Tips For Small Business – The Dos and Don’ts

In today’s tough economy with layoffs and slow economic growth, many people are looking to start their own small businesses. Over 600,000 new businesses were started last year. An alarming number of these businesses fail within the first year. The main reason: lack of money. Another significant reason: poor advertising and marketing. There are those lucky few companies that develop a great product or idea and can manage great success without a lot of advertising. But for the rest of them, they have to do significant marketing. In my experience I’ve seen some good ideas go to waste due to poor advertising and marketing efforts. Small businesses don’t need to suffer as much as popular belief would tell you. You could actually be successful in a short amount of time if you follow some steps and learn from other’s mistakes.

Here are some common mistakes that I have seen:

Inconsistent branding. I have seen new companies suffer from major identity crisis by not having a consistent brand. No logo and different names everywhere. You don’t have to be Starbucks to have a solid brand. In this one case, their web page, Facebook page, and Twitter account all had different company names and no logo. It was very difficult to establish what the actual name of the company was. In fact, the owner’s business card had a @yahoo email address. Nothing says “I’m a small unestablished business” like a freemail address on your card. His DBA even had a different name on it. It would be the same as introducing yourself to every person you meet with a different name. Establish the brand and be consistent with it, everywhere. Get help from a professional graphic designer to help you design and build a logo and identity. Just because you own a copy of Microsoft Publisher does not mean you’re a graphic designer. Let a professional do it. They know what a good logo and identity can do.

Another one, no marketing at all. Just simply relying on the premise of “build it and they will come” doesn’t work. Word-of-mouth advertising can only work so well. Not to be confused with Social Networking word-of-mouth, which we’ll talk about in a minute. I have seen a company with no web site and virtually no web presence at all and relied primarily on referrals. They couldn’t understand why their growth was so stagnant. Today’s small businesses have to market in the space where their customers reside, which for most businesses is on the internet. The Yellow Pages are all but dead. People these days go to the internet first to look for business and product information. That’s why the large companies are there! Sites such as Yelp are a great place to find information about local businesses. Even despite their recent legal issues, there is still some great information on their site. You have to get your word out to the masses. Build your presence. Build it where your customers reside. Get a good web site. Work on your search engine optimization so you come up high in search results. As mentioned above, get a good graphic designer involved.

Some best approaches:

Just because you’re small, doesn’t mean you have to act and think small. Developing a consistent brand, as discussed above, is not just for big companies. Your brand is your identity. It’s who you are. Make a strong statement. Be aggressive with your marketing. Get involved in social networking. It’s not just for big companies. Many small companies have shown great success with Facebook and Twitter strategies. A Los Angeles-based bakery called Kiss My Bundt is a great success story using social media to build their business. Over 75% of internet users are involved in some form of social media. Once again, your audience is there. According to a recent study conducted by ROI Research, over 33% of Twitter users talk about a brand at least once a week. 32% give recommendations and 30% seek advice or recommendations. With over 100 million users on Twitter, that’s a lot of brand talk. That’s real word-of-mouth advertising and that’s just on Twitter. Facebook is now the #1 visited website on the internet. With close to half a billion users, imagine how much talk about brands there is on Facebook. Build a Facebook fan page (or Like page as some like to call them) and engage yourself with your audience. Make sure your customers are talking about you, but obviously saying good things. One of the great things about social media is it allows you to listen in to your customers comments and engage with them and respond to the negative comments as they happen.

Spread your message as far as you can. Take advantage of free press releases and free blog posting sites. Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out). You never know what kind of exposure you can get from one of the reporters.

Some of the worst approaches

See Inconsistent branding example mentioned above. When the owner of this business was calling on new prospects, many of which were old contacts he had, he wasn’t even using the company name. He was introducing the company with his name because even he had no idea what his brand was and thought his name had more weight than his company.

Other suggestions to build your business

Network as much as possible. Attend local networking events. Check meetup.com for events in your area. Tell everyone you know that you’ve started a business and ask for referrals. Maybe even offer a referral fee or reward program for referrals. Customer loyalty programs are great way to encourage repeat business. Social network site Foursquare is making this easy. Expose your business as much as possible. Be thorough. Get everything in place before you launch, for example your website, your business plan, and your marketing strategy. Be prepared to hit the ground running and think big! Think and act like a bigger company would. That includes heavy exposure and marketing. A company with the best product in the world will fail if no one knows it’s there. Write blogs that demonstrate you’re an expert in your industry. Write press releases to tell the world you’re there. You never know where it might get picked up. Then, follow through on what you promise. Deliver what is expected and more. Under promise and over deliver. Run you business with honesty and integrity. This one I can’t stress enough. Especially in the beginning, dishonest practices will absolutely kill your business. Negative words will spread faster than positive words and your business will be dead before it can get started. Cheaters never prosper!

So Mr. and Mrs. Small Business Owner, don’t be afraid to make that dream of being a business owner a reality. But please do it right! Don’t be a negative statistic. Market yourself correctly! Build a solid and consistent brand. Get involved in social media. Encourage your customers to tell others about how great you are. Spread your word. If you don’t know how to do it, seek out workshops, seminars, or even consultants. Use whatever resources you can to help you succeed.

Quick Tips For Growing Your Small Business

Most small businesses start with the grand ambition of quickly becoming a medium, then a big business. Here are some quick tips for setting your business up for growth.

1. Increase Your Customer Numbers

Customers are those people who buy from you at least once. Your job is to find more customers who will buy from you. There are a number of ways to do this, however, if you want to do it fast, you need to identify who your customers are, where they congregate in great numbers, and direct your sales activities towards those ‘places’ where your prospective clients gather.

2. Develop a Marketing Plan

Undertake market research to determine the context of the market you are in and use this, and primary information gathered from your clients, to help you develop an appropriate marketing plan for your business, products and services. A well thought out plan is much likely to be more cohesive and more successful, while a hit and miss approach is likely to be more miss and less hit.

3. Sell More Stuff

Use your existing customer database to sell more stuff. If your customer has already bought a product from you, try to sell your other products and services to them. It is not only easier, it is cheaper too. Research has shown that it can be up to five times cheaper than the cost of finding new customers. You could even ask your customers for referrals.

4. Add More Value

Research has also shown that customers buy based on perceived value and not on price. So look at ways to increase the value of your products or services. A quick way to find out what kind of value you should be offering is to ask your customers. Calling them or asking them to complete a survey about your products and services will help you to find out what your customers are wanting, demanding or wishing for. This information can help you to add value, improve or develop products to keep your customers happy and buying more.

5. Build More Capacity

Improve your customer service processes by making them cheaper, faster, easier, etc. Train your staff to be more competent, learn new skills and improve the customer experience. The more work you put the development of your business, the better able it will be to meet ever-changing demands of your customers and increase it’s ability to adapt to the prevailing business environment.

6. Extend Your Sales Opportunities

Look for ways to generate sales opportunities. This could be through co-operative marketing, new lead generation ideas, the addition of new products and services or greater networking, just to mention a few ideas.

This is just a few ideas to put your small business on the path to growth. With a bit of research, a bit of planning and a lot of focussed activity your small business can become a medium business in no time at all.

What Is Preventing Growth for Small Businesses?

As a small business owner or manager you will be faced with a great number of things to do to grow your business! It is likely that you will neglect some while focusing on others that perhaps you may be more comfortable with performing.

Did you know that more often it is the things that you may not be doing that will have a much greater impact on your business growth than those that you do? What are these? – read on!

  • Understanding your Customer Market
  • Adequate Planning
  • Managing Cash Flow
  • Operating a Marketing and Sales Development Process
  • Targeted Marketing Campaigns and Programs

Understanding your Customer Market

Every business must make a priority effort to truly understand their customers and what drives them to purchase your products or services. Without an ‘intimate’ understanding of your target customers you will be undermining ALL your efforts to grow your business.

Dispose of any shot-gun approaches you may have to marketing and advertising and use your smarts to achieve Better Marketing Results. Get started by developing your own ideal customer profile.

Make sure your ideal customer profile includes a description of the attributes of your target customers and the buying criteria that your ideal customer will use in selecting your product or service. This is a very crucial point, it is not your criteria that you consider important – it is what your potential customers considers important.

Find out what is involved in their buying cycle, what risks if any are perceived in their buying cycle and where your potential customers go to research and engage within their buying cycle.

Adequate Planning

“Businesses that fails to plan, plans to fail” It is a simple truth – you need to know where you are going to get there!

Marketing planning is crucial for small business owners and managers to maximise their company’s ability to succeed in the marketplace. The marketing plan does not have to be a large voluminous document that gathers dusk after it was developed. Be practical and prepare a condensed version of between two to three pages that you can frequently refer to in a highly visible location within your work area. This way your marketing document becomes a useful plan and guide to growing your business.

Marketing planning has several key benefits for your business:

  • Gives real focus that drives ownership and motivation to achieve success
  • It provides a firm foundation to evaluate priorities
  • It defines your market and matches the communications needed for your prospective customers
  • It is a definition of your business success

Managing Cash Flow

Many a small business owner will neglect this critical aspect of managing their cash flow. Small businesses that do not have positive cash flows will encounter significant challenges with insufficient funds to pay creditors severely limiting their business growth potential. Lack of cash flow management in small business is evident in “feast and famine” situations.

You must make cash flow planning a central element of your management priorities. As a business owner you must be able to identify your cash flow status on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis in order to make sound decisions for your business. Keeping your finances in order and your cash flow healthy is essential to growing your business.

Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Successful business owners always maintain a firm grasp on their cash flow and are able to describe and predict their cash flow situation for the week, month and year.

Operating a Marketing and Sales Development Process

Better marketing results are qualified potential customers or sales leads for your business. Sales development takes those qualified leads and works to convert them into paying customers.

Unfortunately, many small businesses do not have a structured process or procedure to manage these sales leads into customers. There is nothing more painful for an interested customer to be ignored because of a lack of prompt and professional follow through. All ‘hot’ prospects need your immediate attention before they grow ‘cold’ or purchase from your competitors. It is absolutely essential to formulate a process for follow-up and conversion of your sales leads into customers. For example, you could set-up a defined day of the week for all your sales development activities. For those prospects that are not yet ready to buy you must make them become part of your on-going nurturing engagement marketing until they are ready to buy.

Unlike traditional approaches to marketing where you specifically target prospects with direct response offers, engagement marketing allows your audience and potential customers to interact with you and shape how they would like to communicate with you.

Targeted Marketing Campaigns and Programs

In today’s business environment the customer will control when and how they would like to receive your marketing messages. Your marketing message must be highly relevant and compelling for your target audience. Your message must resonate with the ‘conversation’ that is happening in the minds of your potential customers.

Marketing is business development and must take place for your business to grow! Integrated marketing that makes use of the Internet with your web presence and social media is the approach that small business must implement for your marketing campaigns and programs.

Essentially, an integrated multimedia campaign allows a one to one personalised engagement with the recipient. It has the ability for the recipient to immediately accept the offer or secure additional information with readily available technology such as their mobile phone or access to the Internet.

If any of these issues are holding back on your business growth you must immediately take the appropriate action to remedy your situation. There are many sources of external expert assistance in the form of business consultancy firms like as PMZ Marketing that will be able to assist you overcome these issues.

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