Small Business Needs Customers - by Howard White
Updated: Jan 14, 2019
This is article #11 of a monthly series published by SCORE. While you have been diligently reading these articles and following our recommendations, you have developed a Vision and Strategies to implement your concept (Business Plan, Branding, and Financial Plan), completed the necessary legal requirements to operating a business, obtained funding (if needed) and now you are just about ready to open your doors.
But wait, what’s missing? Unless you plan to give away your wares, you need Customers to find out about you, visit your store and/or website, and BUY your valuable products and services! How do people know that your business now exists, know where you are located, and know what you sell? That’s called Marketing! A future article will cover Social Media, which is a fairly new, but is related and is an important term to understand.
Marketing is creating community, brand awareness, and reputation. It includes marketing strategy, advertising, promotion, public relations, sales strategy, pricing and distribution, and customer support. Essentially every contact you have with a customer or prospective customer, is marketing – whether intentionally or unintentionally. For example, if a customer calls to complain about a legitimate problem with your product or service, an unpleasant conversation with one of your employees, or any other matter, you have an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a great experience, and you don’t have to give away the store to do that!
Every single thing you do screams “reputation” to those around you – from a pleasant greeting when someone enters your store, to the types of products and services you offer, to establishing a good rapport with each person, to providing solid knowledge about your products and services, to trying to ensure each shopper has a good experience with every person representing your business. Don’t forget that marketing includes employees wearing your branded clothing when off-duty – your brand is being represented in ways you’ll never know about, so it’s important to ensure everyone in your business represents your company well at all times!
Branding tells your market what your company is – including why it exists and creating a unique name and image – giving you an edge and promoting loyalty and long-term commitment (see the Union Democrat SCORE article from May 9th 2018). Marketing involves market research and analysis – you are reaching out to understand your market and present how your company meets the needs of the market. Advertising is the process of making specific products or services known to your market, and focuses on acquiring customers and increasing sales. Promotion is usually a short-term marketing strategy intended to increase sales through the immediate use of customer incentives such as price reductions or special offers (including BOGO – Buy One, Get One free, BOGOHOTO – Buy One, Get One Half Off Today Only, etc).
So using all this information, how do we get buyers into our store? Here’s where a SCORE counselor can help as your specific business may be different. First, we create Market Segments by identifying attributes about various customers (e.g. common interests, age, gender, location, spending habits, etc.). For example, if we own a gym, there are groups of people who would be more interested than others. Moms with older kids are very different than single men or Gen Z, but all three groups have great potential for our gym. Then we identify Sales Channels which utilize the best methods to reach each target Market Segment. For example, the best way to reach millennials is through their mobile devices, but that’s definitely not a good channel for the over-70 crowd who prefer more traditional advertising (newspaper, radio, postal mail, word-of-mouth, etc).
Using the Marketing Strategy we developed with our SCORE Counselor, we place Advertisements specifically geared towards selected Market Segments, using the appropriate Sales Channel. Because you are just opening your new business, I suggest not starting off with a discounted-price Promotion, as that establishes a price point which may be difficult to increase later. If you want to offer a “Grand Opening” Promotion, I recommend you bundle a product or service that is specifically for a limited time after your Grand Opening Event. Again using our gym example, we may offer a free (Branded, of course!) sports water bottle for the first 50 customers who sign up.
Congratulations! Look at you – ten minutes ago, you didn’t know most of these terms, and here we are using them like a pro!! Make sure you start Marketing BEFORE you launch your business – you want to build a buzz about what’s coming, and you’d like to start selling your products or services on Day 1, right?
This is just one area where SCORE Counselors can help you – there are many areas, and we love helping small businesses be successful! If you’re ready to take the next step, go to www.tuolumnecounty.score.org and click on the blue rectangle “Get Started, Request a Meeting” - fill out your contact information, and a local SCORE counselor will contact you. We look forward to working with you!
For more information, please contact Howard at: