With the tough economy we have a lot of new entrepreneurs starting up. Many worked for other people and are getting their first taste of how business really works.

I highly recommend reading The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, which spells out the difference between a business and a job.

We’ve been getting a lot of “beginner” questions lately- and so I thought I’d share some answers:

As to the question in the title of this post- just having a website doesn’t bring customers anymore than having a business on a side street. You still need to advertise,  marker, or beat a drum. Building a reputation requires continuous action and reaction.

SEO be damned- even turning up first on Google isn’t anymore of a strategy than being listed first in the yellow pages- even if your name is really “Aardvark.” Although turning up in Google somewhere is mandatory- but, a quick trip to places.google.com can solve that.

“I want to buy a bunch of email addresses and send out a newsletter to get them to my website so they’ll buy.” Sure- and what do you do with e-mail that comes from strangers? Do you read it all?

“Call the paper and find out why they didn’t write a story about my new business.” Right now newspapers are having a hard enough time writing real news- and getting people to read it. Some have a “press release submission” page on their site- and post everything. When was the last time you went and read it?

“My prices are the best in the {pick one: City, State, Nation, Continent, Planet, Universe} why aren’t people buying from me?” If you are planning on using price as your main marketing tool, get out of business now. It’s hard enough competing with price comparisons a google click away.

Here are some bits of wisdom for all new entrepreneurs:

  • People do business with people they like. Do thinks that make friends- online and offline, and then work like hell to get your friends to talk well of you.
  • Trust is the most important currency in business today, don’t play games with prices, people, or promotion. Mean what you say- stick to your word and under-promise and over deliver and you’ll be fine.
  • Branding does matter. If people are going to talk about you- they need a name to talk about. If we print it on a t-shirt for our employees- will customers want to buy the shirt from you to wear around town? That’s the quick way of figuring out if you have a brand people like- or not.
  • In this economy there are no “safe” moves. Don’t do things like your competition- do things that make them want to be like you. Being flamboyant is cool again- be it with constant self-promotion via social media like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook- or, driving a billboard. Don’t be shy- it’s not going to get your name out there.
  • As a warning- many of you will find that working for someone else isn’t the same as working for yourself, you thought you got rid of your old boss- now every customer is now your boss. The idea that when you own your own business you can take a half day off anytime you want- the correct answer is which half, the first 12 hours or the second 12. Young businesses are like babies- they need a lot of attention.
  • Banks aren’t lending like they used to. Be warned, credit cards aren’t your friends. Learn quickly the value of cash- and never forget it. It’s probably the least pushed part of small business accounting in business school- but, cash is king- you heard it here first. With cash- drive a super-hard bargain every chance you get- and try to get your vendors to finance as much of your business as possible- then they have a real stake in if you will succeed or not.

And if you still are wondering where the customers are- you can always call a good ad agency who can help you find them and deliver your core message. We’re available btw.