Businesswise | Never start a business just because it’s easy
QUESTION: I am a 24 year old male with a degree in marketing. I decided the easiest and practical thing is starting a business in my field which can use my skills with little start-up capital. I now offer marketing consulting to companies. I have emailed so many companies to introduce this concept but so far there has been no positive response and not a single contract. I am very frustrated because I have been consistent in making contact and following up several times but it is like I'm up against a brick wall. I really need to make this work but I think not being in the inner corporate circle and having contacts at the top is holding me back. What's your advice to break in to the market?
BUSINESSWISE: Your problem may be bigger than the right contacts or being a part of the 'inner corporate circle'. The huge red flag that jumped out at me after reading your question is that you decided to pursue the easiest business that can utilise your training and requires little start-up capital.
While it may seem like the most intuitive and prudent thing to do, it's a flawed approach. You have placed yourself, your education, and your financial needs at the forefront of the business motivation, when the focus should really be on the problem you are solving, the customers you want to serve and the value you propose to deliver to them.
I have several questions I want you to reflect on and answer before you move forward, waste precious time, energy and money and dig yourself into a deeper hole: What exactly is the opportunity you are trying to exploit? Where is the gap in the market? What is the need you are trying to fulfil? How do you know that companies need marketing consultants? Which companies need marketing consultants? When do they need them, with what frequency and for how long?
How much can they afford to pay for consulting? If they need these services and are willing to pay, do you have the skills, knowledge and experience that your target market requires? What will be their expected return after hiring you? How can your consulting boost their bottom line? What can you offer of value that they can't find by reading some of the books and materials you covered in college?
Easy is not better. It doesn't give you a competitive edge nor increase the prospects for profitability and sustainability.
Starting a business should be about meeting the needs of your specific target group not doing what's easy for you. One of the primary reasons businesses fail is because they are started out of the entrepreneur's personal needs and not viable opportunity.
BREAKING INTO THE MARKET
Market entry for a business consultant of any kind typically requires a proven track record of performance, which you do not yet have. You need a compelling portfolio and profile, a list of clients you've worked for before and successes to your credit.
You would also use your established networks of contacts for referrals, while employing targeted advertising and promotion tactics.
Becoming a thought leader, who is a respected authority/ voice in a particular field, is a highly effective way to build image and awareness of your brand and get people calling you. You could start with writing or blogging, building your profile and engagement on social media, speaking at conferences and events, etc.
However, even with the best marketing tactics, consultants are usually hired for expertise, experience and skills. Their credentials are earned through acumen, demonstrated know-how and proven performance.
Young people with limited work experience, knowledge or a track record outside of college can't expect to break in overnight. Remember studying a discipline at university does not make you an expert.
My suggestion is that you go back to the drawing board and utilise your marketing skills to identify or carve out an opportunity in the marketplace which may or may not be related to marketing.
Make sure you have a viable market, that your offering is highly differentiated from what presently exists out there, and that you are best placed to be No. 1 in delivering that unique value proposition.
Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator/executive producer of The Innovators TV series.