Local Small Business Advice For Women
Local Small Business AdviceFor Women

Welcome 

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!

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