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One common mistake I see small business owners and entrepreneurs make time after time is this -- relying on one source for leads.

 In fact, I can't tell you how many times I tell someone I'm in marketing and what they say to me is "oh, the only thing I do for marketing is word of mouth." (I'm going to write an entire article about word of mouth marketing, maybe two, because that is hands down the most misunderstood marketing strategy.)

Anyway, if you rely on only one marketing source, like word of mouth, I can nearly guarantee what your business looks like. Feast or famine. Either you're buried in work, stressed to the max as you spend all of your time and energy frantically fulfilling the work pouring in, or you're starving. Nothing is coming in and you spend your days worrying about how you're going to pay next month's bills.

 So how do you avoid that situation? By not relying on one lead source but instead diversifying and having leads come in from multiple sources.

 When this happens, you start to create a much more stable business environment for yourself, plus you have the added bonus that if a lead source dries up, you're not out of business.

 Let's look at some lead sources other than word of mouth:

1. Speaking. This is a great one as it also positions you as an expert. You can speak at live events or you can speak on your phone both. I personally do both and have found they work very well together.



2. Web site. People are constantly searching the Internet looking for products and services you're already selling. Why not cash in on this by turning your Web site into a lead generating machine?

 3. Networking. Both online (also called social networking and includes sites such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn) and offline (includes networking events and live seminars filled with your target market) are good for Advertising. Not my favorite but it definitely has its place. And there are times where this is the absolute best way to pick up new leads.

 4. Existing/past clients. You can pick up quite a bit of work both by up selling your existing clients or by reconnecting with past clients and seeing if their needs have changed.

 5. Media. Getting articles placed or being interviewed on radio or television can also increase your bottom line.

 6. Strategic partners or affiliates. This is where other people promote you to their customer base for most likely a percentage of the sale. The difference between strategic partners and affiliates is strategic partners tend to have a more long-term relationship with you and affiliates.


How to Turn Your Start-Up into an Instant Cash Cow

Thousands of new home businesses start in Nigeria every day, many of which never see their fifth anniversary.

With a 90 percent failure rate in the first five years, most hopeful entrepreneurs wind up feeling discouraged and beaten, thinking they don't have what it takes to make their dream of home business come true.

One of the biggest reasons home businesses fail is because the new entrepreneur not only lacks the required marketing and sales skills, but chooses a business with a tremendous learning curve.

The energy, time and financial commitment required is significant because everything is new and undeveloped. Overwhelm and confusion set in, mistakes accumulate, frustration grows and finances dwindle as you work your way through the steep learning process.

If you are new to or considering a home business, you can flatten the learning curve and start generating income immediately by beginning with something you are already good to great at.

For example, let's say your dream business is a nursery.

You love gardening and have significant knowledge on plants, their ideal growing conditions and landscape design. You have acreage and want to build two domes to grow plants to sell.

Let's also assume that you work full-time as a teacher and have little to no business experience. You would need to learn about sales, marketing, financial statements, horticulture, hydroponics systems, taxation, legalities, and a host of other things

The faulty mindset many new entrepreneurs have is the "build it and they will come" mentality and this is where the trouble begins. Money is first invested in the physical creation of the business, and then the business owner starts to work on developing her skills and building the business.

By this time, significant time and money has already been spent while no cash flow or client base has been created. The business owner is pressed to start bringing in business to cover her monthly operating expenses and start-up investment.

Although the impulse is to build a professional looking business up front then trying to fill it with customers, the simplest and most successful approach to building your business is to start with the basic strategy of putting to use the skills you already have.

What are you already good to great at that you can start with today?

Let's say your existing skill sets are:

  • teaching
  • gardening and designing friends and neighbors yards
  • knowledge of the plants specific to your area and their best growing conditions
  • knowing what plants complement each other and those that repel each other

With these skill sets, you can start your business immediately without any significant investment. Here's how:

  • approach a local nursery and ask them if you can volunteer several hours a week or work-part time for them (either way, you have to invest time learning about the business of running a nursery, so why not get paid for it or at the very least, volunteer and get yourself known as a plant expert)
  • ask the nursery if you could offer classes to their customers and split the profits
  • place posters around town announcing your landscape design service and get your friends to refer you to others
  • have a local newspaper reporter feature you and your beautiful backyard in the "Society/People" or "Home and Decoration" section of your paper
  • suggest a joint venture relationship with one of your local nurseries. You will refer your landscape design clients to them to purchase plants if they promote your design service. (I paid such a person N2,500 an hour to visit my home and help me design my yard. I also purchased my plants from the nursery she recommended because I received special pricing for using her services.)
  • join your local gardening club or horticultural society
  • buy plants from your gardening club colleagues and sell them at a profit

Can you see how this approach would give you a much stronger foundation to build from and increased start-up capital? Your amount of risk and overwhelm would be greatly reduced and your business education would begin immediately.

When you're ready to pursue your ultimate dream of starting your own nursery, you will have revenue already coming in, an established client base, recognition as an expert in your field, and some business skills and experience under your belt.

Now, let's apply this to YOUR home business dream.

As you contemplate your new business endeavor, list the skills you currently possess and begin with what you have. Start bringing in cash immediately and let it finance your ultimate dream and education