Friday, February 19, 2010

Marketing Is a Full Time Job

If you want your business to be successful you must devote plenty of time to marketing and advertising. If potential customers do not know you exist, they can't do business with you. Marketing is a full time job and a small business owner should always be in the marketing mode.

1 - Carry your business cards or coupons with you everywhere you go and when given a chance, pass them out.

2 - Wear a nametag with your business name on it . In gatherings it helps people know your name and associates you with your business.

3 - Every day look for at least one good marketing idea and how it might work for your business. Keep a file of good direct mail pieces you receive and advertising that you read and hear. You could possibly use one or a combination of those ideas later.

4 - Check out your competitor. See what type of advertising and specials he may be offering and keep your prices in line.

5 - Always ask customers how they heard about you and use that information for future marketing and advertising plans.

6 - When you run across customers that you haven't seen in a while, ask them why they no longer do business with you. You may learn something you didn't know.

7 - Keep up with new and developing technology that could be used to market your business. The social networks have a lot of potential and very few small businesses have discovered that, yet.

8 - Join local business groups, participate in charity events and be a part of the community. When you give back, you always will reap rewards.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Not-So-Secrets of Business Success

There are a few simple things that business owners can do that will create a successful enterprise. It's so strange that many business owners overlook the obvious and wonder why they are not enjoying success.

1 - Choose your location carefully. The cheapest rent is not necessarily the best reason to make a location determination.

2 - Decorate your business is bright but tasteful colors. Be sure the showroom area is well lit and there are plenty of windows to allow in natural light and allow for showcasing of your products.

3 - Hire the best possible employees. Pay more than your competitors and train your employees better than anyone else. Bring them in early on a weekly basis and buy breakfast.

4 - Hire a janitorial crew to clean your business regularly. Employees should not spend their time during business hours to clean the place. Let professionals handle that job after hours. A clean business is a successful business.

5 - Decide who is your target market and advertise heavily to bring your customers in. Activity creates business.

6 - Treat your customers with respect and provide the highest level of service. You will be rewarded with free referral business.

7 - Keep your inventory and fixtures current. Don't be afraid to mark down or discard stale product. Products that are old, dusty and discolored from age are not good indicators to your customers.

Of course there are several more obvious things you can do to ensure the success of your business and we will discuss those next time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Convenience - A Deciding Factor

We know price plays a big part in a customer's decision to patronize a business. But one of the biggest factors is convenience. There's no doubt that potential customers would much rather make their purchases in the most convenient location if the price is relative.

Small businesses with limited advertising resources need to consider who their most probable target audience is. The neighborhood, people and businesses located nearest your business are the most likely potential customers to do business with you IF they know your enterprise exist.

You can target the geographic area within a small radius of your business with direct mail and localized print advertising. Purchase a list of all the potential customers within a five-mile radius of your location and acquaint those people with your products and services with special offers and possibly coupons.

Many times if you can get a customer into your business the first time and their shopping experience is positive, they will return again and again. Your job as the marketer of your enterprise is to be sure your new customer will become a repeat customer. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Programs to guarantee repeat business can be established to ensure customers continue to come to you for your products and services. Possibly offer a guaranteed trade-up of a product that may sensitive to changes in technology, or possibly offer free cleaning and repair or even free annual inspections. Anything you can do to bring that customer into your business over and over enhances your chances of future sales and referrals.

Look locally for the best possible customers for your business. And when you are successful at attracting new customers, be sure a system is in place to take advantage of the new relationships and ensure future patronage.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Networking Builds Your Business

Networking has become an overused term in today's business world. Instead of networking, I call it relationship building. Your best and most efficient marketing tool is networking, building lasting business and personal relationships that produce positive results for your business.

Networking is efficient because the only real cost is your time. You can spend your non-working hours volunteering for community services, serving on boards, participating in community events and being involved in the school and extracurricular activities of your children. All of these activities put you in contact with others who may need the products or services your business offers.

Even though your networking contacts may not be your target customers usually these people will be a good source of referral business once they feel comfortable with you and your business.

The first and foremost reason for networking is to build lasting, personal relationships. But ultimately your business can benefit from these affiliations.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Getting The Most For Your Efforts

Have you heard the word "upsell"? It's a process by which a salesperson attempts to persuade the customer to purchase upgrades or add-ons to an existing sale. I define upselling a little differently.

When I think of upselling I think about value-added or relationships established. I think in terms of taking the simple sale to the next level of the business affiliation. Not only can you upsell products, you can upsell your service.

For example; A customer comes into your cell phone store and buys a cell phone. The most basic upsell would be to add a car charger, leather holding pouch and other necessary additional products.

We suggested to one of our clients they put a coupon for the ancillary item in the box of the main product. Therefore when the customer opened their cell phone box, they had an instant reminder that they needed to purchase additional items, and they could get a discount for making the extra purchases now.

You can upsell service in a similar way. Once a client has successfully benefited from the services you offer, you can suggest or recommend other services that you or your colleagues may provide that could be beneficial. When you upsell your client to a service that your business associates my offer, you are creating a referral network. You should benefit from the referrals from others in the network.

Whenever you successfully create a sale of any product or service, that is the very best time for creating additional business opportunities.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Advantages of Small Business

Sometimes it seems like the small business person is being crushed by the giant corporations. They seem to have all the resources and we are just trying to make a decent living. But there are definite advantages small businesses have and we should be taking advantage of those.

First, we can react quickly. There's no need to convene a board or get home office approval. If something changes and we need to react, we can make the decision and move on it.

Secondly, we can control the delivery of our products and services right to the front line. If you are like most small business owners, you are working the front counter or within ear shot. So you know what your employees are telling your customers. There's nothing better for improving customer service than for managers or owners to work the counter, to experience the real world.

Small business owners hear directly from their customers the things we are doing right and wrong. When a customer calls a business for help and is answered by an offshore call center of a large corporation, all the poor customer can do is complain to their friends. The large corporation just keeps shoving that poor quality of service down our throats. And we accept it.

But when the customer talks directly to an owner, the business owner can understand quickly how he can provide a better level of service locally.

Small enterprise operators must understand they can market their products globally, but to compete against the giants they must service their products locally.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get The Word Out There

I was impressed with a marketing video that was posted on Facebook by a young family member about his unique business. I was drawn to watch the short video clip and amazed at how well it was done. I commented on the good job he was doing marketing his start-up enterprise and he responded "I'm just trying to get the word out"!

That's really what marketing is all about. You can have the best product or service in the world and if people don't know about it you will not be successful. The basics of what type of product/service you offer, where you are located and your basic business hours should always be someplace where customesr, or potential customers, could access the information.

Not too long ago I got interested in making wine as a hobby. I searched the internet for information and finally ordered some supplies and started making wine. On a trip to California I was able to locate another wine making supply store and actually browse through it and brought back a box full of supplies all the way from California.

About a year into my wine making hobby, as I got to know other people and make connections, I learned that there was a wine and beer making supply store just a couple of blocks from my house that had been in business for years. I was shocked and flabbergasted. This business that could have been a great source of information and supplies was hiding just up the street from the place that I have lived for 10 years and I never knew it.

If we all operated the way this little store operated, we'd be out of business. I needed his products and advice and in all my searches could not locate him or even hear the business existed.

So be sure your business is "out there" and the world, your customers, know what you do and where to find you. That's the basic step in successful marketing.

RiverSouth Marketing

Monday, February 1, 2010

Customer Loyalty Can Be Created

Customers continue to do business with certain people and/or companies because they have developed a loyalty towards that individual or company. What can a business do to build that type of relationship with a customer?

Let's look at the problem from a different prospective - what does a business do for a customer that causes that customer to be loyal to the business. As a customer myself, I tend to do business with companies I feel good about. If I find a business or individual that is meeting my needs, treating my fairly, seems genuinely interested in me and my requirements, and is available at the times and on the days when I expect them, that usually brings me back over and over again. And I usually recommend that business to friends.

Meeting those are simple expectations should be within the capabilities of most businesses, but many times businesses fall short. So if your company had a "Customer's Bill of Rights" maybe they should read something like this.

"If you are a customer of my business I will, to the best of my ability, provide a fair price, reliable products/services, reasonable hours of operation, and an understanding of your needs and expectations. And I will strive to always be courteous and respectful, provide a clean and safe business environment, and always be dependable and honest in our dealings."

Simple objectives, long term rewards.

Is The Customer Always Right?

We've heard that saying all of our lives, but I sure have had situations where I question the wisdom. But whether right or wrong, they are still the customer and we need to be sure we treat them fairly, honestly, and with respect if we intend on growing our business.

It's actually better NOT to make a sale than to sell your products or services to a customer who is not going to be happy and in the end cost you money, time and reputation. The old adage "you can please some of the people most of the time but you can't please all of the people ALL of the time" reminds us that no matter how hard we work at taking care of our customers, we are still going to wind up with an occasional problem.

Simple suggestion to avoid this: Be sure you thoroughly explain your products/services when the sale is being made, including warranties, shipping information, etc. You don't need to cover every detail but a little experience and you will learn which details create unhappy customers.

Learn from your mistakes. If you have an unhappy customer, decide what went wrong and make corrections that will ensure the problem doesn't come up again.

Our customers are as imperfect as we are, so if we want our businesses to grow and prosper we must learn to deal with the imperfections.
RiverSouth Marketing