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Posts Tagged ‘running a business’

Why Should Your Small Business Conduct Market Research?

Posted by advantagemarketing on October 4, 2016

Why does your company need market research?

Insights gained from market research can help your company bring more value to its clients and stay ahead of the competition.

Recently, a CEO  of a mid-sized firm, for whom Advantage Marketing had proposed a much-needed market research project, asked how he should justify the project to his Board of Directors. Here’s what I told him: 

Are any of your board members pilots? Ask them if they would fly blind, without the indicators on the plane’s control panel. Market research is just like those indicators. It keeps you aloft as a business, and prevents you from crashing and burning. Right now your company is flying blind – how close are you to crashing and burning without valid market insights? If you’re not crashing and burning, you’re at least wasting fuel (money) by running inefficiently with things that won’t bring value to clients or get you new business.

With market research, the return on investment is almost always positive.What would be the value if this project netted you just one new client? Or, even better, if it enabled you to develop a new product line for a new market? It’s not certain that you’d get either, but you certainly aren’t getting either now.

Other benefits of market research include:

  1. Maintaining and improving the sales team’s focus.
  2. Pointing you in the direction of the most lucrative opportunities.
  3. Keeping your company relevant and future-oriented.
  4. Improving your decision-making and reducing your risk.
  5. Keeping you ahead of the competition.

It also avoids negative consequences such as:

  1. Plunging blindly ahead and investing money where it doesn’t provide value for customers.
  2. Staying the same as always and losing market share to others who innovate and come up with a better, faster, or cheaper way of doing what you’re doing now.
  3. Losing money because you’re caught sleeping while the market is changing.

Is your company considering market research? What do you see as the benefits of research for your company?

Posted in B2B marketing, Market research, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, sales and marketing, small business, Traditional marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Top 10 Small Business Marketing Tweets

Posted by advantagemarketing on June 30, 2016

When you’re running a small business, you’re wearing many hats. These Top 10 tweets provide tips that can help make your marketing hat just a little easier to wear.

How Small Businesses Can Improve Online MarketingPortrait Of Male Bookshop Owner Outside Store

 

You’ve used all of the standard, popular marketing strategies with only moderate success. You wonder – are there things I am missing? Could there be other avenues I don’t know about? Read More

 

How Small Businesses Can Get the Most Out Of Their Marketing Dollars

If you’ve got a small marketing budget, you have to be smart about priorities. In this post I’ll share some things I’ve learned along the way to help small businesses make the most of their small marketing budgets. Read More

 

Small Businesses: Four Steps To Enhance Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing involves branded responses to current events or customer interactions. The tactic only works if those responses are executed, quite literally, in real-time. Read More

 

15 Tools to Create Automation in Your Small Business

These business automation tools can make your business reach a success by leveraging email, social media and web services. Read More

 

How And Why Small Businesses Must Adapt To Social Media

Among the countless factors a small business owner must consider when running his or her business, social media is quickly becoming one of the most important. Read More

 

How To Quickly Master Social Media Marketing For Small Business

It’s no secret that social media is here to stay and that its stake in the success or failure of a business is growing larger everyday. If you’re looking to ramp up your own presence and quickly master the art of social media marketing for business, follow these tips. Read More

 

Is Small Business Branding Possible? You Betcha And Here’s How

Large companies the world over have long recognized the value of creating a brand. But even a small business can benefit from the impact of having a well-honed image. Read More

 

Coming Up With Content Ideas Can Be Tricky For Small Businesses. How To Overcome Writer’s Block In Your Content Marketing

It is the most common question I get when speaking about email marketing, social media or small business in general… “What should I write about?” Read More

 

How Can Your Small Business Benefit From Pinterest?

So what exactly is Pinterest, how does it work, and why is it important to your small business? Read More

 

What Your Small Business Should Do To Look Like A Social Media Pro

As social media use continues to grow, so does the number of marketing opportunities for small businesses. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now use social media. Read More

 

For more small business marketing tips, follow me on Twitter: @LMKasprzak.

Posted in B2B marketing, Business, Marketing, Marketing automation, small business, Social media marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Connecting Entrepreneurs

Posted by advantagemarketing on September 19, 2012

One of our favorite things to do at Advantage Marketing is connect the entrepreneurs we know and see how they can help each other.

Connecting entrepreneurs

From left to right, Terri Hunsinger & Deb Palacio of WebUndies.com, Jennifer Matthews and Julia Biancella, partners at Tempaper, and accountant Karen Flannery.

My friends and long-time clients Deb Palacio and Terri Hunsinger of WebUndies.com took time out of their crazed pre-holiday schedules to meet up-and-coming entrepreneurs (and twins!) Jennifer Matthews and Julia Biancella, partners at Tempaper.

Deb started WedUndies.com in 1999 in her basement, and today it’s a multimillion dollar business, headquartered in Cranford, NJ. Deb and Terri shared with Jen and Julia practical advice for integrating Tempaper’s website and back office operations. More importantly, they shared insights into being women business owners who successfully juggle business growth and family commitments.

Terri, Deb, Jen, and Julia are shown in the photo at right with my colleague, accountant Karen Flannery. Karen and I cooked up this meeting over lunch, while discussing our favorite entrepreneurial clients. Karen shared that Jen and Julia had lots of questions about how to support the explosive growth of their temporary wallpaper business. Deb and Terri had been through all that and more for their loungewear business, so Karen and I were eager to get the two sets of sisters together.

It was wonderful for Karen and me to see Jen and Julia’s eyes light up when they toured the WebUndies warehouse and front office,  talked to two amazing women who had “been there, done that,” and as a result saw what their own business could be.

As the A Team’s Hannibal Smith used to say, “I just love it when a plan comes together.”

Posted in Business, Marketing, small business | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2011’s Biggest Lesson: Resilience

Posted by advantagemarketing on December 7, 2011

Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.
– Muhammad Ali

Reflecting on 2011

Reflecting on 2011? Resilience is the BIG lesson for business owners.

What a year 2011 has been! As it draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned in the last 365 days. I learned much, for example, about the strategic use of content marketing, social media and mobile applications – all best practices that I am sharing with my consulting clients.

But as I reflect, I see there is a much bigger, more important lesson from 2011: you must get up when you’re knocked down.

This was a rough year for small and mid-size business owners as well as the broader U.S. economy. We faced, for example,

Uncertainty. Health care legislation plus crisis after crisis in housing, banking and the European markets and the Middle East took their toll, creating a shaky business climate that left many business owners uncertain about where to turn and what to do next. Many chose to do nothing at all.

Unruly weather. Winter blizzards, hurricanes and October snowstorms meant economic loss for many businesses and property owners. Hurricane Irene, for example, dragged down the New Jersey economy, inflicting over $915 million in property damage alone.  Many NJ business and home owners struggled to recover and rebuild in towns such as Cranford, Paterson, and Wayne.

Unclear employment picture. With unemployment in the U.S. hovering just over 9% for most of the year, many consumers changed their spending patterns, impacting large and small businesses alike. There was a glimmer of good news, however, as the labor market strengthened in November and Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail sales reached record levels.

Overwhelmed by the year’s turmoil, some business owners chose to close up shop.  One Dallas, TX, business owner I heard about recently is a good example. He was in the promotional products business for more than a decade. This year, the business climate and fiercely competitive nature of his industry finally wore him down. He shut his firm and is now seeking a corporate position in marketing management.

Choosing resilience

Barry O’Donovan, owner of Cranford, NJ’s Kilkenny House Restaurant and Pub, chose to be resilient – to pick himself up and move on after a disaster.

Hurricane Irene wrecked O’Donovan’s three-year-old Irish pub in late August. At the height of Irene’s flooding, 20 feet of water engulfed the pub’s basement and half of the bar, according to The Star Ledger. All told, there was about $300,000 of damage – an amount that would force many small businesses to close their doors permanently.

But O’Donovan was determined to rebuild. He and his contractors faced a huge task, replacing the pub’s electric, floors and subflooring, and repainting the 2,800 sq. ft. space. “We had no choice but to rebuild,” O’Donovan told the Suburban News. “This is what I know how to do. I had a responsibility to my staff to get up and running as fast as I could.”

Kilkenny House

When Cranford's popular Irish pub was destroyed by Hurricane Irene, its owner was determined to rebuild

He re-opened Kilkenny’s in record time – six weeks after Irene – and became a symbol of resilience to the local community.

Hitting those curve balls

Life throws all of us curve balls. So how can we learn to be more resilient – like O’Donovan – when things go wrong? To find out, I asked Donna Leyens, Certified Professional Coach and president of True Potential Coaching, LLC, a New Jersey-based small business coaching firm, for some advice. What she had to say can help you smash life’s curve balls right out of the park:

Stop whining about what went wrong. A key part of resilience is understanding that it’s not about what happened to you, it’s about how you respond. Instead of thinking, “Poor me, why did this happen to me?” say to yourself, “This may not have been a good thing that happened, but I’m going to make the best of it.”

It’s all about the stories you tell yourself. It’s hard not to buy into the negative stories, especially when that’s all we seem to get from the media.  Instead of focusing on the negative, say to yourself, “Where are the opportunities in this situation?” To help change your mindset, surround yourself with positive influences and people who can help you create positive stories. What kept O’Donovan going, according to the Suburban News article, was the tremendous support he received from friends and neighbors in the Cranford community.

Find the humor. When you can finally find the humor in a situation, you are step closer to controlling your response. Laughter is like medicine; it prompts your body to release endorphins which make your happier. Laughing can reduce stress and raise your positivity. This helps you to become more resilient.

Move forward. It’s useless to look back unless you can learn from it. But then learn your lessons and move on. Ask yourself, “How can I move forward?” and then take positive action. O’Donovan got his pub operating in record time because he quickly sought the resources – loans from the Small Business Administration, local contractors willing to work nights and weekends – to help him rebuild.

Focus on what is going right. Even in the worst situations, focusing on the positive can help you be more resilient. Set positive goals. O’Donovan, for example, promised his wife that he’d have his restaurant up and running by her birthday – well ahead of initial contractor estimates. As O’Donovan told NJBiz, “My wife’s birthday is October 15, and if I didn’t have it opened before then, I’d be dead.” O’Donovan re-opened Kilkenny House on October 8, to much celebration in the community.

In the New Year, choose to be resilient. It may not always be easy but you will be in charge of your own destiny, like Barry O’Donovan.

 

Continue the conversation. What situations have you faced that called for you to be resilient? Please tell us about them in the Comments section below.

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Posted in Business, small business | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Unexpected Customers from Unexpected Markets

Posted by advantagemarketing on May 2, 2011

growth opportunities

Your best new customers can come from unexpected places - keep your eyes open for opportunities.

by Patrick Lefler

For small growing companies, customer development is the most important task to ensure survival. And this customer development process is all about understanding who you are selling to and why they want to by it. Noted author and entrepreneur Steven Gary Blank perhaps says it best when talking about the risks for these types of companies:

“The greatest risk–and hence the greatest cause of failure–is not in the development of the new product but in the development of customers and markets. [They] don’t fail because they lack a product; they fail because they lack customers…”

Customer development information does not come easily, nor does it become apparent even after you’ve sold your first product. Sometimes you find yourself focusing on the wrong customers, not understanding the demand that buyers have for your product. And other times you focus on the wrong features. In many cases, your best customers are unexpected or they come from markets that were overlooked the first go-around.

In an essay titled The New Venture, Peter Drucker recounts a wonderful story of just such an occurrence.

“Shortly after World War II, a small Indian engineering firm bought the license to produce a European-designed bicycle with an auxiliary light engine. It looked like the ideal product for India; yet it never did well. The owner of this small firm noticed, however, that substantial orders came in for the engines alone. At first, he wanted to turn down these orders; what could anyone possibly do with such a small engine? It was curiosity alone that made him go to the actual areas that the orders came from. There he found farmers who were taking the engines off the bicycles and using them to power irrigation pumps that hitherto had been hand-operated. This manufacturer is now the world’s larger maker of small irrigation pumps, selling them by the millions. His pumps have revolutionized farming all over Southeast Asia.”

For start-ups and other small growing companies, the best lesson to learn is that you may find customers in markets that no one imagined when the product was first developed. The only way to find these different markets is to get out of the office and investigate. If you see unexpected customers in unexpected markets, find out what’s driving demand. And don’t dismiss the unexpected as a ‘one-off’ exception or a fluke.

Here’s the takeaway: Unexpected customers can come from the most unexpected of markets. Get out of the office; investigate these exceptions and factor that demand into your product development going forward.

Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group; a management consulting firm that helps growing companies grow dramatically faster. He is a former Marine Corps officer and a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School. The Spruance Group acts as a trusted partner by offering unbiased advice and providing unique solutions to help clients solve their most pressing product strategy needs. For more information, please visit www.spruancegroup.com

Posted in B2B marketing, Business, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Professional service firm marketing, Traditional marketing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Building Local Word-of-Mouth for Your Business

Posted by advantagemarketing on February 15, 2011

Moving your business

When KC Creative relocated cross-country, owner Kathy Fulton had to do more than move boxes. She had to build another local referral network.

By Loraine Kasprzak, MBA

Kathy Fulton, owner and lead graphic designer for KC Creative, Inc., has been a friend and colleague of mine for more years than either of us can remember. She’s a master juggler – she manages her business, raises a family, and still finds time to train for triathlons. But even someone as high energy as Kathy was thrown for a loop when she had to relocate her business not once, but twice, in three years. After each move – from Chester, NJ, to Richmond, VA, in 2005 and then to St. Louis, MO, in 2008 – Kathy has had to re-establish her business in a town where her reputation and the quality of her work were unknown.

“It’s been challenging to maintain client relationships cross-country, get project work done, and establish KC Creative here in St. Louis,” Kathy told me. When old project work wrapped up and her sales pipeline emptied, she knew she needed to look for clients more actively. “I couldn’t rely on old relationships exclusively. I needed to build local word-of-mouth to get more business.”

Kathy shared with me what she’s doing to re-establish her referral network. As she rebuilds the second time, she’s learning which tactics work the hardest for her. These tactics can also work well for any service firm looking to build its own local network.

Accept invitations. Kathy started by accepting any invitation that came her way, especially to charity events and networking meetings, so that she could connect with the local community. She also saw the parents at her children’s new preschool as a resource. “If a parent invited me for coffee, I gladly accepted,” she notes. “As we got to know each other, I would mention that I was a graphic designer and share my business card.”

Volunteer your services.  Kathy found that volunteering her design services helps others get to know her and her work. She’s created invitations for fundraisers on a pro bono basis, and doing so has given her more visibility in the community.

Get on the Board. She accepted an invitation to be a Board member for a local charity so that she could further expand her network. The challenge here is to become known for her graphic design work and not just as a Board member.

Join local networking groups. Kathy joined a women’s professional networking group and attends their meetings as often as possible. “I’m starting to get some leads,” she says. “There’s an accounting firm in the group that has been very helpful.”

Tap your spouse’s network. Kathy’s husband works for a bank that sponsors events in and around St. Louis and she attends as many of these events as possible with him. “I made several good contacts at the bank’s holiday party, including the head of one of the larger local non-profits,” says Kathy. “I was able to arrange a breakfast meeting with her to discuss her graphic design needs.”

Schedule one-on-one meetings. Attending events and networking meetings is a great start, but Kathy knows she has to take it a step further. She sets up breakfast meetings with the business owners and community leaders she meets, so that she can listen, learn and help where she can. She comments, “These breakfast conversations often turn to how I can help them. It’s well worth it for me to give some free advice about how they can improve the look and feel of their marketing collateral.”

Make a conscious effort. With all the challenges of running a business and managing family life, Kathy learned she has to plan ahead to network. She schedules time each week to make follow-up phone calls, attend meetings or meet one-on-one with new acquaintances.

Stay in contact. The hardest part, says Kathy, is staying focused and following up with her new contacts. “I want to stay top-of-mind with strategic people without being overbearing. I’m creating a series of mailers to offer design tips. I also plan to send email blasts. LinkedIn and Twitter are helping me stay in touch too.”

Still, Kathy notes, it can be a slow process. “It takes time to get others to trust you and want to do business with you.  I’m just now beginning to get calls from prospects and others who will refer me for projects.”

What’s next?

Find out more about KC Creative. Kathy Fulton’s boutique firm specializes in graphic design and print production management. Stop by the KC Creative site.

Continue the discussion. What are you doing to build word-of-mouth and referral sources for your company? Please share your tips and comments below.

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Posted in Business, Marketing, Networking, Traditional marketing, Word of mouth marketing | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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