Local Small Business Advice For Women
Local Small Business AdviceFor Women

Growing Your Business

You have launched your business and now you need to grow it. Where to begin?

 

First, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I want to participate in my community's "shop local" movement?
  2. Do I want to join the Chamber of Commerce, or other local merchant's association?
  3. Should I join an local or statewide associations for further networking? How important is this to reach my goals?
  4. What is my advertising budget? How would it best be used for the product/service I offer?
  5. What no-cost or low-cost opportunities exist already in the community for me to promote my business? 
  6. How can I get feedback so I know what I am doing is working?

 

Let's explore these questions further:

  1. Community - "Shop local" or "buy local" are important buzz words in today's changing economy. People want to support greener more organic options when it comes to buying provisions for their home. Food, clothing, cleaning products and pet supplies most notibly fall under this category. However, other sorts of businesses are increasingly being considered part of this movement. Consumers want to know from whom they are buying goods and services. They want to know how products are made and where they come from. People also want to patronize each others businesses; collaborating and bartering are becoming familiar again in the marketplace.
  2. The local Chamber of Commerce is an excellent way to meet other business folk in the community. This can be a good way to locate an accountant or lawyer or find another merchant to with which to barter goods or share advertising. A good Chamber will promote local business by organizing sidewalk sales and seasonal events in which local business may participate.
  3. Connecting with others in your line of business can be an important part of networking. Your competitor can also be your ally when it comes to setting standards for your industry. This can be especially beneficial on a statewide or nationwide network or online network. 
  4. Budgeting for marketing - A new, small business should probably budget no more than 7-8 percent of their projected gross revenue for marketing. However, many spend much more than that the first few years and often allocate it indiscriminately and without a proven plan in place. Once established, you should expect to spend anywhere from 2 to 5 percent depending somewhat on how creatively you market yourself and what you have already put in place. This is where the networking you've done previously can be helpful. Speaking to other like-business owners to ascertain what as been helpful for them can help you avoid pitfalls. Seminars and events for your industry will probably feature workshops that teach how to market for your particular niche.
  5. Creative marketing - There are many ways to get your message out there. One way is to be a featured speaker for a group. Senior citizen groups, mom groups, book clubs, exercise and sports groups and so on get together to learn and experience their common focus. Meet-Up is an online program that allows like minded individuals to find each other and arrange get-togethers. Another way is to sponsor something or someone. Schools and non-profits are constantly scrambling for donors and freebies. Don't be afraid to give a little and you reap a lot of goodwill. 
  6. Feedback is hugely important! Collect emails! Use them! Email your customers and ask them to please complete a short survey. Give them something in return if possible. A coupon off or a free download or a free screensaver. It's amazing how little it can take to motivate people. People want to be heard. Also, get on Yelp. Every customer who gives you a review should get feedback from you. Thank them for buying your product. If they have a complaint, offer to fix it on Yelp in front of everyone so that all the Yelpers know that you are a standup business. 

Website or Social Media? Or Both?

It's important to have web presence; an excellent website is a useful tool even if it functions primarily as a business card. It lets people know more about you and how to find you. Many businesses rely on their websites for form fill-ins and email contacts. If you do not have one, you are missing out on a valuable resource and severely limiting your market reach. There are numerous webhosting companies who offer reasonable rates and often, offer basic training as well. If the thought of building your own site overwhelms you, there are also companies to do this for you as well. Expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $3000 depending on how complex a site you think you need. 

What about social media? Are a website and a Facebook account both necessary? And, how in the world will Twitter help my business? It boils down to several things: personal preference, the nature of your business, and the amount of time you have to devote to your own marketing. Be sure of this, however, if you are not on visible on people's devices somehow, someway, then you are missing out on new clients.

Let's look at a few of the types of social media and why you might want to use them.

 

  • Facebook - This is an excellent platform for showcasing events and product with room for plenty of images and an easy way for people to like and comment on your postings. Travel agents, event planners, retail shops, service industries like carpet cleaning, hair salons - anyone with new items to introduce on a regular basis will benefit from being on Facebook. Some businesses even find they can do with a simple one-page website that directs customers to their FB page which contains further information.

  • Twitter - A great way to record pithy announcements. Great for retail businesses, real estate brokers and anyone who want to keep themselves in front of the public and has the knack for quick, notable quotes.

  • Instagram - This is a highly visual platform; it's all about the images. Again, real estate agents with beautiful properties to show, retail establishments with merchandise they want to display to an advantage. Also, great for non-profits. Who can resist a photo of a puppy or a child in need? 

  • Google+ - This one is essential for every business. If you want your website to get ranked, you will need to be on Google+. Add clear, good quality details about your business and lots and lots of good quality photos. 

Email marketing

You've probably heard that email marketing in a good idea, but you are overwhelmed by your workload already and you're not sure where to start. Check out this video. It might look fluffy at first, but the tips are good and it is sound advice. It will get you started in the right direction.

A business woman in our local chamber started a new power cleaning company last year and increased her bookings by 25 percent over six months after she began sending out monthly specials on pressure washing services. She sought feedback from her customers after the first two emails. This way she was able to determine what sorts of specials would attract repeat business. She also found that many of her clients, especially the elderly ones, wanted to recieve an annual email to remind them to schedule a regular cleaning. 

Don't miss out on this easy and productive tool for increasing your business!

The Science Behind Dressing for Success

Did you know every year there are multiple studies carried out by leading scientific organizations and publications concerning business and in particular, dressing for success?

 

For example: 

  • Journal of Experimental Psychology (2014) - This study cowritten by a researcher at Yale showed that "high social status clothes" i.e., suits, ties, heels, skirts, etc. showed that the wearers of such clothing performed better in competitive circumstances.
  • Social Psychological and Personality Science (2015) - This study found that persons who wore business dress performed better on cognitive tests than those dressed more informally.
  • Northwestern University (2015) - This study showed that workers who wore a white doctor's coat (as opposed to a painter's white coat) were more focused at their work and had a different attitude towards their work. 

Why are these examples important to you as the small business owner?

 

The third study mentioned above concluded that the perception of the white doctor's coat by the wearer helped that wearer to take her work more seriously and to focus better. What does that mean for you? 

 

If you are an entrepreneur working out of your home, you might find that you can up your productivity and motivation significantly by ditching the sweatpants.

 

If you are a small business owner, having your employees (and yourself) wear a shirt (or apron, etc) with your logo on it reminds all of you that you are representing your brand. It focuses you on why you are there. 

 

So, what are the important takeaways from such studies?

  1. What you wear represents who you are, how you are percieved, your brand, your business.
  2. What you wear influences how you work.

While the trend in the past few years has shifted to 'office casual' and entrepreneurs wearing hoodies, the reality is that how you dress is important and you should allocate time and resources to it.

 

A growing trend: Franchises owned by women

Heard of Ruth's Chris Steak House?

 

Although she passed away 15 years ago, Ruth Fertel's restaurants live on. The year she opened her business, she opened a franchise. There are now over 130 locations. 

 

Ruth would have found few peers for herself back in the 1990s. But times have changed. Consider this fact from the The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report published by American Express: "Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%, compared to just a 9% increase among all businesses. Therefore, over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate fully five times faster than the national average." 

 

This is huge and has certainly impacted the franchise industry. Let's take a moment and explore this more.

 

Franchises

Historically, the types of franchises with women owners fall into these catagories:

 

Cleaning

  • house cleaning
  • carpet cleaning

Educational

  • tutoring
  • preschool

Care Services

  • daycare
  • senior or elder care

Food 

  • fruit "boquets"
  • pizza restaurants
  • convenience stores

 

Grooming / Health

  • hair salons
  • massages
  • spas
  • weightloss
  • female focused fitness

While these catagories of businesses continue to see growth, another trend within these catagories is emerging: niches within niches.

 

Niches Within Niches 

 

What I mean by "niches within niches":

  1. New businesses within the catagories above that have an even more refined target. For example, in the Grooming and Health Catagory, there is are several new niches: eyebrow plucking and shaping instead of a full salon and cupcake stores instead of a full bakery. Educational service franchises have branched out to include specific sorts of tutoring, such as math only tutoring, or SAT prep classes.
  2. "Paired businesses" that combine two or more services into either an "experience" for the customer, or offer two related services. Have you heard of the art & wine stores popping up in strip malls? Or what about the weightloss center where you can also get your hormones balanced?

These niches within niches are often targeted towards women,and more often than not, are now owned by women. 

 

House cleaning is a service industry typically populated by small businesses run and staffed by women. But women are expanding the niches within this catagory as well. Consider, grout repair. This service is singularly focused on cleaning, sealing and repairing grout. A grout technician cleans the grout, replaces worn out grout and then seals it. New materials have been developed to keep the grout in good shape for 7-10 years. No need to toss bleach all over the shower anymore. No need to choose ugly brown grout for your new tile floor. Dirt and mildew will cease to be such a problem. 

 

If you are interested in getting into a franchise, you can begin your research several ways. First, do a web search for franchise opportunities. You'll get lots of ideas and there should be informative articles to read from business publications like Entrepreneur.

Secondly, ask yourself what franchises you have visited that you liked. Find their website and check it out. Talk to the owner and ask them how it has gone for them. They might want to sell, or they may know other territories nearby that are still open. 

Lastly, consider franchising your own business. Is there a service you wished were available and it isn't? Get it going and then, franchise it so you are spreading your great idea and making more money all the while. Is your present business so successful, you feel like you need to clone yourself? 

 

Back to Ruth

 

Ruth Fertel, the restauranteur, started in business by buying an already established restaurant from a guy named, of all things, Chris. After only a year in business, the establishment burnt down and she had to rebuild. She did and renamed it Ruth's Chris Steak House. The same year she reopened, a guy named Tom who was a regular customer, wanted to open his own steak house and asked her to help him. Her franchise operation was born. The rest is history. 

 

Successful entrepreneurs who have franchised their businesses often go on to sell them and make a fortune in doing so. If you are considering starting a business, give the franchise idea careful thought. It could take your business to a whole new level. 

 

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