When I decided to start a business I had a romantic notion of how easy it would be to get up and running. Now keep in mind I have zero business experience not practical or educational – none! Before starting my own business I didn’t give any thought about how businesses actually get up and running. I was good at the planning: the curriculum development, website creation, business cards, register a business name, all that fun practical stuff. But I didn’t think much about the marketing aspect of business. I figured I’d set up shop, post that classes were ready for enrollment and BOOM – I’d have a business. Well I certainly did get a boom when I finally opened up shop but it wasn’t the boom I was looking for. The boom I got was the sound my face made when I fell flat on it!
Here was my marketing strategy when I started my first series of classes.
- Post classes on website – check
- Put up a few fliers in the neighborhood – check
- Register all the masses of parents wanting to take classes – boom (this is me falling flat on my face)!
I was shocked when I didn’t have one single person sign up for one of my many classes I had advertised. The classes start dates came and went and nothing! No registrants. I was mortified. I had put in a good 10 months of planning and organizing while I was on maternity leave and then nothing! I cried. I felt like a failure. Life at that moment sucked. My first thought was, “I’m not cut out for this business stuff.” Then once I picked myself up and got a good pep talk from my mother and husband I decided to try again. I posted fliers once again around the neighbourhood and listed more classes a month later. Of course (at the time) this made total sense… let’s do the same thing again that didn’t work the first time because it will certainly work the second time – what’s that definition of insanity again? Oh ya! Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Duh!
This action just goes to show my total lack of business and marketing experience at the time. My fliers were a complete bust again. And even more frustrating was when I would go out to see if any of my pull-tabs with my contact info on them had been taken only to find that my flier had been covered up by some band that was playing the local bar that Friday night. Face turning red and smoke leaving my head here.
I would get incredibly offended and take it very personally when someone covered up my fliers. I mean, come on! Don’t they know I’m trying to make it in this world and I have just as much right to pole space as they do?! I even called a company who covered up my newly hung fliers. I remember very clearly asking to speak to the owner of this boxing company who was advertising a big boxing event coming up that weekend. I proceeded to say that I am just a mom trying to make it in this world and how dare he cover up fliers that I paid good money to produce and put up on a local pole. Didn’t he see that my flier was still new looking?! I would never put up a flier over someone’s new flier. I was hurt and I wanted him to know it and to be sorry and to make me feel better! I didn’t get the satisfaction I was looking for. Instead I got, “Look lady, I hire a company to do my postering. I don’t have control over his actions. I don’t have time to for this but I can give you the company’s number that I use and you can take your issue up with him.” To which I responded, “No, I’m good. Just thought you might want to know what I think of your company’s actions against me.” Where I was met with a ‘click’. More tears. What was I expecting? For this guy, who owns a boxing company, to invite me over for tea so we could work out our issue? For him to offer a great big hug and an “I know how that must have made you feel and I’m so sorry.” I look back on this now and laugh. My favorite thing is thinking about what this guy must have said after getting off the phone with me. I laugh at my small-minded attempt to poster the neighborhood thinking that my classes would automatically fill up. I certainly had a lot to learn about marketing. It wasn’t enough to put up posters and advertise on my website. I had to do more, think bigger, to learn the ways of the marketing world.
So I set off trying to figure out how best to market my business successfully. In the meantime I had to make ends meat so I went out and got a part time babysitting job. Yes, you read that correctly. Here I was a holder of a Master’s in Education and a soon to be very successful business woman and I was a part-time babysitter. But that was okay. I didn’t want to give up on running my business but I needed to make some money. I didn’t have to babysit for too long and I really enjoyed the job while I had it. It was a nice break from the stress of being a teacher and the failure of a botched marketing attempt at my new business. During that time I researched how to properly market a business in order to be successful.
Stay tuned for part two to learn some of the things I discovered along my marketing travels.