The first months of business...?

The ApronDude

Grumbler in Training
Jan 22, 2005
Hey guys I want to know how was your first months of business? what was the best you did to bring customers, and how long did it take for people to know your "out there"

I would apreciate your comments!

The ApronDude
I will let you know when my first month is over!

We joined the Chamber of Commerce. They did our Ribbon Cutting "Ceremony". That got a big pic of us in the local newspaper with a small write-up (for free). Most of my customers so far have been "word-of-mouth" or they have seen the store sign out by the highway. I cannot afford a whole lot of advertising right now (I am starving & can barely afford Top Ramen!) but we have tried to put a 2 X 5 ad in the paper once a week. (Do newspaper ads work????) They sure are expensive.

We also bought an ad for Yellow Book. We get two small ads under two headings for about $45.00 per month (one for framers/one for phorographers). It won't come out until March, but I am thinking this will be the best investment.

I also sent large postcards to all the interior decorators I could find in the tri-county area inviting them to "visit our new showroom" & "ask about our designer discounts". (We offer licensed interior decorators 15%discount<$500 and 20% discount>$500.

Just be sure to ALWAYS tell EVERYONE about your business. Bring it up wherever you are. You will be surprised at how you can find new customers this way, or at least they know someone who tells someone who comes in an buys something!

Also, we have a small gallery space and "art wall" and the idea is to have a different artist featured each month. We do not charge a hanging fee, but do charge a 25% commission on sales. This is really a good idea if the artist soes works on paper (You can frame them for the customer!). We also mention the artist in our weekly ad and hope this will inspire someone to at least drop by & take a peak!

I would love to hear some great ideas on cheap & no cost marketing ideas. Also on the ones that do cost money (although I can't afford them right now!) :D
Originally posted by Mecianne:

I also sent large postcards to all the interior decorators I could find in the tri-county area inviting them to "visit our new showroom" & "ask about our designer discounts". (We offer licensed interior decorators 15%discount<$500 and 20% discount>$500.

Just be sure that you do this more than once. Since this is a clientel that you want to pursue, I'd send a small card to them once a month for several months. If you sent 100 per month, that would only be $23.00 plus the price of the cards that you can print on your own printer. Use a distinctive color or type - something so that immediately when they see the card, they will know who it's from.

They'll probably toss them the first half dozen times or so, then they'll look at them and think they ought to call for the next 3-4 times. But by the 10th one or so, you should have had some calls and drop-ins. It takes a long time to build name recognition.

I did a show back in the fall. Another vendor came by, picked up my card and said, "Oh, I recognize your logo. I've seen your ads in Metro Pulse" (local alternative weekly paper). I of course said thank you, but inwardly smiled as I knew I hadn't advertised there in about 3-4 years, but he thought it was "just last week." :D

I opened in October. It matters.

When I opened I had a wine/cheese open house one evening. (no selling just glad handing.) I sent invitations that looked like invitations to a party to about 500 of my "closest friends."

I literaly went through the phonebook and copied down any name I recognized.

About 150 showed up!

October was still dead. just close friends and relatives coming in and having things done.

November and December picked up nicely that year. I had a small operating profit for those first three months on the strength of December.

January dropped WAY off and I didn't have another profitable month until November came around again. November and December of that first year pulled me up to a "small" loss for the year.

My second full calendar year I showed small profit every other month and had a profit for the entire year.

I should note that I took a salary from day one.

The advertising thing can be very involved. I tried a lot of different things. Look in the archives. What you will find is that any given form will work for some shops and not for others. Often the best for one is the worst for another. You need to figure YOUR area out.

Good Luck and WELCOME to the Grumble!
Originally posted by B. Newman:
Little Framer, I continue to be amazed at this book. I'm making notes in the margin, underlining stuff, re-reading pages, and even making notes on other paper. It's the best marketing book I've ever read! (and I'm a read-a-holic!)

This was from an old thread entitled "Customers Walking Out"...I am wondering if Betty can tell me what book you & Little Framer were discussing. Maybe I overlooked the title, but also thought this might be helpful info as an answer to the thread.
Or maybe this thread is about getting customers to actually walk in in the first place!
My first month (this past July) was not too bad. Things got really slow in october into november. Dec was good and jan. is barely ok.
Newspapers were a tremendous waste of money.
The only good add i had in one was a free write up because we were a new business in town.
Other than that I was in 2 papers with a 4in x 2col add once a week for 3 months AND GOT NOTHING BUT BILLS FOR IT!
Direct mailing and word of mouth are doing better and if anyone comes in for donations for a charity or something offer them a gift certificate for 20.00 on custom framing or framed art. Don't give money to any benevolent or volunteer police of fire organizations, most I've seen are rip offs and are rude once they know your not playing their game.
At least with a gift certificate it is more likely they will come into your shop.

I could go on but am waiting for my accountant with some grim news.
Hope this helped.
Mecianne, I originally mentioned that book earlier in that same thread. The title is "Knock Out Marketing" and is published by Entreprenuer magazine. It is indeed one of the very best I've read.

I don't know how close Millbrook is to Tennessee, but we'll be discussing this "value triangle" plus a little more at our KY/TN PPFA Chapter meeting on March 29 in Knoxville. E-mail me if you'd like more info.

i opened my little shop here in a small mexican town last august 11. i'm an artist who has lived here for years and i know alot of people from the art world in an "artsy" town. this was the best start i could have. my shop is in an old colonial building with 4 art studio/galleries. i, along with the other galleries, had an opening reception, wine, cheese, etc. the event was promoted by an ad in the local english paper, and by sending invitations to a list of people known to frequent art openings. i had some post cards made with my logo, which is an image from an italian tarot card "Fortuna". very eye-catching. opening night i handed out the cards and schmoozed the guests. i am the only framer in this town promoting conservation and preservation with acid free materials. i have to import all my products, but buy frames from a mexican supplier. i used the evening to try to educate the people. this began my advertising. i left more of the postcards in restaurants, galleries, in interior design shops, etc. business has been happening from the beginning, in spite of no sign on the building and an interior location. a friend who owns a bakery here advised me to "let your customers build your business". this is what has been happening. the other local framers all have reputations of their own, but not as providers of top quality framing materials. i came into the market as the town (San Miguel de Allende) is being discovered by an upscale group of ex-pats who know about quality and have the money to pay for it. i feel extremely lucky to be here at the right time and see my business as having a great future based on the first 6 months. please stop by if you're in town, Pila Seca #3.
I have been in business for 17 years (and I'm a newbie compared to many here...) and people are still finding out that I'm here.
It's like the zen of framing, my friend. It's not an event, it's an ongoing process. You never stop, you never 'reach' something, every day is a delightful struggle.
Read fortuna's post above. That's what ya gotta do- always hustle it, hustle yourself. Have a marketing plan.
Do a search for JRB's posts- (search under 'bootstraps' :D ) and you will see how it can be very successfully done.
That said, my first few years in biz were quite bleak, I am a slow learner and was bit shy about promoting myself and my business. I am still shy, but I choose to ignore it most of the time and I am better off.
There are some pearls of wisdom above, borne out of hard experience. General advertising is dicey, but free advertising is win-win, your customers are your best advertising, have a plan, etc, etc.
Good luck to you.
Please post again soon and tell us of all the parts of your marketing plan that worked!

edie the juststumblingalongmyslefsomedays goddess