Small Business Growth Through Market Research

You need to know numbers. Small business owners are often very excited about their product and how they can help the market. But, does the market want or need your product? You need to know the numbers behind that question. Performing market research is a powerful driver for small business growth.

First of all, let me explain what market research is. This is the process of going to your target market and asking questions, interviewing, reading and researching to gain knowledge about what they want and what they are willing to pay for. This data should be in numeric form so that you can more effectively make decisions from it. 

Let me provide a simple scenario that supports the idea of collecting number centric information. Suppose that you are selling a revolutionary product that will change the way that people make french-fries all across the world. Your new french-fry-omatic allows people to specify the size and shape of their fries when they are ordering them. 

If you go into the marketplace and ask if people are interested in this, they might say that, yes, they are excited about this product and you might even find hundreds of potential customers at restaurant trade shows who want to buy these machines right now and put them in their restaurants. You could go to the bank and other business stakeholders and show them all of your survey forms where restaurant owners have shown how excited they were for this idea. 

However, this is not the information that you need. The banker will ask you what the machine costs to produce and how much you plan to sell it for. Suppose that it costs $500 to make and people will only buy it for $300. You will go bankrupt selling a product that everybody is ‘excited’ to buy. In this example the market research performed was inadequate. You never asked what people were willing to pay for this machine. Imagine if your survey forms indicated the restaurant owners would pay $1000 for this machine. The bank would feel very confident in giving you a loan to build your machines. Focus on the information that is most valuable to you and the successful growth of your business.

Conducting well-through-out and effective market research provides you a powerful tool to help you grow your small business. Performing focused market research is a great way to gain more clients, increase sales and grow your small business. 

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.

Online Marketing for Small Business Websites in 2012

Well, 2011 is over and 2012 is here. And unless you believe in the Mayan prediction that the world will end later this year, as a small business owner you are probably going over your sales and marketing strategy for the coming year, making sure you have covered all of the bases and beginning to implement it in full force. All signs point to virtual double-digit growth in online sales volume in 2012, so hopefully your small business has online marketing as a significant part of your overall strategy. Below are a couple of areas that all small businesses should be focusing in on to maximize their online revenue stream.

Mobile Sales

Mobile sales are any sales where the actual purchase derives directly from a cellphone, smart phone or tablet device. Sales from mobile devices are a boon to small businesses because they break down the traditional geographic barriers and increase their potential customer base. They are also important because in today’s world, where decisions are made on the go and consumers are constantly being bombarded by additional input, small business owners need to capture sales at the time when the customer is ready to buy. If they don’t, life will intervene and delay that purchasing action or worse, drive it toward your competitors.

Estimates predict that mobile sales will account for a whopping $11.6 billion dollars in revenue in 2012. Are you positioned to get your piece of that pie? Taking advantage of mobile sales means using all of the tools at your disposal to convince customers to buy and then giving them the power to act on that decision immediately. It means designing your website from A to Z for useability and readability on smart phones and tablets. It means choosing typography that is attractive and readable on smaller screens as well as large home computer monitors. It means having an overall website design that is fluid… one that looks and works great on any screen no matter what the size. It means having navigation that works just as easily with thumbs and forefingers as it does with a mouse. It also means taking advantage of the power of Social Media to present your company, brand and products in a timely and effective way.

Social Media

It should be no surprise that the rise of Social Media Marketing and Mobile sales are closely related. Last year, Facebook estimated that 350 million of its 800 million users (40%) accessed the site via mobile devices. More and more consumers are using Social Media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to research different products and make buying decisions. More importantly, Social Media provides THE SINGLE BEST opportunity to engage with your customers and potential customers on a regular basis. Social Media networks are available 24 hours a day, meaning that you can present marketing to your potential customers 24 hours a day. Just as important is the opportunity to increase your brand awareness, and build and reinforce your relationships with your customers. Offering discounts, coupons and other promotions to people that visit your Facebook business page on a regular basis is a great way to get people coming back over and over again. Is your business on Google+ yet? Don’t discount the potential power of this relatively new social network. Many are speculating that companies who utilize the new platform will automatically do better in Google’s search engine rankings, regardless of how many people actually visit the page!

Replicate the Retail Experience

I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities for small businesses to capitalize on the mobile and social marketing trends of 2012. While many customers will continue to shop online for the sake of convenience (among other reasons), they still want the responsiveness and service available from taking to a live person. The traditional customer service vehicle of a small business online presence has always been email or the website form. However, there are a variety of live chat options available that can greatly improve a small business’s response time for customers, which will lead to greater sales now and better customer retention in the future. Given the relatively small cost of some of these options (some are even FREE), the Return on Investment is phenomenal. Any time you can give the customer what they want, when they want it, you are putting yourself in a great position to succeed! Finding ways, like implementing a Live Chat system for both and pre- and post-sales situations is just one way to provide the best possible customer experience.

2012 – Great Promise for Small Businesses

Those small businesses that learn how to effectively extend their traditional brick and mortar presence into the online marketplace will enjoy the greatest success in 2012. A seamless integration of these strategies will produce more customers, greater customer retention, and open up even more opportunities through word of mouth, links back to your website and more followers on your social marketing accounts.