business plan

5 Steps Small Business Owners Must Follow

How well do you know the people you are attempting to sell to?

How well do you know the people you are attempting to sell to?

1. Understanding Your Customers

It’s simple logic really. Business Success requires Sales, Sales require Customers and Customers require a reason.

The first and most crucial step to starting or growing a small business, is understanding the customers that one relies on. Without a clear understanding of the audience one is selling to, one is operating blindly. The clearer and more accurately one knows their customers needs and desires, the more accurately one can meet them with products or services. Harness every piece of information available on your customers to meet their needs in a thorough and informed manner.

Here are a few suggestions for things one should get acquainted with:

1. Their behavior.

2. Their needs or wants.

3. Where they are currently going for products or services.

4. Demographics including in some instances: age, sex, race, location.

5. Where they are currently being reached by advertising (Billboards, Radio, Television, Social Media, News/Printed Advertising).

The information found here should be a driving force behind all of one primary business decisions and spending.

2. Know What Is Going On Around You.

It is highly beneficial for us to keep up to date with the changing economical and technological environment around us. Even slight changes to the economy, politics or tech available can present monumental opportunities or decimating decline.

Consider the following:

1. What is the first thing that occurs during a recession? People begin reducing spending and look for less expensive alternatives. Suddenly ones choices in entertainment may go from musical performances or nights out on the town, to renting a movie or grabbing some cheap snacks and playing a board game.

2. Their choices in groceries may also adjust, going for the less expensive products or purchasing less goods at one time.

3. New technologies allow for new products or services – and therefore, new niches to explore and new profits to be found (or lost).

4. New or changing legislation can have a broad impact also. What happens when a product is suddenly subject to an increased tax, or more stringent environmental laws impact the flow of a specific good or service.

Likewise changes can also create peaks in spending that offer small businesses opportunities to line their pockets a little bit before the next decline. Business simply is goods and money changing hands and anything that impacts that process is worth taking note of.

We must always keep a wary eye out for opportunities or threats to our livelihood.

Thorough and efficient operations reduce financial waste and improve customer experiences.

Thorough and efficient operations reduce financial waste and improve customer experiences.

3. Just Because You Build It, Doesn’t Mean They Will Come.

Don’t make a product and don’t develop a service just because you want to sell it. The worst business plan one can have, is to attempt to coerce customers into purchasing a product or service that they do not need.

Yes it can be done, but it requires great effort and a weak moral compass. Not a good plan.

Instead develop products and services that meet a need or desire within the marketplace. Meet the need and you will succeed (we did not mean to make that rhyme, but we will run with it). Quality products and services will actually sell themselves to a point, reducing the need for marketing dollars and easing the strain in ones budget.

Tailor it all for your customer base, from the product itself, to its packaging, to the means with which you promote it. This is where knowing your customers will be an asset. The more you can customize toward their wants, the easier the sale will be.

Sales are not difficult if you know who you are selling to. Know that and you will know what and how to sell. Tailor your products and services and eventually they will begin to sell themselves.

4. Be Smooth, Be Efficient.

How one conducts their business is nearly as crucial as the products and services that they sell. One can have an excellent products but quickly fail in business of their service and follow through lacks efficiency.

1. Customers must be dealt with professionally, in a friendly and thorough manner.

2. Answers to questions or concerns must be supplied quickly and courteously.

3. Customers must be made to feel as kings of the world. Greeted with smiles and genuine pleasure.

4. Supply and delivery needs to be prompt and accurate.

5. Returns, refunds or feedback should be accepted without grief and with apologies.

6. The successful small business sees customers leave happier then when they entered.

7. Go above, go beyond and shock them with service.

The common thread between happy customers and unhappy customers is that BOTH talk. Make sure that the customer has no reason to speak negatively of their experience with you and EVERY reason to share their great experience.

A customer with a mouthful asked for a "Mapkin". This is what the clever employee provided. As a result it got great, positive exposure to 60 million users on a social networking site. Good employees are worth investing in.

A customer with a mouthful asked for a “Mapkin”. This is what the clever employee provided. As a result it got great, positive exposure to 60 million users on a social networking site. Good employees are worth investing in.

5. Know Your Employees & Work With Their Gifts.

Do not let the hidden talents and skills of your employees go to waste. 9 times out of 10 employers are shocked to discover what their employees are actually capable of.

I knew a young man who worked on the production floor of a busy manufacturing facility. It took him two years (and some brazen attempts) to get management to see his design and content work, but they gave him a chance and it paid off. After nine years with the company he was producing both the layout and the text of much of their marketing literature, installation guides and advertising. 

Ensure they get the proper training, equip them with the tool and resources required, look after their needs and be mindful of their situations. Offer minor upgrades to their education through local courses, provide the occasional perk and give them reason to stay motivated. One does not lead by forcing consensus but by molding it. Lead by example.

Your staff likely harbor many skills that can benefit you and your business. How do you find out? Get to know them and allow them some flexibility in their day-to-day activities. Listen to them, work with them and develop trust. When they can trust you, they will begin to share ideas and skills, when you can trust them, you can begin to use some of those ideas and trust them to see them through.

This doesn’t mean being their best friends and there are boundaries that must exist between the employer and the employee, however they are the face of your business and therefore an invaluable part of your success.  Make sure they understand their role they play in the success of the business and give them reason to push for that success.

Happy employees make happy customers.

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. 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 we’re doing or if you have any questions.

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Small Business: 5 More Great Marketing & Promotional Tips

Image Source: 123rf.com

Image Source: 123rf.com

1. Consider Your PR.

PR (Public Relations) is the path to success. Many marketing firms will focus solely on lead generation, gauging their success based on those numbers alone. While lead generation is important, a focus on PR ensures that a business also generates image and brand recognition. As any first year marketing student can tell you, this in itself is a means to generating leads.

PR can take a multitude of forms. One of the most common is the “Press Release” which often takes the form of new product or service announcements. This is a highly budget-minded means of generating strong leads.

“Once, for less than $100, I wrote, printed and distributed a new-product release to 100 trade journals. Within six months, the release had been picked up by 35 magazines and generated 2,500 bingo-card inquiries. -Robert W. Bly (SOURCE)”

Take advantage of press release materials by posting the content in a media or press section of your website (blogs work). Remember to consider SEO and optimize the press releases with key word and phrases to draw in organic search traffic.

Another means of generating good PR, is to back a not-for-profit (charity). Involving oneself with community and charitable events is an excellent means of creating a positive image for a brand. Consider pledging corporate support to local food banks, children’s clubs or other community minded initiatives.

Image Source: humor-kings.com

Image Source: humor-kings.com

2. Don’t Pay Too Much For Outside Talent.

It can pay off very well to hire freelancers and consultants. BUT ONLY if they can get results. Always, ALWAYS check credentials. Do not overpay amateurs.

Take time and research contractor fees. It is the 21st century, the internet exists and there is no excuse to not do the homework. For instance at the time of this writing the best advertising photographers, are making $1,000 a day at minimum. Are they worth it? The short answer is yes…. if the business is a fortune 500 and looking at running in Forbes, for just about anyone else it is like dropping a nuke on a cricket – a classic overkill.

“It is the 21st century, the internet exists and there is no excuse to not do the homework.”

As stated above, it is the 21st century, the digital age and there are numerous photographers that can do a good job for a reasonable price.

The same can be said for designers, content consultants, artists, copy-writers etc.

Look for someone whose expertise matches the specific need and budget at hand. Do not overspend.

Image Source: 123rf.com

Image Source: 123rf.com

3. If Possible (Learn To) Do it yourself.

Many tasks related to marketing, advertising and promoting a business can seem daunting at first. However the business-man on a budget must be willing to tackle them himself.

Distributing press releases, operating social media, updating company profiles or creating newsletters and other paraphernalia almost always be done in-house at a lower expense. Save the outside hiring budget for tasks that require special expertise.

“The business-man on a budget must be willing to tackle certain tasks himself.”

Very few small businesses have the budget to hire a full-time marketing manager. Instead consider contracting out certain marketing essentials (website updates, SEO, branding) to proven firms at a steady rate that you can afford. Then look at hiring a full or even part-time administrative assistant to handle the day-to-day details related to keeping communications flowing.

4. Fully Use All Existing Content.

Whether photos, illustrations, videos, articles, layouts and even onetime promotional copy can be used and then re-used elsewhere to hack back creative marketing costs.

For example: If you have paid for good product photography, use it everywhere possible, product catalogues, website images, monthly report covers, even stationary and email signatures. 

Don’t just toss away anything, If you gave thumbnails, concepts, sketches or layouts that weren’t used for “this project”

Small-Business-Marketing

time, hang on to them and use them with the next project. It will cut back the costs to develop from scratch.

5. Pay The Bills.

If this isn’t obvious, you will ALWAYS save money with vendors whom you have strong relationships with. Keep you vendors happy and they have a reason to protect your account. Not to mention saving the interest on late payments.

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. 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 we’re doing or if you have any questions.