FORTUNE Small Business:

Building to a million-dollar business

Ask FSB's experts help a real-estate advertising company looking to take itself to the next level.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I own a very small real-estate advertising company that provides services online to the military market. For several years I've researched and run the numbers and the answer I keep getting is: there is a need and little competition. I could be a $1 million company. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get the exposure! What can I do that's not going to cost me tens of thousands of dollars?

- Richard, Off-BaseHousing.com, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Dear Richard: Growing a business can be challenging, so you need to have a strategy for refining your message and getting the word out.

You are halfway there because you have already clearly identified your target market, says Robert Hale, CEO of Robert Hale & Associates, a San Diego, Calif., strategic marketing consulting firm. Plus, you have a good niche: the high turnover in military housing should help your business.

However, traffic will not significantly increase until your market clearly understands what you offer, knows your services are credible, and becomes aware of the site.

Start by clearly laying out the value you provide to each sector of your target audience, including members of the military, realtors, property managers and homebuilders.

This section should be a prominent part of the website, preferably on the home page, Hale says.

For example, you should communicate to the military consumer that your site is comprehensive and easy to use, and that it's a one-stop shop for all their housing needs. You might also partner with local realtors to offer special discounts to members of the military.

For realtors, you want to stress that the military can be a consistent source of buyers and renters in a tough real estate market.

Once your message is refined and your website updated, you should focus on increasing awareness of your services.

Here you need to prioritize: figure out which military bases represent the largest opportunities, and advertise your services in local military papers on the base.

This is a relatively inexpensive option, Hale says. Also look into linking with military-related websites and buying ads in publications frequented by military families. Don't forget the free publications, such as the local penny saver. Finally, consider getting exposure by participating in blogs targeted to military personnel, Hale says.  To top of page

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