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Starting A Small Business Part 1

Okanagan Valley Marketing - British Columbia

Thinking of starting a small business? Great! make sure you know what to expect. (Image Source photospin.com © 2001)

Small Business On The Move.

With the changing of the economy, we are seeing more professionals seeking to be their own boss. While some seek entrepreneurial freedom off of a new idea or innovation, many seek to begin a business within the industries they are most familiar with. It can be a difficult road to pursue, yet extraordinarily rewarding.

Success and failure often seem to balanced precariously on a knives edge at times. Many factors come into play, some within our power – many outside of it. The fact is that no sure-fire way to succeed exists, and beginning a business will always represent a risk.

That said, there are certain means and methods one can take to increase the odds. Understanding some of the rules, and knowing the tools that exist can help reduce the headaches, and the failures.

Below we will dive into the first of a two part series examining tips and resources for start-ups.

Make A Plan.

1. Fulfillment.

First, decide what business type makes the most practical sense, given your temperament, abilities, background and passions, for you to pursue. While many start-ups begin as a result of a passion for a specific business, others begin due to a desire for freedom. It is important to truly contemplate what it is you want to do.

Much of small businesses long term success is determined by the level of fulfillment it gives the owner.

2. Finances – Breaking Even?

Create a budget vs start-up costs analysis and be honest! If you will not be breaking even immediately, how long? Determine your long term plan. How long can you survive without making the necessary sales? Remember that it may take a while to generate profit and you need to be able to sustain not only your business, but yourself, your family etc.

3. Finance – Sales & Profits.

Simple, but easy to miss. Making sales is great, but making profits is better. Determine within your plan, how long it may be before you not only break even, but generate increased cash flow.

4. Goals – Make Them.

Set three or four key goals for your business, in relation to your costs, budget and sales plan. Keep them simple, keep them achievable but keep them relevant.

  • What promotional materials need to be in place before you open your doors?
  • By what date do you intend on making x number of dollars?
  • How many customers do you intend to have contacted within your first month?

5. Business Plan.

Okanagan Small Business Marketing and Business Plans

Devising a proper and well laid out business plan at the start, will save loads of work later on.

Write a business plan – many resources exist online and at career institutes to assist you. Include your budget vs cost comparison, your profit forecast or cash-flow analysis and the goals you have set.

6. Search Out Business Financing Resources.

There are people who will finance your business. Government grants, financial institutions…Grandma.

Ok maybe not Grandma, but a quick search can turn up some surprising cash oriented resources that can make or break you efforts early on.

7. A Marketing Plan.

  • How will your promote you business in the beginning?
  • What type of materials will you use?
  • Who will you target?
  • What message will you target with?
  • How does this fit into your budget?
  • What will give your business the most bang for your buck?
  • What is the timeline for your business cards? your website? your vehicle decals? etc etc.

Decide On A Legal Structure For Your Business.

8. Consider The Various Forms Of Business Structures.

Explore the pros and cons. Here are a few of the ownership types you will come across:

  • Sole proprietorship (single owner)
  • Partnership (multiple owners)
  • Co-operative
  • Corporation

9. Key Factors That Affect Business Structures:

  • What is the simplest business format for your industry?
  • Does this structure fit for future needs?
  • How many owners will be involved?
  • What type of start-up capital will you need?
  • What are the personal pros and cons regarding liability and limited liability?
  • Do you stand to gain from selling stock?
  • How should your business be taxed?

10. Discuss Your Business Structure with a Lawyer.

Answer the necessary questions for yourself first. Devise a business plan and ensure you have done adequate research to reduce any legal consulting time needed. There are numerous resources available for this, search online or check with local career centre. Once you have done what leg work you can, consider discussing your plans with a lawyer.

We explore the pro’s and cons related to the business structure options in depth in our posting on Canadian Business Structures

Transition Marketing Services Okanagan Small Business Solutions

Make a list of potential names then check the availability.

Name Your Business.

11. When Naming Your Business Consider:

  • What service or industry are you in?
  • Does your name make sense for this industry?
  • What are some of your competitors names?
  • What will grab attention?
  • Is the name similar to others out there? It may impact availability, and your ranking in phones books and even search engines.
  • What will work with slogans, marketing and promotions?

Consider names that make use of standard industry terms, of your geography and your brand promise, also consider creativity and fun.

12. Are Your Considered Names Available?

The name may be awesome, but it may also be taken. Business name availability will depend on a number of variables:

  • The industry: An industrial plastics business will have less existing businesses then a hipster coffee shop.
  • The location: Including location terms like “Western Canadian, British Columbia, Okanagan” etc. can reduce availability – so double check.

You need to also consider where you will be doing business. Verify all the key areas for availability including:

  • Online: Check to see if your business name is available as a website domain. (Hint: You can try purchasing the domain rights from the owner, however that can be expensive – if it is already taken, consider a minor deviation to the name).
  • Local Community: Verify with the local authorities to see if your proposed name has been taken. It may be used by a genuine business, or even a fictitious one. Either way if it is taken, it is taken. (Hint: Here again you may be able to purchase the rights, or may want to consider a minor deviation to the name – Example: Spelling etc).
  • Provincially & Federally: Run a trademark search on the considered names on your list. Keep in mind that using a name that is trademarked elsewhere could simply confuse the customer.

13. Choose A Name.

Use the above tips to slowly eliminate names from your list. Choose one of the remaining that fits well with your business, desired image and personal preference.

14. Register The Name.

Register your name locally and as a domain etc. Doing so will eliminate any messy legal issues that may arise in the future from others attempting to use the same name. If needs be register it federally or as a trademark as well (this may be unnecessary for start-ups).

That sums up the first of our two part series. We will finish up next week by looking at Business Locations, Permits, Insurance and more! Exciting stuff so stay tuned!

Transition Marketing Services - Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

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TMS 2012 ROCK THE SMALL BIZ PROMOTION!

okanagan-transition-marketing-small-business-promotion

We love small business…truly…madly…deeply.

We Love Small Business!

Some say it, we show it. Actions speak louder than words after all. Small Business is full of challenges, and not a lot of us have much in the budget (or a budget at all!). We get it! It is a challenge, one that is more easily overcome when we work together. Therefore we are giving one very lucky small business, something extra special, check it!

Rock The Small Biz Promotion:

Are you a Small Business owner or representative? Do you live in the Okanagan Valley in sunny British Columbia? Do you like wicked-awesome-free-stuff? Transition Marketing Services is offering the chance for one Okanagan, BC Small Business to win a free CUSTOMIZED website courtesy of our design team. The free website comes with free registration and one year’s free hosting courtesy of Raptor Integration. Get that? So that is a free CUSTOMIZED website at your disposal for a year. Interested? Here are the details:

Contest Rules:

Eligibility:

Any small business owner (or representative acting on behalf of the business within an ocial capacity), whose business is located in Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong, Vernon or any surrounding community within 100 km radius.

Entry:

Entries will be accepted beginning July 12, 2012 and will run until August 30, 2012.

  1. “Like” Transition Marketing on Facebook (www.facebook.com/transitionmarketing)
  2. Message our admin with the following info: Contact name. Business name. Telephone number. Email address. Business address.
  3. Your business will then be entered. Contest ends Monday, August 30. A name will be drawn August 31. Winner will be notified directly by Transition Marketing.

Prize Details:

Prize worth is estimated at $1200.00 CDN. A custom website, consisting of a maximum of ve pages, will be built by Transition Marketing. Note that any specific logo, artwork, or images (such as product photos) must be provided to Transition Marketing upon request for website completion. Domain registration and one years hosting will be provided by RAPTOR INTEGRATION (annual renewal aftera one year period will be the responsibility of the winner).

Legal Disclaimers:

Transition Marketing Legal Disclaimer: Any and all information provided to Transition Marketing for the purpose of this contest is condential. No information passed directly to the Transition Marketing Page admin, will be disclosed, sold, or provided to any parties whatsoever. Entrants must demonstrate ownership (or representation) of actual business to be considered. Transition Marketing holds the right to refuse contest entry, communications, prizes and associated materials, at their judgement to any business involved (or perceived to be involved) in any illegal or questionable activities. Website will be built to the best of the customers specications. Website will be considered completed upon customer approval or upon completion of 16 billable hours of design time.

Facebook Legal Disclaimer:

By entering this contest, via direct message to the Transition Marketing Services Page admin, the entrant releases Facebook, from any and all legal implications. Entrant acknowledges that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Entrant understands that any and all information being provided is specically to Transition Marketing for contest puposes. It is not and not will not be disclosed to or by Facebook. Entrant absolves Facebook of any legal repercussions whatsoever.

Visit Us Directly Right Here To Enter.

small-business-marketing-transition-okanagan

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

How A Small Local Wine Shop Thrives – Oenology At Its Best

 

20120520-114843.jpg In our neck of the woods tourism is a big deal. If you have never been to the sunny Okanagan, we highly recommend it! Gorgeous scenery, lakes, mountains, and plenty of things to see and do. Whether you take a steam train from Spirit Square in Armstrong, carve the powder at Silverstar in Vernon, do the Wine Tours in Kelowna, take a Houseboat in Salmon Arm, or tube the amazing Shuswap river in Enderby – there is plenty to keep you busy. There are a number of well known and established brands with manufacturing facilities here. Kohler, Maax, Harbourcraft, Bigfoot, Sunripe & Okanagan Springs to name a few. The larger guys not withstanding, the Okanagan has a thriving small business community.The local small business owners characterize everything it takes to succeed. Their passion, love for what they do, creativity and hard hard work makes them stand out from among their peers.

20120520-114534.jpgRecently I was chatting with a local business woman about her venture. She owns and operates a small shop in Enderby that allows customers to develop their own wine. Not a new idea by any stretch, and in what is known as BC wine country, it makes for a curious choice – but it is her passion. And she is succeeding. Enderby, if you did not know, has a population of about 3200 people, and while the city (yes it is a city) knows how to have a good time, they are not the reason for the success. Enderby is snuggled in between the large communities of Salmon Arm and Vernon, BC, with a combined population of around 60,000 to 70,000. Yet both of these communities have their own set of Wine shops. The success of this little out of the way shop is found in their savvy knowledge of their Target. The know to whom they need to Market. Enderby is a hub through which many tourists, specifically those from the Province of Alberta, pass. There is a massive number of Albertan tourists coming through Enderby on their way to Mable Lake. Many of these tourists have summer homes or are visiting with friends who do. They are staying for several days at a time and they are here to relax, a little boating, some sun bathing…a nice bottle of wine… These tourists are the key. The lions share of this wonderful little shops business, comes from our friends to the east. They pass right by the shop, and are willing to make the short commute back into town to stock up. Knowing who your business is relevant to, and maximizing that by developing the right campaign, can make the difference between success and failure. So how about it, have you effectively determined your market targets yet? Maybe sit down and do a little homework and enjoy a nice bottle of wine, I know a great little shop…

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

The Delicate Art Of Engaging Customers

Branding is all powerful, in an ever changing world the ability to brand is hinging more and more on the ability to engage customers. Social Media is one primary means of doing this, but what do you do when a customer engages you with tough questions or questionable attitude?

FIRST: The Foreshadowing.

My wife and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day Sunday this past weekend. I muddled through making her breakfast, we attempted a hike up Rose Swanson Mountain here in Armstrong and more or less enjoyed the bright Okanagan sunshine. Nearing the end of the day we were feeling relaxed and more than a little lethargic. The thing with Armstrong is that it is tiny and tiny towns often lack many of the amenities of big cities – including family restaurants open past five o’clock. There are a few nice pubs, but they frown on bringing in an 18 month old so we decided we would simply order some take-out and eat on the patio at home. We placed our order at the local pub and then went to the park to chill until it was ready. I ordered the biggest sloppiest burger available, while my wife settled on the Greek Wrap (carefully described in the menu as being loaded with Greek vegetables). When we got our food home, we discovered that, aside from the normal tomato, lettuce and black olives, the “Greek” wrap was made up of shredded carrots, radishes and purple cabbage. We are not culinary snobs by any stretch, but we were a little dumbfounded by their definition of “Greek” Vegetables. A quick search of vegetable origins found the following information:

  • Radishes – Originate in China.
  • Carrots – Originate in Afhganistan (along with Parsnips).
  • Cabbage – Originate in either Sweden & Poland (or both).

Now yes, I get that the Greeks we a singular golden culture, and that their empire did indeed stretch across europe under the reign of Alexander the Great. I was not, however, aware that carrots and radishes were considered “Greek”. I laughed a little as I thought of a couple of quips I could post to their Facebook page (if they had a Facebook page). That lead me to think about how they might respond, which in turn lead me to think about how I would respond if I were them. One thing lead to another and now we have this blog.

Second: The Crux – Customer Engagement

Actual customer engagement tests your brand promises.

Customer Service, for many businesses, is the front line for brand image. It is where Brand promises are put to the test and in many cases it is the first “real” engagement that customers are going to have with any business brand. This can be where many large businesses lose out, but where small business can excel. The larger the company, the more people represent it and the more difficult it can be to maintain a consistent Brand message. Disconnects can occur between employees of the same department (IE Customer Service Reps answering differently to the same question) They can also occur between departments (IE Sales making promised that After Sales cannot deliver on). Larger companies tend to source out their service departments. As such there is less of a personal stake in the response and care offered. The service reps are often underpaid, understaffed, under trained and under the gun to respond according to pre-scripted operating procedures. Lack of knowledge and lack of flexibility in your service department is a big problem. Answers need to be quick, thorough and above all RELEVANT. When I call in I do not want to hold for twenty minutes listening to commercials promoting your outstanding service – that makes me bitter and sarcastic. I do not want to speak to a rep who knows less about the product than I do and I want to be able to understand what the rep is saying. Lastly I do not need a blanket response, or corporate run-around… I want an answer to my problem, my SPECIFIC problem. If you want to build a strong brand, build a strong service department. This is where small business has some advantages – there is a personal stake and a more direct line with the people to whom the business (and customers) matter. It is more consistent and more urgent. I call to a local small business and I am likely to get a response from someone who believes I matter. I am not just a drop in the bucket for those who can count their clients on their hands, and often know them by name. Engage me and I will be a customer for life. I still send my business to the little guys for that reason. I have relationships with these people, with their businesses – relationships built on previous service, honesty and faith, relationships that surpass the bottom dollar. Engaged customers are willing to overlook the occasional blunder or hiccup. They are willing to work WITH you and once engaged they will follow your brand the distance – and that is what branding is all about.

Third: Customer Engagement 2.0

Social Media acts as a magnifying glass for this engagement. For many customers it is easier to post to Facebook or Twitter then to call in. It is also quicker than the traditional means of email or snail mail, which means more emotion is included in the message and less time can be taken in structuring a response. Let’s go back to the story of the Greek wrap that wasn’t Greek. Hypothetically, let’s say that I posted to their Facebook page “Hey _____ Pub, I ordered a Greek wrap, not a Inter-European/Asian wrap – Carrots & Radishes are not Greek!” How would you respond? How would you expect a business to respond? Am I kidding around with this statement?, am I being belligerent?, am I being a troll? and how can you be sure? How do you engage the customer in a situation like this? Do it wrong and it will cost you. Do it correctly and it will promote you. Social Media requires fun, amiable, personable, creative, quick and professional direction. Those representing your business need to love people and dance on coals. The term “Social Media Ninja” is about as cliche as “Social Media Guru”, but Ninja fits the bill – keep watch, be quick, adapt and engage. Social Media is not just for big business, many small businesses are beginning to utilize it and the I’ll leave you with this nifty example of someone trolling Taco Bell, and Taco Bell’s subsequent response.

How you engage customer via Social Media Channels can drastically impact your brand.

Notice that they engaged not only the sender, but their entire audience, by not only going along with the joke, but coming out on top. They even utilized hash tags to further both the joke and their commanding statement. In this case context was made evident by the name of the sender (Men’s Humor) and the hashtag. It is not always so clear, and misinterpreting it can be costly. But, as this example shows, doing it right can have amazing results.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.