Advertising on a time budget

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You may or may not have noticed that the frequency of posts here has diminished greatly over the past couple of months. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing if you haven’t.

This site has been so effective in connecting me with business owners, that my bookkeeping workload has skyrocketed over the past 6 months. So much so, that I simply haven’t had a lot of time to devote to anything beyond client work. That’s not to say that I’m not taking on new clients. I think I just take too long to write each post.

This morning it got me thinking about advertising. In the beginning, that’s what this site was all about. I practically live online, and had a very small budget to get this business started. Getting a site with a blog up and running was always a big priority. Given the fact that I can work with people all over North America, running a traditional ad campaign was not only financially unfeasible, but inefficient.

The big surprise along the way was just how much I would enjoy updating the blog. It’s certainly grown to become something much more than just advertising for my bookkeeping services. It gives me a chance to connect with other great entrepreneurs. I’m sure I’ve learned more about business from all of you than you have from me.

That brings me to a question that I’m sure lots of businesses encounter. How much advertising should you be doing when you get close to your work limit?

Let’s say you teach music for a living. You’ve done a great job of marketing your school, and you’re schedule is completely full. Should you still advertise the school? If you have to keep sending people away when they call, does that increase demand, or just put people off?

When Nintendo had problems keeping enough Wii’s on the shelf, the demand skyrocketed. For the first year, anytime retail stores restocked their shelves, they were immediately snatched up, for fear that they’d be sold out again. This “difficulty” in keeping up with demand (I’m pretty sure they did all of this on purpose) caused it to be, in my opinion, a much bigger seller than it would have if they had flooded the market with units.

On the other hand, it can have the opposite effect. Sometimes people will just get tired of waiting, and will find another similar product or competing store. I’m sure plenty of families decided to buy a Playstation 3 or XBOX 360, instead of waiting for Nintendo to boost production.

What do you think? If you know you’re running out of products, or just hours in the day to devote to work, do you change your advertising?

Personally, I don’t think you should, but it all depends on how you handle the potential customers. The reason you started your business was to solve a problem. Yes, it was also to make a ton of money, but that’s the byproduct of solving the problem.

Before you reach capacity, you should reach out to peers in your market, and setup a referral network. Try to find a wide range of peers. If you reach your work limit, you’ll want to refer a prospective client to someone very similar to you. Other times you’ll be contacted by someone who needs help with an area of your field that you’re not as qualified for. Maybe you’re a great web designer, but you don’t know a lot about eCommerce sites. For a music teacher, maybe you specialize in rock, but your student is asking about jazz.

Just remember; this person is coming to you for help solving a problem. By referring them to someone else, you’re still helping. Although you didn’t get the payment, all they remember is that you helped them out. There’s a good chance that the next time they need help, they’ll ask you first. Eventually, you’ll be in a position to do the work yourself.

I’d like to hear your opinions. Do you have a referral network? Do you plan on starting one? Do you alter your advertising when your workload is full?

PS. If you’re a fellow bookkeeper, why not contact me so we can join forces?