By Jennifer E. Goldman, President
Have you ever heard the term ‘flight visibility’? According to the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association it is determined by the pilot in the cockpit”. If you’re a small business owner, that’s you! You are the pilot in the cockpit; defining the visibility of your path forward. The heights you’re able to soar is completely up to you. It’s a very powerful feeling, but it can also be overwhelming.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your small business is visibility. People can’t hire your business if they don’t know it exists. The tricky part, though, is determining the best way for your business to be visible. It isn’t possible to participate in, attend or be a part of every opportunity that exists. So which ones should you choose?
Trial and error is probably your best bet. But when you try something that works really well you will know it right away. And it’s exciting.
One of my former clients was a winery. This particular winery is located on an old Army post that was so covert through the 1990’s that GPS and mapping systems still don’t have all the streets listed. Aside from getting bigger and more signs, I had to figure out how to make the winery more visible to the community.
I signed the winery up to participate in community events. What I found was that the winery didn’t make a lot of sales, had to pay for additional off-site staffing and it wasn’t getting more people to visit the winery.
My next attempt was signing up for a state-wide wine program. It cost the winery nothing to register and it put their name, logo and information on the Internet, along with dozens of others across Virginia, with a discount offer. The next day they got one phone call about it and one customer on-site. The next week a handful of customers came in to take advantage of the offer. That was a win!
My own business is very different from the winery, though. Right away I joined committees for two local nonprofits thinking that it would give my business visibility and me some great networking opportunities. It was definitely worthwhile giving my time to great causes and working with some great people, but it wasn’t really a visibility opportunity for my company and, because I had joined more than one, it was taking a lot of my time.
I then began attending professional networking socials. By joining groups close to home, and one or two not-so-close, I was able to spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks talking to dozens of professionals about my new business. It gave me an opportunity to flex my networking skills and develop a way of determining, more quickly, which professionals in a room are more apt to be prospective clients.
For me, this was the perfect flight visibility. It only cost me the price of admission to the socials, the price of a drink, and a couple hours of my time. What I gained, however, were numerous introductions to professionals in a wider circle and time to foster existing business relationships in my own community.
Alternative visibility opportunities include things like sponsoring events, donating goods or services to local causes (a good one I’ve found is funding the printing services for community theatres or school art and music programs with your name/ad on the back), social media marketing, hosting an appreciation event or coordinating a free workshop or seminar.
Visibility is important and there is no shortage of approaches to getting there. Keep trying new and creative ideas. The sky’s the limit.