When you start a business, the first people you want to tell are those who you consider your inner circle. For most of us, that circle consists of some family members and your very best friends. After announcing the launch of your brainchild, your texts and notifications start blowing up excessively because your day-ones are promoting you online by posting about how proud you’ve made them with your new business. Fast forward three months - or for some of us, one year. You’re going over your business expenses and notice that not a single one of your recent customers has been a member of your inner circle. Now you’re wondering how people who are fully aware of your brand have gone so long without investing in you.
We hate to say it like this but, let that hurt go. Get over it.
Above all else, family and friends are in your life for emotional support. There are plenty other people who show you just as much love on social media but also don’t buy your products. You’re only mad at your loved ones because you set expectations that they weren’t aware of. When you announced your business to your circle, I’m sure you didn’t start with “Y’all need to start saving your money because I’m starting a business; regardless of the fact that my timing and pricing might not align with your budget.” See how entitled that sounds?
Start thinking of your friends and family as potential new customers like everyone else. Their pockets didn’t suddenly get full just because you started a company. Yours didn’t either. If you can’t guarantee that any other customer has enough money to hire you, what makes your loved ones any different? After all, you didn’t start a business to sell your products to them anyway!
You started your business because you wanted to make money doing something you’re passionate about. Now you have that - and you’re being picky about WHOSE money you’re collecting?! If you stay focused on marketing your company to people you already know, you’ll never learn how to effectively market yourself to strangers. Direct that energy toward attracting new clients. If your inner circle is as proud of you in real life as they claim to be online, rest assured that they’re making you money in one of the following ways:
1. Bragging about you to others.
2. Suggesting your company to others.
3. Sharing your work with others.
When you’re the first name that pops up in a person’s head every time people bring up (your business type), they support you by referring you. If there are several mouths speaking of your brand in ten places at once, you’ve increased the likelihood of gaining new customers.
The next time you’re mad about Bestie Brittany not sharing your article, or the fact Cousin Cammie hasn’t scheduled her hair appointment in your new salon yet, use them to your advantage. Don’t just post subliminal memes about family and friends not shopping with you; send them a stack of your business cards and ask for a different kind of support! Your inner circle should be viewed as an automatic street team. Here are five ways to get your close loved ones involved in promoting your brand:
Give them physical ads to keep on hand. Whether it’s a stack of flyers, business cards, samples, whatever - send it out on a regular basis. You never know who could be where!
Send updates regularly. If you’re always reposting the exact same thing, then that’s all they’ve got to share. No offense, but girl nobody wants to bore their timeline with your repetitive branding posts. Spice it up! Text your inner circle the links to all of your online updates and customer reviews. If they have more great things to post about your business without annoying their own followers, they probably will!
Invite them to events. It’s easy to get your folks to show up when you’re the star of the show. So, make every event your show! Going to a networking event? Bring a friend or family member who’s always sharing your posts. Send out a group text every time you’ve got a gig, and invite everyone to join and help! This way, they can’t say they never knew how to get involved - in case that ever comes up.
Gear em’ up! If your company offers free t-shirts or other wearable items to employees and/or volunteers, snag a couple of extras and send them to your people! They may not wear your oversized company t-shirt to their leadership conference, but they might wear it to the gym. That’s still free promotion.
Hire them. If your budget allows it, make your inner circle into paid brand ambassadors. This way, they’ll feel motivated to sell your product every chance they get because they’ll collect a small percentage of the total sale. The difference between paying your own people to serve as ambassadors and hiring a local Instagram model: you can pay them less money (unless Cousin Cammie is also an Insta-baddie, then y’all are gonna have to negotiate). You’re guaranteed more sales when there are more people selling for you. The money paid to your beloved ambassadors will recover itself when your profits double.
Financial support isn’t the only kind of support. Don’t let it bother you. Those who actually support you will do whatever they can do to help push your business forward. In the case of small businesses, any support should be better than none. John Maxwell says that the most effective leaders touch a heart before asking for a hand. You can’t touch a heart or ask for a hand if you’re always busy pointing the finger.