Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious ways to build a better business.

Study with the best. Writers need to be readers; speakers need to be students. You get to pick your own faculty. Whatever your field is, find people who are ahead of you and doing well. Then pay close attention. Even without analyzing what and how they do what they do, you’ll be exposing yourself to great role models.

Act your age. If you’re a beginner, do beginning things. Sounds logical, I know, but I see lots of upstarts getting in trouble by trying to act as if they’ve been around for decades. Not acting your age is as unattractive (and dangerous) as an elderly woman dressing like her granddaughter.

It’s important to take inventory regularly and move up as your business grows up. There are many ways to assess the age of your business besides profitability. Consider things like higher confidence levels, potential collaborations and new profit centers, too.

Save those testimonials. When someone sends you a note or e-mail raving about your services, save it. You can use these raves in your marketing, if permission is obtained. Even verbal kudos can be permanent if you write them down—or ask the person giving them to send you a written version.

Testimonials also serve another purpose. On the days when resistance and self-doubt rear their ugly heads, having a file full of kind words can restore your sanity quickly.

Let Craigslist help build your business. An entrepreneur surprised me when he said he’d advertised—with great results—on this free Website to find a CFO for his company.

Spend a little time on Craigslist and see what it can offer your business. While lots of people use it to buy and sell used goods, there are also opportunities to promote seminars and/or services such as translating, music lessons and coaching. You never know who might be looking for what you have to offer.

Conduct a poll. Hardly a day passes when I don’t see the results of a poll on the Internet or cable news channels. The media loves them and you can take advantage of this fact by conducting one of your own.

Garage Sale Fever author John Schroeder polled 100 garage sale sellers, asking them a few simple questions about their reasons for holding a sale, their own garage sale shopping habits and plans for the money they earned. He compiled the results, sent it out as a press release and found himself quoted almost instantly.

There are an endless number of possibilities for polling people and sharing the results.

Get clear about your ideal customer. Too many newcomers are vague about this and think their ideal customer is anyone willing to spend money with them. Not so. The more you know about the people you want to reach, the more ideas you’ll get about how to connect.

Start by asking yourself questions such as:

  • Do they share a common occupation?
  • Are they living in a particular area?
  • Do they have a life situation such as being new parents or aspiring
    authors that you can identify?
  • What do they read? Where do they hang out online? Offline?
  • Are they a niche within a niche (i.e. not just life coaches, but beginning coaches wanting to focus on wellness)?
  • What kind of personal qualities does your customer exhibit?
  • What problem do they have that I know how to solve?

As Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne discovered, “A strong imagination begets opportunity.” That’s precisely what using these six easy tools will beget for your business if you put your own imagination to work.