much business they lost, because your prospect will never tell you they chose another, due to your image and their lack of confidence. Moreover, if you handed out your material to many people, you will never know who chose to never call in the first place.
Before you start your new venture, you have to have the right image and tools. Yes, it requires an initial investment, but as the saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” If you believe in your business and plan on doing it for a long time, doesn’t it deserve you doing it right?
Make sure you have a quality website, professional logo, professional business card and a properly written social-media foundation. Make sure all of it is branded to reflect your image: same colors, logo, messaging, look and feel, etc. Then and only then are you ready to present your business. If you do these things, your opportunity cost will be minimal. You will have put your best foot forward, allowing you the opportunity to actually compete. After all, if you’re not allowed into the discussion, how can you sell yourself?
To your success!