Small Business Marketing Unmasked

small business marketingMarketing is probably the most critical function of any business. Every business is a marketing business, because if sales are not being made, the business is not going to last very long.

Let’s consider the important elements of marketing in a small business.

Having a marketing plan

Your marketing plan is a core component of your overall business plan. It should include the following:

  1. Your target customer: Identifying your target customer allows you to focus your marketing efforts and not rely on a scattergun approach. This will be more effective and more cost effective.
  2. Market research. This process uncovers the information that the business needs to make good decisions. It looks at customers and their buying habits as well as your competitors in the marketplace.
  3. Your unique selling proposition. How will you be different to your competitors and why should potential customers choose your business over your competitors.
  4. Your pricing strategy. Pricing is very important and will be somewhat dependent on who you have as your target customer, their buying behaviour and your unique selling proposition.
  5. Your promotional strategy. Once again, this might depend on your target market and where they go to research products like you have to offer. What will be your message? What media will you choose? How will you attract potential customers to buy from your business?
  6. Your customer service strategy. Your strategy will depend on your type of business. It starts when people visit you. If they come into your store how do they perceive your customer service? If you have an online business, do you have a chat facility to give them great customer service while they are on your site? Good customer service is a way that small businesses can excel over large businesses.

Here is a video on creating a marketing plan.

Promotion

These days just about everyone uses the internet. Even my 87-year-old mother is on Facebook all the time. The internet can be a great way to market because it is a lot more direct than other media sources. For example, with Google Adwords you only pay when someone clicks on your advertisement. This is different to advertising in a newspaper where the cost is the same whether you capture people’s attention or not. There are lots of online marketing options with social media and videos being extremely popular and useful for most businesses.

Branding

We mentioned earlier about your unique selling proposition. Your branding and positioning relate to this and form the message you are conveying to potential customers. It includes being clear on what makes you unique and having a corporate identity that reflect that. It is then important to ensure all of your marketing materials are consistent with the branding.

Many business names include the name of the owner. If you never intend to grow this might be OK. But ideally, the name of your business should help customers remember who you are. Your tag line is also important to portray your business, its unique benefits, and personality.

The truth is, marketing can be difficult. It requires a lot of work and focus. However, it is critical to your business success. So hopefully, these tips give you some ideas to get you started.

5 Tips for Starting a Business

There are a number of factors to consider when you are starting a business. Here are some tips to help you start a business that has a good chance of success.

1. What is your point of difference?

I have made this the first point because I consider it to be one of the most important. Many people start a business because they think they can do it better than the company they work for. Others have an idea and want to try it out.

But you must ask why customers would choose your business instead of your competitors.

If your answer is ‘cheaper price’ you will only have that advantage until someone cheaper comes along.

It is important to work out how you can be different so customers will choose you.

2. Who are your potential customers?

starting a businessYou need to define your ‘target market’. What do your ideal customers look like?

This is called ‘demographics’ and it is very important to get right because the next question is: why do they buy?

This is called ‘psychographics’.

If you can get these two things right you will be able to create marketing campaigns targeted to the exact people who are likely to buy from you.

3. Cash flow

The most important financial element in a business is cash flow. There are many examples of people who have started a business, made a few dollars and then drawn it out to live on without leaving enough money in the business.

Even when you are making sales, cash can be eaten up in inventory, or accounts receivable where you have made sales on credit and the customers have not yet paid you.

Excellent management of your cash flow is critical to your business success.

4. Great Customer Service

I mentioned earlier about being different. When you ask many business owners what makes them different, they say ‘their service’. Excellent customer service is not an option. It is an imperative for a successful business.

5. A Great Team

You may well start out doing everything yourself. But it won’t be long until you need assistance. Get a good team around you and look after them. Your team may well end up being your most important asset.

I trust that these few tips are helpful as you consider starting a business.

I also came across this video where Richard Branson talks about starting a business.

Enjoy!

 

 

Human Resources: Engaging Others to Help in Growing a Business

Human resources to grow a businessBusiness owners will encounter a period when they can no longer handle all their tasks associated with expanding and running their business and thus the need for added human resources. In this case, they explore the various options available in the market such as hiring new employees, outsourcing their businesses or even hiring sub-contractors. Whichever option they choose to add human resources in their businesses, there are both pros and cons.

Hiring New Employees

When people open new businesses or their businesses start to expand, they definitely look for help. Most business owners start by hiring contractors to do the huge work for them but later decide to hire employees.

Pros of hiring employees

Schedule control

The main advantage of hiring employees is that the employers are able to specify the work timetable of the workers they hire, which help to ensure that the employees are available to handle business tasks when employers need them done. Businesses that use independent contractor to handle their jobs have no control over their contractor’s schedule, which means that he or she may not be available to do urgent jobs.

Training

When employers hire their own workers, they are able to train them using their own techniques, rather than depending on the training the employees already have. This allows them to tailor their workers’ training according to their specific practices and needs, which result to enhanced ability when carrying out business tasks.

Cons of hiring employees

Benefits and taxes

The main drawback of hiring employees is that employers have to pay part of their employees’ social security contribution as well as withholding state, federal and local taxes. This adds expenses to businesses and even hours to businesses work week as they compute these benefits and deductions. In addition, business owners may need to offer other benefits such as health insurance, access to retirement plan as well as paid time off so as to attract the best employees.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing also known as off shoring has its own pros and cons.

Pros of outsourcing

Expertise and swiftness

People outsource their tasks to qualified and specialized suppliers. In addition, the suppliers have specialized technical expertise and equipment, which are often better than those at the business. This leads to not only faster completion of task, but also output of the highest quality possible.

Sharing Risk

One of the key factors considered by business people when assessing the option of outsourcing is risk analysis. By outsourcing some tasks of the business can help the firm to offset responsibilities tosomeone else. Due to their experience in these kinds of jobs, the outsourced vendors are able to plan businesses’ risk mitigation factor better.

Reduced recruitment and operation costs

One of the prime benefits of outsourcing business is that it avoids the need of hiring employees thereby minimizing operation and recruitment costs. In addition, businesses are able to save a lot of money as they are not required to invest in the latest software, infrastructure and technology as it’s handled by their outsourcing partners.

Cons of outsourcing

Hidden cost and lack of customer focus

Although outsourcing is quite effective at reducing costs, there can be costs that aren’t obvious when contracts are being signed. This can pose a serious risk to the business. In addition, outsourced vendors may be dealing with multiple firms at once and thus lack total focus on an individual business’s needs.

Hiring Sub-contractors

Organizations may need additional resources to perform specific or specialized tasks. They may want to use the services of sub-contractors or contractors for these tasks and thus the need of weighing up the merits against the demerits of subcontractors.

Pros of sub-contractors

  • Businesses can hire them when they need flexibility
  • Businesses can use them for tasks that require specialist expertise
  • Permanent employees are able to concentrate on their core businesses
  • There is no PAYE or social security fund contributions for sub-contractors
  • Businesses are able to cover for an employee who may be on leave or sick

Cons of sub-contractors

  • They may cost more that daily rate of normal employees
  • When business rely on sub-contractors, they are not able to develop or acquire in- house skills
  • Employees may hate subcontractors being paid more than them for doing similar tasks

Whichever method businesses may choose for adding human resources, be it hiring employees, outsourcing or even hiring sub-contractors, they should ensure that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in each case.