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Marketing a New Business in 2024: One Person's Experiences

I have been in business in Frederick County, MD for 11 years, predominantly as the owner/operator of cell phone repair shop, CDC Cellular Repair ( It has been an incredible experience since day 1 and has taught me that you can never, ever, know everything about the technology of phones nor marketing a business.

Unfortunately, one absolute certainty is that few, if any, businesses are ever going to remain the same through the life of its operation. What works successfully for several years can quickly become unsuccessful as times change. To survive, you must adapt, or you will ultimately become a footnote in history. That's reality and something I work very hard to deal with every single day.

Perhaps the biggest adaptation at CDC has been the need to diversify offerings. Phones still break, but not like they used to and customer options for replacement are much different now than a decade ago. Fortunately, I've found a very useful adaptation to CDC's services though a sister entity, Francis' Keys. Using much of the skillset as well as additional training, I am now applying my services to the automobile locksmith industry, which is very much an in-demand service in 2024 and beyond.

The rise of Francis' Keys has exposed, however, a vastly different business climate in the post pandemic world and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to understand the difficulties of starting a business in these times. Simply put, it's way more expensive than it was a decade ago, the customer preferences have changed significantly, and understanding the economic realities of the area in which you conduct business is crucial to success. Francis' is proving to be very difficult to get up and running and I cannot emphasize further how important it is to plan for the unexpected.

Let me first mention economic realities of 2024. First, you MUST understand the economic drivers of your geographic location. No one region is the same as another; Detroit, for example, is known as "The Motor City" for its ties to the automobile manufacturing industry. New York is "The Financial Capital", and other cities and regions have their own unique identities. Frederick, MD is not exempt from any of this and it's vital that you understand what its identity really is. Frederick, like its surrounding counties, is predominantly a government town. Local, state, and federal agencies are the largest employers in the region, followed by government contractors. Beyond that, other industries have at best, a small piece of the action. This is a government region, plain and simple.

With that being a concrete reality, what do you have to know about running a business in this region? Quite a bit. First, pardon me for the blunt language, but if you are not into government-related issues, this region likely isn't the best environment for you. Hate to be so harsh, but that's just reality. If you look at the most lucrative businesses in the area, almost every one of them, no matter how big or small they are, have something going on with the government. Don't like that? Well, I'm sorry but that's just how it is. If you go to Michigan, you'll find similar with businesses supporting the automobile industry. That's just how it all works and there's no other way to describe it.

So, if you're planning to go into business, you must factor into your equation how your operation fits within the framework of the region, if it does at all. I can tell you with full transparency that CDC Cellular has not been involved in government contracting. How has that worked out for me so far? Not particularly well. I've survived, no question, but as far as high earnings go, it's never really happened. Relying on private customers in this region for your business livelihood is just not going to get you very far. You can survive, but that's about it. To really make sizeable earnings in this region, I'd have to go after government business, it's that simple. Same holds true for Francis' Keys and I'm re-evaluating my business approach at this time.

It is also crucial that you understand the economic realities of the local market when it comes to costs. A common area where people complain is in the cost of housing. Yes, it is astronomically expensive, but is it really? The reality is that it depends on who you are. If you're like me who relies solely on the private sector, it's completely unaffordable because the private sector operates on lower dollars. The public sector plays with much bigger money and perspectives are vastly different between people in the former vs the latter. So, the next time you see a $500K townhome and say it's too expensive, be careful. Watch how fast it sells, and the buyer is highly likely to be someone in the public sector. To them it's cheap because their incomes are at a whole different level than the private sector. Additionally, I recommend not having envy or anger about this. It's just economics and don't blame that home buyer. Adapt your strategy so you can compete in that environment. Those people owe you nothing.

You have to understand all of this and analyze if your business idea can generate revenues to keep up with this economy. Far too often it will not, and your business will struggle to survive. I've somehow survived to this point, but it has been very difficult, that much I can tell you. So do your homework and know before you go. If it's not viable, don't give up on your dream but make changes needed to succeed. If it means packing up and moving to another state? That's what you have to do. Life is not easy. If it means bidding on government contracts? You gotta do what you gotta do. Don't whine about it.

Now I want to turn to the actual marketing of a new business and how it's changed. Gone are the days of direct mail, telemarketing, door knocking and any of the old school methods. That may work with older clientele sometimes, but with the Millennial and GenZ generations, they will flat out slam the door in your face. Waste of time and resources doing that. The younger folks are completely different in their expectations and either you sink or swim. But what is it about them you need to know? Here is a list of 4 must-knows:

  1. Younger customers I find only conduct face to face communication with immediate family members and their inner circle of friends. Beyond that, they push everything to the digitalsphere.

  2. You have to reach them through social media advertising, texts, Snap Chat, and any of those mediums. That's their world and where they operate. Don't like it? Too bad. That's the way it is.

  3. All of the marketing mediums you need to use are rarely free and never low cost. All of this is quite expensive and puts further strain on your profitability.

  4. In the post -pandemic environment, people in general have adapted to the Amazon way of living. They are less open to going out to a business; they are more and more in favor of home delivery and someone coming to them. You must analyze whether or not your business can function in that environment. Not too many can unfortunately.

All of these factors are reality in today's world. You have no choice but to adapt to it, otherwise you will not be very successful. No, it's not pleasant, but the I'm a believer that as soon as you accept these realities, the sooner you can have the success you're looking for. Like I said earlier, I hate to be blunt, but that's just how it goes nowadays.

A final aspect that I want to pass along to you is caution. Considering that business is largely online now, you have to be aware of the dangers that come with it. There's very little control over people's online behavior and identifying people can be difficult. Trolling and harassment is a serious problem nowadays and you will have problems with people spamming your social media with other businesses, rude comments, slander, libel, and other nastiness. Be aware of this and don't hesitate to lock down your comment sections, as well as other defensive measures needed to protect your brand and image. People can be ruthless and act very foolishly online. Do not take anything for granted.

Thank you for taking time to read through this and I hope you found it useful. I am not trying to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams, but I am encouraging you to understand the realities of the present times. Understanding the region you operate in, marketing correctly, and protecting your brand is an absolute must if you're going to have any chance of success. Always understand that times and lifestyles change, and you are best served adapting to these trends.

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