You started a business and wisely crafted a well-thought out long-term strategic plan. It includes ways to build brand awareness and influence your target market. You thoughtfully outlined ways to capitalize on your company's strengths and overcome weaknesses.
To do so, you used a wide-eyed and sober consideration of threats and opportunities. But your bank and power company won’t wait for your plan to come to fruition for you to pay the bills. How do you score customers super fast?
This is a dilemma faced by almost every entrepreneur and startup venture on the planet. Sometimes a new company is temporarily capitalized by investors, but often it's not.
Managing that precarious gap between a successful launch and sufficient cash flow can create sleepless nights and nail-biting anxiety. Here are four ways in the short run to put a jingle in the cash drawer:
Related: 5 Ways to Get Your First Customer
1. Take the business to customers.
Don't make customers come to you. The kid who took his lemonade stand door-to-door made a lot more summer cash than the teen on the corner waiting for the next passerby. Pop-up restaurants in office buildings are the rage in major cities for employees when their limited lunchtime impinges on their going out to a brick-and-mortar sit-down restaurant.
Joe and Sue, a couple I knew in Charlotte, N.C., started a gourmet pizza restaurant in the 1980s with high hopes of franchising their business and expanding. They had spent vacations in Italy and were confident they had a winning formula. Joe was a wine enthusiast; Sue was a former sous chef at an Italian restaurant.
But, it was taking too long for their baby to grow up large enough to become a well-known eating establishment. Facing foreclosure, they added delivery and catering to their offerings and made it through the scary times and are now on track for success.
2. Reframe the pricing of products or services.
Instead of selling one item at a time, consider bundling products or services. (Or unbundle a product or service to sell a single product at a time.) What about a co-op approach?
Look at price incentives tied to contributions to charities, affinity programs and valued discounts. Add a product to your service or a service to your product. While respecting the tax code, could you trade goods and services you have for goods and services you need?
New Mexico Tea Company owner David Edwards was staring at bankruptcy in 2010. He needed a six-month loan to get him from slow summer sales to a profitable December. A Small Business Administration loan would take months to procure, the bank had turned him down and he needed cash fast.
He turned to his customers for help. He created a clever gift card that customers could purchase via PayPal. Bought in the summer but held until December, the $50 gift card could be used to procure $55 in tea. A $100 gift card bought $115. The micro-lending concept was a huge success.
3. Be a valued mentor to customers.
Mentoring customers builds rapid trust and creates a story that customers will quickly take viral. Customers today value the organizations that help them stay on the cutting edge in their ever-changing world. Brainstorm to figure out the key questions that your customers have and look for unique ways to provide them the wisdom they value.
The Peterson Caterpillar dealership in Portland, Ore., learned that the complex shutdown procedure for its massive power generators (large enough to power a hospital or shopping center) was a frequent question of field engineers. The giant generators were rarely used and once it came time to shut them off after power was restored, field engineers could not recall all the shutdown steps.
So the dealership created a 30-second YouTube video on shutdown that could be accessed via a smartphone. It became a boon to sales as well as a gesture that customers raved about to prospects.
4. Procure buzz-worthy creative work.
Sometimes creating a reputation for being innovative can lasso the hearts and funds of new customers. What would costuming do for your business? What if you arranged for a group of elementary students to decorate your establishment or contribute to your website?
Could you turn the parking area on its ear or have fun with your phone greeting? What role could music, food or special aromas play in your enterprise?
Christin Evans and her husband Praveen Madan bought Booksmith in the Haight-Asbury neighborhood of San Francisco in 2007 -- not exactly the best year for launching a business. By 2010, their business was struggling to survive.
So they pulled out all the stops by experimenting with an in-store cafe, free Wi-Fi, monthly book swaps, a children’s play area, entertainment, more than 200 in-store author readings a year and community forums on topics of interest to customers. The strategy worked. Not only did the store thrive, the San Francisco Weekly named the shop in its Best of San Francisco issue as the “best reimagined bookstore” in a city with a gazillion book stores.
Look for ways to put some or all these ideas into practice to stave off creditors as you put out the welcome mat for customers. But always remember that transactions aimed at securing quick revenue should always be done with a long-term relationship in mind. If your customers view your tactics as simply a one-night stand, they'll make certain you never get another chance to win them back.
Related: 3 Steps to Happier Customers