Standing out from the Competition: How Your Business Can Get the Attention of Potential Customers

Maintaining a solid customer base is vital to the survival of your business. In addition to conventional marketing strategies, there are some innovative ways to attract more potential customers and keep your profits growing. Here are a few ideas to help your business get the attention of potential customers.

Offer Freebies

Even though this may seem counterproductive, offering free products or services can actually help your business earn more money. By offering free product samples, people may be more inclined to try them since they won’t have to make a commitment to purchase. You can have your employees hand out samples to people passing by on the street or send them out in the mail to potential leads. You can also try offering free services for a limited time.

Display Unique Signage

Using standard signage for your business will likely attract less attention from the masses. If you want to stand out, you should have some innovative signs created. Certain companies can create business signs that feature eye-catching texts and graphics. You can order signage that includes attractive colors and even features the logo of your business. Displaying this signage on the outside of your building near the entrance will help your business get noticed as people walk or drive by your location.

Utilize SEO Marketing

SEO, which stands for “search engine optimization,” is an important tool for marketing businesses online. This type of marketing involves the use of written content that contains certain keywords and phrases that people commonly search for while online. The right SEO campaign can help your company’s website rank higher on the top search engines. Forbes.com notes that it’s also important to have content that’s original and enables your business to stay more relevant.

Do Some Charity Work

Giving back to your community will help your company earn a more positive reputation. Your business can sponsor a food, clothing or blood drive as a way to market your brand and help others who are in need. Local media outlets will likely cover your event, which can get you some free press. You can also try donating some of your proceeds to charitable organizations. If you support a good cause, you’re sure to see an influx of new customers.

By putting in the necessary efforts to expand your clientele, you’ll likely find yourself reaping the rewards in no time. Consistently growing your customer base will help you stay in business and stand out from your competitors.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

6 Catastrophic Mistakes An Entrepreneur Can Make In Their Business’ First Year

What makes a great entrepreneur? There are numerous theories on the subject. Is it their hard work, dedication and commitment? Is it their invention, imagination and ability to think outside the box? Is it their ability to parse metric data and use it to keep their finger on the pulse of what their customers want and need? Or could it be their ability to motivate and rally their employees; helping them to work with gusto towards a shared goal. Ultimately, these are all extremely important but it’s arguable that the most important quality of entrepreneurship is…

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Image by Pixabay

Just start.

There are lots of people out there, right now, slaving away in jobs they despise who have a great idea for a business. They have spotted a gap in the market, devised a concept for a product for a product or service that neatly fills that gap and they have a clear vision in their heads of how that can be extrapolated into a living, breathing, working SME. They may have cobbled together something resembling a business plan in their free time. They’ve had some preliminary thoughts about what their business’ mission statement might be and how it would be reflected in their branding. They might even have crunched some numbers to create a reasonably accurate cash flow forecast. But they never reached the point where they reached out to sources of funding or even registered their business’ name. Why? Because they were paralyzed by their fear of the unknown. This perfectly natural and perfectly human impulse may be understandable but it can keep potentially successful entrepreneurs stuck on the path of wage slavery; languishing away in jobs where they’re underpaid, underappreciated and undervalued when they could be at the head of a thriving enterprise.

By far the most crippling of fears when it comes to starting a business is the fear of failure. After all, the numbers are not on the side of nascent entrepreneurs. We’ve all heard that 50% of SMEs fail within their first four years and we’re paralyzed by the fear of what will happen if we fall within this damning statistic. But here’s the thing…

There’s nothing to fear but fear itself

If you have a fantastic idea for a business that would benefit your local high street, create jobs, fill a gap on the market, benefit the local economy and liberate you from a job you despise, it behooves you to overcome your fear of failure and at least attempt to make your business a reality. Very often, failure in small business is not the end but simply a blip on a long learning curve. At worst, you will be made bankrupt (although this is certainly not an inevitable consequence of failure in small business). But in most cases bankruptcy is not the end of an entrepreneurial career. Some of the most successful people on the planet have been made bankrupt at least once.

That said, failure is never an appealing prospect. If we can forego the expense and emotional turmoil that come with failure in small business, so much the better, right?

Learning from the mistakes of others

The beauty of living in the digital age is that we have unparalleled access to a wealth of information which can give you and your business the inside track. As well as learning from our own mistakes (an inevitable and necessary part of small business) we can benefit from the mistakes of other nascent businesses. While there may be no surefire way of avoiding failure in the world of small business (if there were, everyone would be running their own SME), there are certainly commonly made mistakes that you can sidestep when you plan your operations and strategy around avoiding them. Here we’ll look at some of the commonly made mistakes made by businesses in their first year and how you can prevent your business from replicating them…

Under investing to insulate profit margins

When many entrepreneurs start out, they do so with one goal in mind… turning a profit. So long as the numbers are in the black month or month that means the business is going well, right? Well, not necessarily. As important as it is for small businesses to guard against irresponsible, reckless or vanity spending, it’s also vital that they avoid under investing in their enterprises. Under investment in personnel, capital investments like software or equipment, or maintaining / renovating your premises can impede your business’ growth. Unless you’re prepared to invest in better infrastructure for your small business it will only ever stay small and its scope will be limited. While you should certainly learn to walk before you can run and it can be counterproductive to set out with growth in mind before you know how to facilitate that growth sustainably, you should avoid the temptation to under invest in your business for the sake of insulating your profit margins.

Small businesses need to be agile and adaptable and if you fail to invest adequately, you may fail to capitalize on opportunities that come your way and your competitors will leave you in the dust.

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Image Credit

Dipping into personal funds to finance aspects of the business

Separating personal and business finances can be a real learning curve for nascent entrepreneurs. When you have a lot of passion and personal / emotional investment in your business it only makes sense to put your money where your mouth is… but this can be a serious mistake. Not only should you have separate accounts for your personal and business finances, you should take pains to ensure that one doesn’t bleed into the other. Otherwise you could find yourself on a slippery slope.

Trying to do a grade A job with grade B materials

In your first year of business, the name of the game is reputation. With such a plethora of competition out there, prospective customers need a reason to choose your business and not the legions of others who do exactly the same thing. This means that your reputation must be beyond reproach. While a big part of this is in how your employees deal with customers and the experience that your customers can expect, let’s not forget that you can’t do a grade A job with grade B materials. If you work in the construction industry, for example you know that you wouldn’t compromise on materials or make rush decisions when building the foundations of your project. You’d go to HelitechCCD.com and invest what you had to in materials that are right for the job. Otherwise, the whole thing could come tumbling down and take your reputation with it. Whether you’re in construction, catering or content the principal remains the same.

Spending too much time “at the coalface” and too little time on strategy

Entrepreneurs tend to have a proactive and hard working nature and when they see their employees struggling, their first instinct is to roll up your sleeves and join them at the coalface. But while noble in its intentions, this approach can be counterproductive in a number of ways. It can make your employees dependant on you at best or at worst turn you into the kind of relentless micromanager that employees hate to work for. Moreover, this is rarely the best place for you to invest your time and efforts. As the CEO of your business, your time is better spend in your office, concentrating on the strategic running of your business rather than day to day operations. It’s your responsibility to analyze your performance metrics and use them to influence your operational strategy month by month.

Having a resistant approach to new technology

Technology these days moves at a blistering pace. Investing in your technological infrastructure is rarely cheap and often requires an investment not only of capital but of time and effort as you and your employees get to grips with the software and hardware that your business needs to succeed. Thus, when equilibrium is achieved between a business and its tech, it can be extremely tempting to resist technological change. But technological change is an inevitable part of doing business in the 21st century. You need to maintain an agile approach to tech and be prepared to throw out the rulebook when a technological advancement necessitates an overhaul of your operations. If you resist technological change you could end up a dinosaur in your industry, like Blockbuster video in the age of Netflix. If this involves a prohibitively expensive overhaul of your IT or tech infrastructure, you may wish to consider outsourcing your IT operations. Not only will it insulate you from a lot of the cost of staying current, but your tech solutions can be scaled up as your business grows.

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Image by Flickr

Failing to keep an eye on the competition

As important as it is to stay ahead of the curve, keeping your eyes too closely on your own work can be counterproductive. Your business does not operate in a vacuum and competitor analysis is an essential component of any sound business strategy. If your competitors offer something you don’t, run a promotion that you don’t or offer the same services at a price you can’t match you can’t assume that your customers will remain loyal to you.

Steer clear of these common pitfalls of first year businesses, however, and you stand every chance of laying a firm foundation for success.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Your Growing Business More Competitive

Your business needs to be able to compete in its industry like never before. Today’s companies are competing with businesses who have truly milked every advantage imaginable to stay at the head of the pack. Your business cannot be behind in this process. Once a business starts to pull out in front of other competitors in their industry, they cannot afford to lose ground. They must keep up this momentum to remain a strong industry leader. The following are a few ideas to help your company compete on a whole new level.

Employee Upgrades

As the needs of your business change, you will need talent that can keep up with the pace. Sometimes you have to let employees go who are not cutting it to make room for new staff upgrades who can competently stay on top of the learning curve necessary to help improve company performance. As you weed out weaker employees who cannot keep up and replace them with stronger employees who can, you will find each department providing your company with the edge it needs to compete at a whole new level.

Offer New Benefits for Employees

More than ever before, companies are trying to keep employees by making work a fun place to be and offering benefits they and their families can enjoy. Beyond just the job’s salary, many employees stay loyal to companies who can provide dental, vision, and health benefits, as well as 401(k) programs. Take a look at the benefits you currently offer and see if implementing something like paid lunches, paternity leave, or life insurance might sweeten the deal for those you hire.

Expanding the Business

One way to make a huge competitive move is to expand your business to new locations. The more locations you are able to expand into and keep running with solid quarterly revenue, the more competitive you will prove to be in your industry. With every new location that you establish, this is a whole new revenue stream to help your business obtain the funds to react to the strategies other competing companies are using.

Conclusion

Competition is at the heart of modern business. If your company is not in it to win it, then it will start to lag behind other competing companies. Your company should always be poised to swoop in on any opportunity in the market that will ensure a competitive advantage. These opportunities are what will help your company to pull out in front of the other companies you are competing with in your industry or marketplace.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

Tips for a Successful Startup: The Importance of Market Analysis

Let’s be perfectly honest with each other. Market analysis is essential for any startup and while some newcomers to the world of startups may be skeptical of this claim, more experienced entrepreneurs testify to the significance of market analysis.

Research the competition

Once you step into the arena of entrepreneurs, you have to know who you’re dealing with. You are more likely to anticipate your competitors’ next move if you learn how to keep track of their actions. This gives you the leverage to go one step further. Digging deeper than just their web pages is always a good thing. Luckily, there are so many tracking tools which will reveal who, when, and where mentions your competition. In addition to this, some of them will simply pinpoint the trends in social media regarding your specific niche.

Customer insights

Obtaining valuable information straight from the horse’s mouth is crucial in this business. Tapping into your customer base will yield results because you will find out about their preferences and needs. Although you may think that your idea is likely to meet their demands, the analysis will show if you’re right or wrong.

You can see if your idea resonates with their needs by conducting paid surveys on specialized sites or simply creating questionnaires on social media. People tend to be rather honest in these surveys because they are usually done anonymously. And if you decide on conducting a survey, try to be concise and insightful with the questions because it is the only way to obtain relevant answers.

Is there a market for your idea?

This is possibly the biggest question. But how and where do you get the answer? Analyzing the numbers which indicate the revenues in the local, regional, and national market can help determine if people spend money on similar services. What’s more, you can see if the market is already saturated or it is growing at a fast pace. This is also a great moment to perform primary market research which comprises data that is exploratory or specific.  Exploratory research involves revealing previously unknown problems. As such, it procures general information to be used in more specific research.

Identifying lead users

Demand validation is likely to happen if you know how to generate the leads for your new product or service. The main reason all startups need to validate their idea before launching it is its relative instability. You may have a brilliant idea but it only exists as an educated guess in your mind. The reality is that it may flunk with customers before you even know it.

After you have identified your focus group, you have to turn them into your leads. This can be done through a unique selling proposition. The customers have a problem and through this value statement, you are offering a solution. At this stage of your market analysis, you can even try and offer your product free of charge.

The components of market analysis

To sum it up, a market analysis has to contain first and foremost a niche description. The industry you are starting in has to be thoroughly outlined. This includes metrics which will show the trends, scope, life cycle, and volatility of your target industry. This point is extremely important if you’re not a sole proprietor but looking for the ways of finding investors or taking bank loans. It shows that take your business idea seriously. Next comes your target market. Just because your product or service is used by almost anyone doesn’t have to mean everyone will buy it from you. This is why narrowing down your target market will show you where to direct your marketing efforts.

Then we come to direct vs. indirect competition. You have to learn and leverage the difference between those businesses that offer almost identical services as you and those who simply offer alternate solutions. And finally, forecasting. The projections of future trends in the industry are essential in order to determine how market share and pricing will evolve during a certain period and what trends they might assume in the future.

Whatever your idea is, never skip market analysis. Not only will it indicate the viability of your business but it will also help you prioritize some aspects of your business you deemed irrelevant.

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Tracey Clayton is a working mom of three girls, passionate about traveling, marketing and everything tech related. Her motto is: “Live the life you love; love the life you live.”

4 Ways Market Research Helps Your Business

Market research represents a number of activities conducted in order to gather valuable information about customers and competition. It is commonly done by businesses that want to get more familiar with their target groups. Typically, market research is not the research of the entire market, but is concerned with just one bit of it that’s of most interest to a certain company or industry. It should be a part of every business strategy and implemented at various stages, starting well before you launch a new product or even before you start a business altogether. Here a few basic ways one can benefit from it.

Learning about your customers

Naturally, in order to reach your potential customers, you need to know very well what your target group likes, and what their habits, passions and preoccupations are. Getting acquainted with their opinions on your industry, your brand and various products is indispensable. Before investing in anything at all you’ll need some very concrete and straightforward feedback about all this. Without doing proper analysis that will provide you with some exact numbers it’s impossible to design a thorough and serious business plan.

Knowing your market doesn’t come down only to what people think about your branch or your newest line of products. It’ also about getting familiar with more general habits and practices of the target group in question. This will help you genuinely understand people that make up your target group and get some fresh ideas on how to stay close to them. Also, find out who their role models and idols are – this info can be very useful when it comes to choosing a potential influencer you’d like to link to your brand.

Market research can help you find practical advertising solutions for different segments of your target group. Finding a common interest or habit for different groups of people you wish to reach can be very beneficial. Also, have in mind that the market is a living, dynamic entity that changes over time. Teenagers today don’t want the same things as teenagers ten years ago. Finally, target groups for specific industries and products change as well. For instance, companies that make gadgets of all sorts didn’t use to address older generations back in the days, but today these people make up a significant share of their market.

Analyzing the market has been made much easier with the development of new technologies. There are all sorts of tools you can use in this respect, but having a direct, authentic feedback from particular individuals is equally important as having comprehensive stats, graphs and numbers. Focus groups and phone surveys are traditional, common methods used for decades for this purpose. Among relatively new methods, using paid surveys online as a means of market research has many advantages and is definitely worth considering.

Learning about your competition

Analyzing your competitors can be a very effective method to get to know your market. You can learn a lot by studying the brands that belong to the same niche as yours. Watch the big players, their business and marketing strategies and check how they differ from yours. Monitoring the feedback for different companies from your industry is also valuable – avoiding repeating their mistakes can give you some competitive advantage over them. Try to spot new trends and recognize what the industry is lacking at the moment. At the end of the day, just delving into workings of your competition and trying to understand how they function is thought-provoking in itself and can result in some new ideas for your business.

Optimizing investments

A natural consequence of getting acquainted with your customers and competitors is minimizing unnecessary expenses. Investing money in something that your target group is obviously not interested in would be pure madness. Just knowing the scope of your market and the financial capability of the people you want to reach is invaluable. Studying all these factors is absolutely crucial for making any serious financial projections for the future.

Choosing the right timing

You might have a product that’s brilliant and ground-breaking, but then again, this product might sometimes be a bit too ground-breaking to be profitable. There’s the right time for any new brand, product or service to be launched and sometimes it’s just too soon for that. For instance, you want to invest a great deal of money into an app that adds great features to a certain social network. However, if that social network is still not popular or developed enough, no matter how innovative your app is, you might end up losing a lot of money. Sometimes good ideas and solutions need to wait for the right time to be introduced, and you need to do proper research to be sure if this is the case with your project.

All in all, market research is not just a useful little business strategy, it’s a must for any serious company. Sometimes your instincts and intuitions will be helpful but you’ll also need concrete info and deep knowledge of what people you’re targeting feel, need and want. Try listening to them carefully. Caring about your customers is necessary if you want to reach them properly, keep them interested, build your brand and make your business grow steadily.

Guest Author, Raul Harman, s a B.Sc. in Innovative entrepreneurship and has a lot to say about innovations in all aspects of digital technology and online marketing.  While he’s not enjoying travel, football and great food, you can find him on Technivorz.com.

 

4 Keys to a More Productive Small Business

Feel at times as if your small business is stuck in neutral? If that’s the case, there are some things you can deploy to try and get things moving once again in the right direction.

In running that small business of yours, you likely know all too well that budgets are usually tight, leaving you with little wiggle room unlike larger companies.

That said even a tight budget does not mean you are destined for long days now and in the future.

By getting the most out of your employees, resources, advertising and marketing etc. you can build quite a productive small business over time.

So, are you ready to see a more productive small business come your way?

It All Starts with a Plan

So that your small company doesn’t have to put a closed for business sign out sooner rather than later, remember the following four keys to more production:

  1. Employee production

Unless you’re running the show by yourself, you rely heavily on your workers to deliver results. As such, make sure you’re not only hiring the best people available, but also making sure they live up to your expectations.

Sure, you will make some bad hires along the way, but those hires should be minimal at best. By taking the time to thoroughly review each and every prospective employee, you stand a much better chance of getting the talent you require to run a first-rate small business.

Lastly, make sure you provide a working atmosphere that not only motivates employees to do well, but fosters teamwork.

Unfortunately, too many small business owners end up with offices that are fraught with disagreements, people looking out only for themselves and their paychecks etc. By creating a positive workplace, you’re much more likely to see positive results in the end.

  1. Your resources

What type of resources are you deploying in your quest to have a winning small business For example, have you decided to move forward with a mobile app for your small business?

As many other business owners can attest to, having an app in play has changed how they do business in a positive way.

One of the advantages of having that app is getting your brand out in front of current and potential customers 24/7. Another is being able to offer specials and loyalty rewards programs to the best of your clients. Still another benefit is the ability to display blog content and much more, information that consumers can access at their convenience.

Whether you decide to use an app builder to make your small business app or end up reselling and constructing apps for others, you really need an app in today’s digital age to be as successful as possible.

Never Sleep on Customer Needs

  1. Customer service

What type of score would you give your company when it comes to providing stellar customer service?

Much to their chagrin, too many small business owners have to admit that they’re not doing as good a job as possible in the customer service arena. As a result, they lose potential long-time customers in the process.

To make sure you and your team don’t drop the ball in this important aspect of being in business, make sure you do the following:

  • Treat your customers with respect and dignity
  • Give them incentives to keep coming back to you (specials and discounts, announcements of sales before they go out to the general public etc.)
  • Respond to their feedback, including feedback that ultimately is not always positive about your brand
  1. Monitor the competition

Although you undoubtedly are busy with your own small business, it never hurts to see what direct competitors are up to.

As an example, keep your eye on how those companies you compete with go about hiring talent, responding to customer issues, using social media to reach consumers, and utilizing technology to stay a step ahead.

While some things you observe won’t be all that informative, others could very well turn a light on in your head, a light that leads you to do what others are doing even better.

So that your small business can be even more productive this year and down the road, are you ready to do whatever it takes to bring in more customers?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics on the web.

 

 

 

Is Your Marketing Game Getting Passing Grades?

If marketing is part of your life, are you doing it the right way?

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Whether you market a well-known product or service or something that many people likely have not heard of, your marketing game must always be reviewed and tweaked when necessary in order to attract more customers.

Take for instance someone marketing communication products, be they phones, computers, mobile devices etc.

That is an industry which oftentimes sees changes in products and how things work, so your marketing game must reflect such. If it does not, you stand to lose current and potential customers to other marketers who are on top of the marketplace.

Review Your Game and Check the Scores

In order to get and keep your marketing game at an A+ level, remember these items:

  • Focus – For starters, where is your marketing game focused in on? Always do your best to understand the demographics of those you’re going after. As an example, if you are marketing home phone service for vonagedeals.com or another such provider, be sure to have an idea of the age and working habits of those you are marketing to. Elderly consumers are more likely to already have a phone provider in place and/or be on a fixed income each month. Meantime, many younger consumers are apt to be using their mobile devices to keep in touch with the world. With that said, don’t entirely eliminate these two groups of consumers, as some older residents will be looking for good deals, while younger consumers could very well be interested in the fact that different phone providers offer a home phone plan which can be extended to one’s iPhone or Android smartphone;
  • Listening – All good marketers take the time to listen to what consumers want. With that in mind, it is good to have your ear to the ground, something which can be done via surveys, social media and more. People’s buying habits do change over time, so you have to be on top of these changes in order to market what products and services consumers want. If you’re not already active on social media, do it sooner rather than later, allowing you to see what consumers are talking about;
  • Competition – Even though you never want to duplicate what the competition is doing, it doesn’t hurt to keep track of their movements. If they roll out a marketing plan that seems to go over well with consumers, you can consider running a similar program, but organize it to fit your needs so it is tailored around your brand and your brand only. Pay attention to the competition’s social media outreach, which keywords they target in their marketing ads, and what they are blogging about for starters.

In the event your marketing campaigns are not exactly getting top grades these days, take some time to review what you’re doing and study up on how to improve your outreach.

About the Author: Dave Thomas writes for a variety of websites on topics such as marketing and finance.