Take Your Business On the Road
A fun and productive way to see the rest of your country while looking to make that first sale is to showcase your business in other locations. Now granted, this strategy is better suited for more established businesses, it's still a viable option for those just beginning as well. By going on the road you may find different pockets of culture that appreciate your offering more than in your immediate geographical region. It's also something companies like Warby Parker are experimenting with as a way to reach a completely new audience. The company's Class Trip tour had them going around the nation on a school bus bring their entire line of eyewear to the offline world.
(Image Source: what-the-font.blogspot.ca)
In fact, many great businesses were built on the road. It can be an enlightening experience and will open you up to many possibilities that you just can’t get staying put. You’ll create new business relationships and get brand evangelists that you would never find normally.
But First – You Have to Be Somewhat Social
A lot of magic that happens on the road are the small run-ins you have with individuals. It could be when you’re filling up for gas or pulling into a hotel - you never know who you are going to run into, and that’s exactly the point.
If you’re not the type of person to start conversations with strangers then this activity will be self-defeating. However, if this is right up your alley – then this adventure can be the start of small business empire.
Here are a few examples of successful businesses that started out of vehicles:
- Nike – Started out of the car of Phil Knight. A green Plymouth Valiant to be exact.
- Stussy – A lifestyle clothing brand that originated in Laguna Beach, CA. Like Nike, Stussy started out of car – just a decade later.
- Pangea Organics – They didn’t start out of a car, but a van rather. They sold soap and now have a strong skincare brand.
Make a List of Trade Shows and Community Events
If you have decided to go on the road, the next thing you need to do is make an itinerary of places and events to go to on your travels. Answer these questions first:
- How long can you be gone?
- How much budget do you have for your trip? Don't forget fuel costs.
Next, make a list of tradeshows, meet-ups and business networking mixers that are on your route. Be sure to email the organizers to see if there are any potential registration pitfalls that may keep you from attending.
If you live in the United States, you might want to visit these sites:
- localharvest.org - This website lists all the farmers markets across the United States.
- tsnn.com – Trade Show News Network is your one stop resource for everything trade shows. Not only do they cover the United States, they list shows that are held all over the world.
- meetup.com – We dedicated Chapter 31 to Meetup.com. Meetups are usually free to attend and are popular all over the world.
Selling in person? All you need is your iPad and Shopify's POS Software.
Deck Out Your Vehicle
While you’re on the road, you’re going to pass thousands if not hundreds of thousands of automobiles. You might as well turn your car in to a billboard for your business.
The example above is a bit extreme, but you get the point.(image credit: http://www.trendblast.com/city/san-francisco/mobileretailvan)
There are plenty of “auto wrapping” businesses available these days. Just Google the words “Vehicle Wrap” and chances are there are a few outlets in your city that provide the service. Here are some tips you should keep in mind before you wrap your vehicle with something overly wild and unreadable:
- Focus on your domain name – Consider only using your domain name and forget your business name. Cut out the http://www part as well. Just use: yourbusinesname.com. Everyone knows how to use the Internet these days.
- Don’t get too wild and decorative – True, it may attract more eyeballs, but those same eyeballs might get lost in a sea of crazy and incomprehensible artwork.
- Have a value proposition – If you’re going to include any other text on your vehicle, let it simply be your value proposition. What’s a short and memorable benefit of doing business with you?
The Traveling Checklist
Before you set out on your journey, there are some crucial things you must remember to bring to ensure success.
- Laptop with charger
- Mobile phone with charger (check about roaming charges)
- Business cards
- Pop-up tent
- Foldable chair
- Company banner (more than one can’t hurt)
- Medical insurance
- Basic medical kit
- Hand sanitizer
- Inventory (if you need to ship orders from the road)
- Portable printer
- Post-it notes and a pen
- A suit / dress clothes
- Dress shoes
- Breath mints
"If You Can Swing It":
- iPad or Tablet
- Extra credit card (for emergencies)
- Car power inverter (to charge electronics while driving)
- A good camera (for Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr)
- Wireless internet plan
And When You’re Finally On The Road…
Try to stick with at least half of your itinerary. If the trip doesn’t seem like it’s giving you much benefit at first, and you’re eager to get back to home base – realize that sometimes it’s the second half of the trip that makes it valuable.
But in the end you’ll have to make the call. That’s really what being a good business owner is about: being able to make good decisions.