Steps to Starting a Small Business – Market Research

Getting enough information on your target market of potential customers is vital to starting a business that will produce income. Making guesses on what the customer really wants will not bring you very far, so it’s important to do some digging and get the answers directly from them through market research which is an important steps to starting a small business.

Some of the following questions to ask in order to device effective strategies:

  • Who is going to buy your product or service?
  • What kind of people are they? (buyer, influencer or end user)
  • How big is the market? (Competitor’s annual sales would give you an estimate)
  • How will market trends going to affect your business?
  • Does your business has any unique selling point?
  • Is the need for your product or service currently not being met?
  • Is the market already saturated?

Why do it?

You will not be able to sell something or services that has no demand. Knowing what the market is looking for and so that you can present it in a new twist, drives the need for a market research. The advantage of small businesses is that they are close to their customer and can easily get information on their purchasing habits.

How to do it?

Most of the big companies spend huge amounts of money on elaborate surveys from renowned researchers to determine if their products or services will appeal to customers at a price they are willing to pay. But for small business owners on a tight budget, there are other means to collect the key data needed without having to spend a fortune.

3 ways to collect information:

  • Get business school students to collect data at the mall.
  • Look for financial data and statistics in local library.
  • Join trade association not only to access market research they have conducted but do the networking there as well.

Do I need any ongoing market research while running the business?

Yes, this is how you gather information to evolve and adapt to the changes in market trends.

3 types of methods:

  • Keep a close watch on what your competitor is doing.
  • Install point-of-sales software to track sales or services trend.
  • Put up customer suggestion box where they can write suggestions.

Every business needs to conduct market research, it is a crucial steps to starting a small business, and tight budgets are no excuse for omitting a research plan. By starting out with some easily accessible resources, you can begin to develop better marketing strategies that can position you for market growth.

Warning: Small Business Owners-Before You Advertise, Read This Simple Checklist

If you’re writing advertisements for your business follow these 23 principles to ensure you get maximum return for your advertising dollar.

These 23 advertising ‘rules’ are based on direct response advertising principles from books like ‘Tested Advertising Methods’ by John Caples and ‘Scientific Advertising’ by Claude Hopkins.

1. Have you clearly researched and defined your ideal target market?

2. Have you written your advertisement directed solely to your ‘ideal target market’?

3. Is the marketing piece being placed/sent/posted where your ideal target market will easily see it?

4. Have you calculated how many sales you need to make to make a profit on this advertisement?

5. Have you considered any other ways that you can reach your target market that may be more cost effective for you?

6. Have you made an offer that’s easy for your reader to understand, and irrisistable for them to refuse?

7. Does your headline ‘sing out’ your ‘ideal target market’ so that they know, that your advertisement is written especially for them?

8. Does your headline ‘grab’ your ideal target market’s attention and excite them?

9. Does your headline offer or describe to your target market a major benefit that’s important to them?

10. Have you written your advertisement so that your headline is approximately 5 sizes larger than the body copy font size?

11. Does the body copy of your advertisement naturally continue on from what the headline suggests/says?

12. Through out the body copy, have you continued on with the benefits suggested in your headline, and described more benefits to your target market of using/owning your product/service?

13. Have you focused your writing on what your product/service will do for your target market, rather than just mentioning how good your business is?

14. Have you used ‘sub-headings’ above some paragraphs to allow ‘skim readers’ to get the main thrust of your advertisement, just by reading the sub-headings?

15. If you have included a picture of a person, is the person (or people) positioned so that their shoulders are facing into the body of the advertisement?

16. Have you included a picture that shows the reader what the benefit(s) of buying and using your product/service will be?

17. Have you taken the ‘buying risk’ away from your ideal target market by letting people know that they are safe to buy from you by either including a guarantee and/or using testimonials?

18. Have you used specifics like 5, 7 and 11 in your copy, rather than using generalizations like large, limited or top quality?

19. Have specifically asked your ideal target market to call, buy, or in some way take action to contact you in a hurry?

20. Have you included your contact details on your advertisement so it’s clear and easy for readers to contact you, or take action effortlessly?

21. Have you communicated with your staff so that they know when, why and how the advertisement is being published?

22. Have you trained your staff so that they know how to handle incoming calls, e-mails and shoppers when they contact/visit your business?

23. Have you communicated with your staff on how they are to record the results of the advertisement so you can track whether it’s profitable or not?

The above 23 points are pretty comprehensive, and will help you make your advertisements comply with sound direct response advertising principles.

By following them, you can ensure you’ll be closer to creating profitable advertisements for your small business growth.

Top Ten SEO Tips For Small Businesses

Search engine optimisation is something that all business owners with a website need to be aware of. If you’ve got a site and want to drive relevant traffic to that site, you need to know what to do to help the search engines get a good understanding of your business, so they can rank it for the terms you feel are most suitable for visitors. It’s not about tricking the search engines, or trying to boost traffic numbers in general. You need to see an increase in relevant traffic to you site (10 relevant visitors are far better than 1000 non relevant visitors, who leave your site straight away), and Google wants to provide searchers with a list of high quality sites, relevant to their search query.

1. Research your keywords: Make sure that you know what people type into Google and the other search engines when looking for your products or services. Research into how competitive these phrases are – are there any phrases that are relevant, but aren’t quite so competitive? These are more likely to give you the results you want. Also think about plurals and synonyms.

2. Make sure each single page on your site has a unique title tag. If you’ve done your keyword research, you should also aim to use keyword/phrases in the title tag too.

3. Additionally, make sure that all the meta descriptions for each page are unique too. Since the search engines mostly show the title and description of a page in the search results, make sure your descriptions correlates to your title, includes keywords, and has some kind of call to action that persuades the searcher to click on your link rather than the result above or below you.

4. Using your keywords and phrases, look at the headers within your pages. Headers tags are like the headlines of a newspaper – your H1 header should contain your primary keyphrases, with any H2 headers containing your secondary phrases.

5. Look at your copy– does this contain keyphrases? Make sure you don’t keyword stuff your copy though – aim for about a 3% ratio of keywords to copy. The content of your site should be written with your visitors in mind first, SEO second, so make sure it still makes sense and adds value.

6. Analyse your website structure. Do you have a lot of deep pages, hidden within subfolder after subfolder? Aim to keep the architecture of your site nice and flat – you don’t want to make it difficult for search engines or visitors to find content. Try and keep everything within two clicks of the homepage.

7. Going back to content – how fresh is the content on your site? Google and the other search engines love new and unique content. So try and update your website on a regular basis. This could be through a blog, press releases, or new product pages. Just keep it fresh – no one likes anything stale!

8. Linking…. oh linking, everyone is always going on about the number links to your site…why? Because it’s important! Each link is like a vote of confidence in your site, so the more you have (from reputable, high quality sites), the better. Building the number of quality links to your site takes time. Register with industry directories, local directories, become active in social media, make the most of social bookmarking, create amazing relevant content that people will want to link to, create articles and post them out to article sites, comment in forums… there’s so many activities you can do to increase the number of links to your site. It’s an investment – in time and sometimes money, but it’s worth it.

9. Register with Google Webmaster and submit your xml sitemap. This is an xml file includes all the pages of your website in a way that makes it easy for Google to reference and index. Google Webmaster will also tell you if there are any errors with your site, what some popular keywords are surrounding your site, some of the links pointing to your site and more.

10. Register with Google Analytics and start using it on a regular basis to monitor your site. Google Analytics is a free piece of software that enables you to track all the activity on your site. It’s actually a bit scary the amount of information it can give you. But for a small business owner, or marketing professional, it’s an invaluable tool that can help you improve your website performance and growth.

This is just the tip of the SEO iceberg – there’s so much to SEO and it’s constantly changing and evolving. At the end of the day though, it’s all about creating a quality website, adding regular quality content and being active in the world wide web. It’s not rocket science, but it does take time.